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Listening Room: Nelly Furtado, Keane and more
Nelly Furtado, “Loose” (Geffen): 2.5 stars
Three years after her sophomore slump, Canadian singersongwriter Nelly Furtado is hot again and so happy she’s positively ... well, jiggy. “Loose,” Furtado’s third album and the successor to 2003’s “Folklore” — whose sales paled behind the multiplatinum triumph of 2000’s “Whoa, Nelly!” — is a surprising departure from the polished popcraft of its predecessors, taking Furtado in a decidedly of-themoment R&B/hip-hop direction helmed by producer Timbaland. It’s not exactly foreign territory for Furtado; she joined Missy Elliot years ago on a hit remix of “Get UR Freak On,” and the sweet-voiced singer sounds perfectly natural as casually rapping, cheerfully libidinous B-girl. Her sassy playfulness lends a freshscrubbed fl avor for come-hithers such as the Timbaland duet and fi rst single “Promiscuous,” “Maneater” and “Do It,” while the percolating “No Hay Igual” references the burgeoning reggaeton style. Fun as these are, however, there’s a certain animosity at work on these, as well as on the more melodically focused “Showtime” and the Latin-fl avored “Say It Right”; they work fine for Furtado but could just as easily fit onto any random album by Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera or, in some cases, Madonna. They’re good enough to make a more familiar pop tune like “Wait For You” sound stiff in comparison, but there’s little to separate Furtado’s new material from similar fare on the charts. But “Loose” does end on a strong note — the moody and rhythmic “All Good Things (Come to an End),” was co-written with Coldplay’s Chris Martin, whose label wouldn’t allow him to perform on the track, and blends Furtado’s past and present with fresher and more distinctive results.
Keane, “Under the Iron Sea” (Interscope) 3 stars: The three members of Keane had a hard time with the platinum ascent of their 2004 debut, “Hopes and Fears,” and their travails are all over this 12-track follow-up. Fortunately, however, the angst doesn’t usurp the trio’s rich melodic sensibility, and “Under the Iron Sea” sails with even more depth and dynamic variety than its predecessor. Accompanying the tales of woe voiced by singer Tom Chaplin are the full-on rock of “Is it Any Wonder?,” the ringing pop of “Leaving So Soon?” and “Crystal Ball,” and the moody ethereality of “Atlantic,” “A Bad Dream” and “Try Again.” “Nothing in My Way” may drift a bit too close to Keane’s fi rst hit, “Somewhere Only We Know,” but overall this “Iron Sea” makes the group’s sophomore voyage agreeably smooth sailing.
New and noteworthy
Frank Black, “Fast Man Raider Man” (Back Porch) — The Pixies frontman delivers a two-CD set in the same rootsy, soulful vein as last year’s “Honeycomb.”
Counting Crows, “New Amsterdam: Live at Heineken Music Hall”
(Geffen) — The Crows’ second concert set is drawn from one night in Holland and sports one new song, “Hazy.”
Fefe Dobson, “Sunday Love” (Island) — The Canadian singer’s delayed sophomore album comes three years after her debut and features the single “This is My Life.”
Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, “I Stand Alone” (Anti-) — The legendary troubadour mines great American folk songbook with help from Lucinda Williams, Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Fatboy Slim, “Greatest Hits: Why Try Harder”
(Astralwerks) — The very best of the funk soul brother.
Field Mob, “Light Poles and Pine Trees” (Disturbing the Peace/Geffen) — The guest list for the Georgia rap trio’s third album includes Ciara, Jamie Foxx and mentor Ludacris.
Guster, “Ganging Up on the Sun” (Reprise) — The once-austere trio is now a quartet and continues to expand and sophisticate its sound, even touching on classic rock terrain.
Sara Hickman, “Motherlode” (Sleeveless/ Fontana) — The singer-songwriter takes a dark/light approach on this two-CD set, with help from Shawn Colvin, Kelly Willis, Adrian Belew and more.
Salif Keita, “M’Bemba”
(Universal) — Keita returned home to Mali, and to his musical roots, to record his latest album.
David Kimbrough Jr., “Shellshocked” (B.C.) — The debut disc from the son of the late Mississippi juke joint great Junior Kimbrough.
Queensrÿche, “Operation: Mindcrime,” “Operation: Mindcrime (Deluxe Edition)” (Capitol) — Two expanded versions of the 1988 concept album, delivered in the wake of a sequel released earlier this year.
Roman Candle, “Wee Hours Revue” (V2) — This North Carolina quintet specializes in sophisticated pop with an Americana fl avor.
Diana Ross, “Blue”
(Motown/UME) — The lady sings classic blues on this unreleased set of jazz standards recorded in the early ’70s.
Soundtrack, “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift” (Motown) — The latest episode in the muscle car saga rolls to the beats of N.E.R.D., Julez Santana and the pairing of DJ Shadow with Mos Def.
Underoath, “Defi ne the Great Line” (Tooth & Nail) — The third album from the upand-coming Florida hard rockers. There’s no doubt heads will bang.
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