The short version:
Vertical Horizon—Broken over You: 2/10
Sam Sparro—Sam Sparro: 3/10
Beats Antique—A Thousand Faces, Act II: 4/10
Derek Duke, Neal Acree, Joseph Lawrence, Russell Brower, Glenn Stafford, and Jason Hayes—Diablo III: Reaper of Souls: 4/10
Mika—The Origin of Love: 9/10
The band Vertical Horizon, apparently not content with having that one single fifteen years ago, has a relatively new album out, and the lead single is Broken over You. Apparently they decided to promote the album by releasing the single for free with a bunch of B-sides. Unfortunately most of them are pretty awful. The single's okay and Save Me from Myself isn't bad either (also it's from a different album), and I must commend their generosity, but free is probably the most appropriate price for the EP.
Sam Sparro's first album isn't very good. I ordered it along with his second album, which is notably better, but this one was a mistake. The best track is probably 21st Century Life, and beyond that the only thing to really like is the obnoxiously titled S.A.M.S.P.A.R.R.O.
Beats Antique sent me a free copy of their brand new album A Thousand Faces, Act II, which was unexpected and cool. It is definitely their worst album though. The track Awaken is quite good, and The Rift and Jumpin' are pretty decent, but the rest ends up being pretty boring.
Not to break the pattern, the soundtrack to the Diablo III expansion Reaper of Souls is pretty disappointing too. Lots of it is painfully boring, and much of it is off-key and weird. And somehow despite using a live orchestra it manages to sound fake. They said that they wanted the expansion's music to have a different feel from previous games, but this is just a miss. The best track is the background music for the opening cinematic. I'm particularly fond of the part from 2:00 to 3:00, a fun mix of epic and creepy, with a bizarrely off-beat melody that. That section also plays a little too frequently during the game whenever there's a one-minute timed event, but I haven't gotten sick of it yet. And The Wrath of Angels is quite good too, albeit short, and the epilogue music A Mortal Heart is understated but nice. Most of the rest is just bland atmosphere, like The Guise of Man—that sort of thing works fine for a while but not for hours on end, or even for the duration of a soundtrack CD.
But the the latest batch of music wasn't all a bust: Mika's latest album The Origin of Love is really excellent, and a definite step up from his previous efforts. It's awfully close to a pop masterpiece, with stand-out tracks Origin of Love and Make You Happy nearly impossible to not sing along to. And there are several other very good tracks on the album, including Overrated. I'd recommend the album to any fan of pop music; it's the best pop music I've heard since OneRepublic's amazing Native a year ago.