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Listening Room: All-American Rejects, Avant and more...
All American Rejects, "When the World Comes Down" (Interscope) **1/2
Although they can play loud and with enough energy to keep everyone the moshers hopping at the Vans Warped Tour, the All American Rejects are for the most part a pop band, and has been since the incessantly peppy "Swing Swing" charmed us in 2002. The Oklahoma-formed quartet hasn't veered from that heading on its third album, and "When the World Comes Down" continues the process of refinement that turned AAR's 2005 sophomore effort, "Move Along," into a double platinum success. This time out, amidst dark break-up lyrics -- and a single, "Gives You Hell," that's one of the better flip-off anthems to come from the pile of emo heartbreak -- AAR channels some of its abundant energy into more intricate song arrangements and instrumental ornamentations. After "I Wanna" gets things off to a singalong start, "Fallin' Apart" comes in with a bouncy rhythm and a buoyant string line saccharine enough to feel in your gums. "Mona Lisa (When the World Comes Down)" is the set's stripped-down, "serious" paean to lost love, while a duet with the Pierces adds some weight to "Another Heart Calls" and "Back to Me" has the kind of pompy ebb-and-flow that's one of Meat Loaf's trademarks. "Breakin' " rides a galloping acoustic guitar and "Real World" is a New Wave dance track straight out of the B-52's songbook, lighter moments that ultimately steer us towards the moody ambience of "The Wind Blows" and the fully orchestrated album closer, "Sunshine." AAR is a bit transparent in its clear desire to show how much its grown on "When the World Comes Down," but this will likely please the legion of "Move Along" fans even if it doesn't bring many new faces to the party.
Avant, "Avant" (Capitol): **1/2
Myron Avant is a New Jack from the old school, a singer and writer well versed in vintage R&B styles but with enough contemporary flavors to keep him firmly of the moment. On his fifth album -- and follow-up to his 2006 R&B chart-topper "Director" -- we find him pumping over syncopated synthesizer patterns on "Sensuality" and cooing amidst Snoop Dogg's mellifluous flow on "Attention," while "Involve Yourself" is pushed by a bass line that would have been as club-worthy 30 years ago as it is now. Avant also has his eyes, and more, on the ladies throughout most of this 10-song set, promising one lover he'll "Break Ya Back" -- but "in a good way," he promises -- while pitching another for a bit of king and spontaneity in "Out of Character." A fairly faithful remake of Christopher Cross' feathery "Sailing," however, seems well out of character in this context, an odd fit but one that shows Avant is not shy about surprising.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY:
Brutha, "Brutha" (Def Jam): The six Harrell siblingsp from South Central Los Angeles makes its recording debut following the run of its BET reality series "Brothers to Brutha."
Devin the Dude, "Hi Life: Chopped and Screwed" (Asylum): The Houston rapper's latest album gets the shake 'n' bake treatment two months after its release.
The Pretenders, "Originals" (iTunes): Chrissie Hynde's venerable rock outfit goes digital with new recordings of nine songs from throughout the group's career, including "Talk of the Town." Hynde also provides some between-song commentary.
Savage, "Savage Island" (Dawn Raid/Universal Republic): The New Zealand rapper works out with Soulja Boy, Akon, Rock City, Pitbull and others on his second solo album.
Sterling Simms, "Yours, Mine and the Truth (Def Jam): The debut album from the Philadelphia R&B singer and songwriter from the Knightwritaz collective. The Dream and Jadakiss guest.
Soundtrack, "Slumdog Millionaire" (Interscope): The companion album to the multiple Golden Globe-nominated hit features music by Indian superstar A.R. Rahman as well as MIA.
Linval Thompson, "Ghetto Living" (Thompson Sound Jamaica): The socially conscious reggae artist's latest outings is an iTunes exclusive until mid-January, when it will spread to other online retailers. -- Gary Graff
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