Loud releases: Check out these albums

Magna Carta...Holy Grail - Jay-Z

Critic's Pick!

Let's try to forget for a moment that Jay-Z as good as bought the first million copies of his own album.

Who is to say the merits of the album wouldn't prove itself sooner or later, and earn its platinum award anyway?

Mr Carter's latest album is simple, straightforward and free of pretensions - not something we can say about a recent highly-anticipated hip-hop album (we mean yours, Kanye West).

But that aside, Magna Carta... Holy Grail is not his best work to date. It is, however, an enjoyable one, albeit one lacking in a personal voice.

To make up for that - or perhaps to conceal it - he distracts listeners with endless pop culture references from Miley Cyrus to his wife Beyonce as well as powerful collaborations with Justin Timberlake in opening track Holy Grail, Frank Ocean in Oceans and his missus on Part II (On The Run).

These are, by the way, the most striking tracks on the album.

Formats: CD, digital

- Noor Ashikin Abdul Rahman


House of Gold & Bones Part 2 - Stone Sour

Here's a friendly warning to Slipknot fans who have decided to pick up this album - or its predecessor, House of Gold & Bones Part 1 - solely because of the enigma that's Corey Taylor.

Stone Sour sound nothing like Slipknot. And I'm sure they never will.

Taylor - lead vocalist of nu-metal veterans Slipknot, best-selling author and now founder of his own alternative metal side project Stone Sour - seems to have the ability to attract crowds wherever he goes.

Perhaps his prowess lies in trying anything new.

Unlike Slipknot's headbanging greatness, Stone Sour's music is pensive, lyrical and brooding.

Album opener Red City sets the mood with lingering sadness: "Until the pages of this book are filled with emptiness, I'm still suspended by a thread."

The track Stalemate starts off slowly with "If I fail, if I fail, if I can't be free, then I never was at all" and crescendoes to a crushing climax.

Listen to this with a heavy heart.

Format: CD, Digital

- Tan Kee Yun


Deceiver of the Gods - Amon Amarth

Swedish melodic death metallers Amon Amarth's lyrics are primarily about Scandinavian mythology, folklore, Vikings and warriors.

But when it comes to their music, there's really nothing ancient about it.

Technically proficient, these guys craft hard-hitting tunes that appeal to every modern metal fan.

Like their peers Soilwork, Arch Enemy and Children of Bodom, frontman Johan Hegg and gang specialise in great brutal riffs, strong anthemic melody lines and of course his powerful, throaty screams.

Deceiver Of The Gods is the album's standout track, with its dramatic introductory build-up and blistering pace.

Father Of The Wolf and Hel are straightforward hard-rocking numbers, whereas the eight-minute Warriors Of The North serves as an apt album closer, what with its sweeping, epic solos. Fantastic.

Format: CD, Digital

- Tan Kee Yun


Unexpected - Penny Tai

Malaysian singer-songwriter Penny Tai has never been the type to follow rules.

Despite her wholesome cutie pie looks, the girlish ageless musician with solid songwriting chops is a rebel at heart.

In 2007, after the release of her seventh studio album iPenny, the 35-year-old cut her hair short and oozed punk rock chic for a whole year.

In 2011, she formed alternative rock quintet Buddha Jump and indulged in dark, edgy tunes.

Unexpectedly, her 11th studio album sees her come full circle. It is unabashedly mainstream Mandopop - from the emotional, karaoke-friendly hit How Can You Sleep So Soundly to upbeat pop rock anthem Never to groovy, soulful R&B ballad Kiss.

Every song is melodic and harks back to the turn of the century, when she first burst onto the scene with The Love You Want, her heartrending theme song from Taiwanese idol drama Meteor Garden. Welcome back, Penny.

Format: CD, Digital

- Tan Kee Yun

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