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Listening Room: Gym Class Heroes, Jessica Simpson and more...
Gym Class Heroes, “The Quilt,” (Decaydance/ Fueled By Ramen) ***
“The Quilt” is an apt title for Gym Class Heroes’ sophomore album, as it’s indeed a stylistic patchwork that over its 14 songs switches positions more times than an incumbent candidate in an election year. There’s certainly a bit of pressure here, since GCH’s 2006 debut, “As Cruel as School Children” went gold thanks to the hit fusion track “Cupid’s Chokehold/Breakfast in America,” but the upstate New York quartet doesn’t seem phased by the success and on the track “Don’t Tell Me It’s Over” even takes a few confident shots at any haters trying to kill the buzz. Mostly, though, GCH traipses across a broad stylistic ground, starting with the brassy, gospel-soul of “Guilty as Charged,” featuring British singer Estelle, striding through a set that covers reggae (“Blinded By the Sun”), pop (“Live a Little,” “No Place to Run,” “Coming Clean”), alt.rock (“Home,” which features some ferocious guitar work by Disashi Lumumba-Kasongo) and a particularly musical brand of hip-hop that lets frontman Travis McCoy’s rhymes shine on tracks such as “Cookie Jar” (with The Dream), “Peace Sign/Index Down” (with Busta Rhymes) and “Catch Me If You Can.” There’s no sample this time that’s quite as hooky as a Supertramp hit but the GCH wears its more confident musicality well. And Darryl Hall’s guest vocals on “Live Forever” elevates the already abundantly soulful track and makes “The Quilt” well worth crawling into.
Jessica Simpson, “Do You Know” (Epic/Columbia Nashville) **1/2
Jessica Simpson apparently wasn’t just acting in “The Dukes of Hazzard;” there’s a little more Daisy Duke in her than we knew. “Do You Know” is no jewel, but it is a convincing and confidentsounding turn to country by the onetime platinum pop star, a Texan who quite naturally lets a little twang back into her voice to carry these 11 songs. Co-producer John Shanks is on board to make sure the tunes still have the right kind of hooks, and Simpson co-wrote eight of the songs, including a few about the men who done her wrong (presumably more ex-husband Nick Lachey than current romeo Tony Romo of the Dallas Cowboys). But “Do You Know” also sounds a bit like Country 101, with standard issue acoustic guitar/pedal steel/fiddle instrumentation and rote arrangements where laid back verses swell into majestic choruses. The first single, “Come on Over,” rocks nicely, however, and Simpson holds her own with Dolly Parton on the latter’s “Do You Know.” Martina, Shania, Carrie and the other country queens don’t need to shake in their boots, but Simpson certainly doesn’t waste her shot here.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY:
Joan Baez, “Day After Tomorrow” (Bobolink/ Razor & Tie): Steve Earle produced and wrote songs for Baez’s first studio album since 2003, with other songs coming from Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Patti Griffin.
Christophe Beck, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer — The Score” (Rounder): Buffy is gone but not forgotten thanks to this compendium of episode music from seasons 2-5.
Eric Benet, “Love & Life” (Friday/Reprise/ Warner Bros.): The R&B singer returned to his native Milwaukee to record his fourth album, co-writing and co-producing all 11 of its tracks.
Calexico, “Carried to Dust” (Quarterstick): The Arizona indie rockers’ sixth album includes contributions by friends such as Iron & Wine, Pieta Brown and Doug McCombs of Tortoise.
Greg Camp, “Defektor” (Bar/None): The former Smashmouth guitarist and chief songwriter goes solo on this 14-song set.
Natalie Cole, “Still Unforgettable” (DMI/Rhino): Cole, recently diagnosed with Hepatitis C, delivers a sequel to 1991’s Grammy-winning “Unforgettable ...With Love,” including another posthumous duet with her father, Nat King Cole.
Daughtry, “Daughtry: Deluxe Edition” (RCA): The expanded version of the “American Idol” finalist’s platinum debut includes a new cover of Foreigner’s “Feels Like the First Time” as well as a DVD with live footage.
Kimya Dawson, “Alphabutt” (K): The once and future Moldy Peaches partner’s first post-“Juno” release is a set of children’s songs with plenty of cheerful rectal references.
Michael Franti & Spearhead, “All Rebel Rockers” (Anti-): The conscious rapper’s latest outing was recorded in Jamaica with the production team of Sly & Robbie, while Zap Mama joins in on a track.
Josh Hoge, “Everything She Was” (Blackledge Music): The Tennessee pop singer’s debut sports collaborations with Ne-Yo and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder.
LL Cool J, “Exit 13” (Def Jam): The veteran rapper’s mama still wants him to knock us out, apparently, this time with guests such as 50 Cent, Wyclef Jean, The Dream and Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora.
Patty Loveless, “Sleepless Nights” (Saguaro Road): The country diva’s 19th album was produced by her husband, Emory Gordy Jr., and played by some of Nashville’s top-line session musicians.
John Michael Montgomery, “Time Flies” (Stringtown): The country hitmaker’s 10th studio album is the first for his own imprint, Stringtown Records.
Kardinal Offishall, “Not 4 Sale” (Kon Live/Geffen): Akon executive produced this Canadian rapper’s fourth album, with guest appearances by Rihanna, T-Pain, The Dream, The Clipse, Estelle and others.
Okkervil River, “The Stand Ins” (Jagjaguwar):
The Austin indie rockers’ fifth album is intended as a sequel to its predecessor, 2007’s “Stage Names.”
Joan Osbourne, “Little Wild One” (Womanly Hips/ Plum): Osbourne reunites with the team that made her 1995 breakthrough album “Relish” and its hit, “One of Us.””
People In Planes, “Beyond the Horizon” (Wind-Up): The sophomore album from the British quintet that caused a stir with their 2006 hit “If You Talk Too Much (My Head Will Explode).”
Deluxe Edition” (NBC Records): A wide release of the series’ music comes in a lavishly designed and illustrated package, and still features Wendy & Lisa’s theme song.
Stereophonics, “Pull the Pin” (Universal): The British group’s sixth album hit No. 1 on its homeland charts when it was released there 11 month ago.
Tricky, “Knowle West Boy” (Domino): The multifaceted reggae, hip-hop and electronic artist mixes together his varied influences on his first album in five years.
Brian “Head” Welch, “Save Me From Myself ” (Driven Music Group): The former Korn guitarist’s longawaited solo debut follows his autobiography of the same name.
Dar Williams, “Promised Land” (Razor & Tie): The singer-songwriter’s first new album in more than three years welcomes guests such as Suzanne Vega and Marshall Crenshaw.
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