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Listening Room: Bob Seger, Justin Timberlake and more
Bob Seger “Face the Promise” Capitol ***1/2
It’s clear Bob Seger hasn’t been squandering his creative time in the past 11 years. It’s been a long wait, but “Face the Promise,” Seger’s first set of all-new material since “It’s a Mystery” in 1995, is a potent and poignant collection of contemporary concerns sung from a decidedly adult perspective (Seger is 61, after all, with two kids) but with a fierce urgency that makes it sound like a call to arms rather than mere protest — delivered, of course, with the straightforwardness of the Midwest musical aesthetic Seger helped pioneer. There is, after all, not much equivocation in an anti-war song such as “No More,” which declares “I don’t want this/I’ve had enough, no more,” and Seger applies the same sensibility when singing about the ecology (“Between”), materialism (“Are You”) and social responsibility (“Won’t Stop”), or delivering working man lament such as “Between” and “Wreck This Heart.” As the album’s opening track, the latter — with its slashing, Rolling Stones-style guitars — also establishes “Face the Promise” as a rock album, much more so than the fi rst single, “Wait For Me,” indicates. It’s Seger’s most potent and consistent since 1982’s “The Distance,” with funky grooves charging “Are You” and “Simplicity” and a rowdy romp with Kid Rock on a cover of “Real Mean Bottle,” Vince Gill’s tribute to Merle Haggard. There’s a bit more muscle to mediumtempoed numbers such as “No More” and “No Matter Who You Are,” while the album’s overall energy sets off quieter tracks — particularly “The Answer’s in the Question,” a duet with country singer Patty Loveless — as more effective counterpoints. With such a long gestation, we had every reason to be wary of what Seger might come up with, but “Face the Promise” was well worth the wait.
Justin Timberlake “Futuresex/Lovesounds” Jive **1/2
The former ’NSYNC heartthrob won some credibility with his 2002 debut “Justifi ed,” and he won’t lose ground on this sophomore set. Timberlake continues to mature and experiment, though his exploration of cutting-edge club beats and rap collaborations on “SexyBack” (with Timbaland), “My Love” (with T.I.) and “Chop Me Up” (with Three 6 Mafia) often fall short in the songcraft department. He does score a winner on the old school “Damn Girl” with Black Eyed Peas’ will.i.am, and “What Goes Around” lets him take some more shots (seemingly) at ex-fl ame Britney Spears. There’s a sense throughout these 12 songs that Timberlake would like to become a Princelike auteur, a goal he could actually attain if he focuses more on writing than sonic alchemy.
New and noteworthy
Barenaked Ladies, “Barenaked Ladies Are Me” (Warner Bros.) — The Canadian group’s self-produced first set of new material in more than three years.
The Back Keys, “Magic Potion” (Nonesuch) — The Akron duo adopts a bigger rock sound as it moves to a larger label.
DJ Shadow, “The Outsider” (Universal) — Another sonic adventure with the electronica whiz from California.
The Duhks, “Migrations” (Sugar Hill) — The second album from the acclaimed Canadian roots outfit, whose members, by the way, do know how to spell.
Electric Six, “Switzerland” (Metropolis) — The Detroit-formed rockers’ third album already is making waves thanks to the provocatively titled single “I Buy the Drugs.”
Everclear, “Welcome to the Drama Club” (Eleven Seven) — Art Alexakis and company return to the independent label world on their first new album in three years.
Peter Frampton, “Fingerprints” (New Door) — Frampton lets his instrumental side come alive with a wealth of intriguing guests and covers, including Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.”
Los Lobos, “Town and the City” (Hollywood) — The veteran Latino band from East L.A. taps into the tenor of the times on its politically and socially aware new album.
The Mars Volta, “Amputechture” (Universal) — The third album from this prog-metal At the Drive-In spin-off trolls another ambitious compositional soundscape.
John Mayer, “Continuum” (Columbia) — The singer/songwriter/guitar hero/heartthrob steers in a soulful direction on his third studio album.
Papa Roach, “Paramour Sessions”
(Geffen) — The California rage rockers are alive and well and as angry as ever on their sixth studio album.
The Rapture, “Pieces of the People We Love”
(Universal) — The New York dance-rock troupe delivers the album we’ve been waiting for since 2003’s “Echoes.”
Lionel Richie, “Coming Home” (Island) — A vintagesounding first single, “I Call It Love,” has Richie saying “Hello” to the charts for the first time in years.
Slumber Party, “Musik”
(Kill Rock Stars) — The fourth full-length from the all-female Detroit rockers, including a song co-written with glam rock legend Kim Fowley.
Sugarcult, “Lights Out”
(V2) — The L.A. modern rock quartet ramps up its sound for a bigger, anthemic effect on its third album.
Tally Hall, “Marvelous Marvin’s Mechanical Museum” (Quack) — So if this Detroit troupe’s national debut hits big, will they be beating the fans away from the Farmington Hills game emporium that provided the album title?
TV on the Radio, “Return to Cookie Mountain” (Interscope) — The Brooklyn avant rockers go major label, with a guest turn by fan and friend David Bowie.
Yo La Tengo, “I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass” (Matador) — Music aside, this is a title you’ll want to recite to anyone who asks, “So what are you listening to these days?”
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