U2, Songs of Innocence
At the start of their career, U2 released an album every year. Then their output slipped to every 3 or 4 years. During the past decade, they've only put out an album every 5 years. Bono has spoken openly about struggling to remain relevant.
There's been probably more talk about the new U2 album in the way it has been distributed so far as the music itself, perhaps more so than any album since Radiohead's 2007 release In Rainbows. To recap: U2 released Songs of Innocence with no advance warning last week and made available for free to anyone with iTunes. There will be a physical release and digital release through other outlets on October 14th, and that release will have bonus tracks.
Songs of Innocence has been touted as the band's most personal record thus far, and certainly the band explores many geographical and emotional events and influences from their youth. Bono sings of his mother, who died when he was aged 14, in the song "Iris (Hold Me Close)." The band dedicated rocking tributes to Joey Ramone of the Ramones and to Joe Strummer of The Clash. They also have songs making reference to turmoil in the Ireland of their youth.
Musically, the album fits somewhere between the band's early sound and the dance-inspired, synthier rock that has dominated their albums in the past 20 years. "Song for Someone" is a soaring ballad with some guitar work by The Edge that harks back to the song "One" and some tracks from the band's '80s albums. "Iris (Hold Me Close)" also features some classic Edge guitarwork. The album was produced with the help of a lot of hands--and it sometimes sounds like it. Danger Mouse, of Gnarls Barkley and Broken Bells fame, was one of the producers, as was Adele producer Paul Epworth, and frequent U2 producer Flood.
Despite the many producers, the album does hang together fairly well. The songs are catchy and more memorable on the whole than those on the band's previous pair of albums. The last song on the album, "The Troubles," is memorable for its guest vocal--from Swedish singer Lykke Li.