Timberlake’s performance during the Grammy Awards earlier this year may have been panned, but our reviewer finds his efforts on The 20/20 Experience laudable. If you’ve never heard of Son Volt, it may be time to give their latest album, Honky Tonk, a listen. Been missing Lara Croft? She’s back in Tomb Raider, a prequel to the wildly successful franchise that first launched in 1996.
The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake (RCA)
It has been a while since Justin Timberlake’s last album in 2006, but fortunately the much anticipated 20/20 Experience is worth the wait. This showman and renaissance entertainer proves how far he has come since his In Sync boy band days. This third solo album, while not a comeback album as such, expresses his true artistic and creative abilities, making him a leader in the new soul/R&B movement. The well-crafted tracks show the heavy influence of producer Timbaland, with Timberlake’s rich and distinct vocals and signature falsettos. Typical R&B style is infused with diverse elements and musical influences that make this a great listening experience. Definitely check out the hit “Suit and Tie,” as well as “Spaceship Coupe,” “That Girl,” “Mirrors,” and “Let the Groove In.”—Uma N., grade 10, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Honky Tonk, Son Volt (Rounder)
Honky Tonk is Son Volt’s seventh studio album, and the group has perfected themselves both musically and as lyricists. The famous country Bakersfield Sound made popular by Buck Owens is clearly present but mixed with a more contemporary alternative rock style that Son Volt is known for. It leaves listeners with a rawer set of songs, complemented by a symphony of acoustics from steel guitars, strings, fiddles, accordions and mandolins. What makes everything work here is Son Volt’s singer Jay Farrar. His poetic lyrics and warm voice capture the overall mood and emotion of the album perfectly. Honky Tonk has a lot to offer. Don’t miss “Hearts and Minds,” “Brick Walls,” “Seawall,” “Barricades,” and “Wild Side.”—Maureen L., grade 12, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
Tomb Raider (Square-Enix)
Lara Croft is not new to the gaming world, but this game puts a twist on an old successful series. This version is a prequel, presenting how Lara Croft made her transformation from tomb raider to superhero. The story begins with Lara as a young and inexperienced adventurer searching for a lost island with her crew. Shipwrecked on a dangerous island in Japan’s brutal Devil’s Triangle, they must survive the elements and contact with ritual cultists. Here Croft has to amass weapons and learn to navigate the trails, caves, cliff formations, and more. Full of action and adventure, this game does a wonderful job balancing the exploration, problem solving, and search and destroy combat missions. A really nice feature is the ability for players to take breaks from the game and travel back to previous locations where they can uncover hidden treasure or clues missed the first time around. There are also optional excursions to explore tombs and solve puzzles that are so well done that it is worth putting the time aside to take a look. Tomb Raider will not disappoint fans of past games and will appeal to those new to the series. Rating: M for Mature. Platform: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.—Latyese M., grade 11, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
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