Everything old is new again! Panic! At the Disco builds a new sound by plumbing the music of the 80s and 90s, while Justin Timberlake pushes on with his comeback triumph. Now that baseball season is finally over, it’s time to think about basketball, and NBA2K14 is just the thing for gamers to jump on to get into shape.
Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die, Panic! At the Disco (Decaydance/Fueled by Ramon)
This is the band’s fourth album since they arrived on the music scene in 2005. The sound is captivating, relying on elements of R&B, synth-pop, indie rock, and emo from the 80s and 90s. Frontman Brendon Urie shines through with his dramatic, and at times, whiny vocals. Coupled with Panic!’s numerous musical influences, Too Weird is a worthwhile addition to music collections. The album opens with “This Is Gospel” which sets the stage with its rock chorus and alternative pop verses. Many of the tracks reference other popular vintage artists such as Janet Jackson, Duran Duran, David Bowie, Depeche Mode, Linkin Park, and of course the group’s mentor, Fall Out Boy. Tracks to listen to are “Miss Jackson,” “Far Too Young to Die,” “Nicotine,” “Collar Full,” and “Girls/Girls/Boys.” Panic! is not one to be labeled, and by keeping their sounds diverse, they also keep things interesting.—Jessica D., grade 12, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
The 20/20 Experience, 2 of 2, Justin Timberlake (RCA)
Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was his first collection of new material in seven years, and was a huge success. 2 of 2 is its sequel and will probably surpass the success of the first. One of the criticism of the first 20/20 were the lengthy tracks—this is also true on 2 of 2, but the 12 tracks are more streamlined while maintaining the album’s momentum throughout. JT continues to set the bar high and definitely reaches it with longtime collaborator Timbaland, with cameos from Jay-Z and Drake. The album opens strong with “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want),” a brazen jungle soundtrack with great JT harmonies. From there, the tracks move on to slow jams, sexy vampire ballads, modern acoustic guitar sounds, dance floor tracks, and even a southern soul piece. Only Timberlake could have such variation on one album while still being vintage, vibrant, and current, all at once. It sure will be interesting to see how he reinvents himself next. Check out “You Got It On,” “Take Back the Night,” “True Blood,” and “Not a Bad Thing.”—Uma N., grade 11, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
NBA 2K14 (2K Sports)
It is that time of year again, time for great basketball! As much as I love playing the game with my friends and team, I really enjoy the new installments of NBA 2K. At this point, the franchise is so solid that the game is never completely overhauled. Each installment has some tweaks to it to make the experience even better. One improvement is in the finesse controls, used with the right analog stick. Now you can control your players’ actions both offensively and defensively, with great precision. Shooting, dribbling, faking, and blocking are flawless. If you are new to the game, the training camp does a nice job of reviewing these features with you. Another big change is with a new executive producer, LeBron James. Using the new option, Path to Greatness, players can choose two possible paths for LeBron to take on his quest for seven rings. One keeps him with The Heat, while the other has LeBron leave Miami to play elsewhere as a free agent. Either mode provides hours of great basketball fun. Clark Kellogg, Steve Kerr, and Kevin Harlan work well as the in-game commentators, offering insights to the teams and players. The overall presentation is really sharp, from the crowd, coaches, and mascots, to the scoreboard and logos. It will be interesting to see what gets tweaked next. If you love hoops, you will love NBA 2K14. Rating: E for Everyone. Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360.—Will P., grade 12, Floral Park (NY) Memorial High School
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