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"The Midsummer Station"
Owl City has been an interesting and occasionally incongruous proposition since Adam Young created the entity in the basement of his home in rural Minnesota. On one hand Young is a pure pop songwriter with an ear for irresistible hooks and sharp, memorable melodies (see 2009's chart-topping "Fireflies") -- and definitely a taste for the early 80s. But Young's dance club acumen gives Owl City an edge in that direction, too, cutting edge without cutting too deep. Young certainly favors the former side on his fourth Owl City album bathing most of "The Midsummer Station" in sunshine melodies, uptempo beats and buoyant choruses that sound unearthed from the nascent days of MTV. "I just want to feel alive," he declares in the opening "Dreams and Disasters," and Young oozes frothy positivity throughout its urgent thump as well as the energetic bounce of the Stargate-produced first single, "Shooting Star," the effervescent seep of "Metropolis" and the stuttering chorus of "Gold." Then there's his current hit, "Good Times," which wraps Carly Rae Jespen, Relient K's Matt Thiessen (who co-wrote the song) and the Minneapolis Youth Chorus a kids choir into three and a half minutes of ecstatic, summery exuberance. But "I'm Coming After You" and "Speed of Love" are driven by a more contemporary brand of club thump, while Mark Hoppus' guest appearance on "Dementia" gives us an idea of what blink-182 might sound like with a full-time synthesizer player. "The Midsummer Station" isn't all giddy, however; the angst of romantic break-up weighs on "Silhouette" and the Kool Kojak-produced album closer "Take It All Away," though Young keeps his cool in the latter as he promises that "I won't let it show until you've finally flown away." But rest assured you'll get his happy face for most of these 11 songs.
Trey Songz, "Chapter V" (Songbook/Atlantic): **
Trey Songz certainly warmed up to the process of making his fifth album, releasing a pair of mix tapes and an EP (2011's "Inevitable") during the interim following his gold certified "Passion, Pain & Pleasure." Pleasure is certainly on his mind throughout these 19 tracks and interludes, mixing sexual innuendo and metaphor with direct come-ons for tracks such as "Dive In," "Panty Wetter" and "Heart Attack," while "2 Reasons" with T.I. hits the dance floor and "Hail Mary," with Lil Wayne and Young Jeezy, takes it to the street. But "Chapter V's" best moments come later on, with old school nods to Marvin Gaye on the smoothly organic "Without a Woman" and the ebullient Curtis Mayfield-sampling "Never Again," while "Simply Amazing" has the melodic ebb and flow to be a hit country anthem. If nothing else, they show Songz has something to offer when we're not in bed with him.
New & Noteworthy:
Bloc Party, "Four" (Frenchkiss): The fourth album (duh!) from the British indie rock quartet comes after a brief hiatus that allowed the band members to pursue other projects.
Michael Burks, "Show of Strength" (Alligator): The final album recorded by the brawny blues guitarist, who passed away in May.
Ry Cooder, "Election Special" (Perro Verde/Nonesuch): The veteran singer, songwriter and virtuoso sings the "Mutt Romney Blues," "Guantanamo" and other topical tunes to put some perspective on the upcoming political season.
The Darkness, "Hot Cakes" (Play It Again Sam/Wind-Up): The British pomp rock troupe's third album is its first in seven years and includes a cover of Radiohead's "Street Spirit (Fade Out)."
Dispatch, "Circles Around the Sun" (Bomber): The fiercely independent Vermont trio regroups for its first new album in a dozen years.
DJ Khaled, "Kiss the Ring" (We The Best/Cash Money/Universal Republic): Guests on the New Orleans rapper-producer's sixth album include Lil WAyne, T.I., Rick Ross, Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, Nas, Big K.R.I.T. and Detroit's Big Sean, among others.
JJ Doom, "Key to the Kuffs" (Lex): The first full-length offering from the alternative hip-hop duo features guest appearances by Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Portishead's Beth Gibbons and others.
The Heavy, "Glorious Dead" (Counter Records/Ninja Tune): The British soul-rock quartet self-produced its third album, which drops three years after its predecessor.
Jimmy Herring, "Subject to Change Without Notice" (Abstract Logix): The second solo album from the well-credentialed Southern rock guitarist, now with Widespread Panic, includes covers of songs by George Harrison, Mahavishnu Orchestra and Jimmy McGriff.
Loudness, "Eve to Dawn" (FrostByte Media): The Japanese heavy metal quartet celebrates its 30th anniversary with its 26th album.
Dustin Lynch, "Dustin Lynch" (Broken Bow): The new country hotshot co-wrote 11 of the 13 tracks on his debut album, including the single "Cowboys and Angels."
Lynyrd Skynyrd, "Last of a Dyin' Breed" (Roadrunner): The durable Southern rockers display an undying spirit 35 years after the tragic plane crash that ended the band and 25 years after it reactivated.
Holly Near, "Early Warnings" (Calico Tracks): The veteran singer, songwriter and activist gets busy on this guest-laden two-CD set on which she covers songs by Keb' Mo', Irving Berlin, Jacques Brel and Gnarls Barkley.
Our Last Night, "Age of Ignorance" (Epitaph): The New Hampshire hardcore quintet's third album features 10 new songs recorded with producer David Bendeth (Breaking Benjamin, Paramore).
Sunflower Dead, "Sunflower Dead" (Bloody Bat): The debut outing from a headbanging quintet whose members hail from Droid, Buckethead and In This Moment.
Until June, "Young and Foolish" (Authentik Artists): The second full-length set from the Hollywood modern rock trio comes five years after its debut, with an EP during the interim.
Various Artists, "Joey's Song Volume 2" and "Joey's Songs For Kids Volume 2" (Omnivore): Sam Phillips, the Jayhawks Mark Olson, Rosanne Cash and the Knack are among the contributors to these sets that raise money to fight epilepsy.
Matthew E. White, "Big Inner" (Hometapes/Spacebomb): The Virginia-based singer, songwriter and bandleader made his latest album with a large ensemble that includes brass, strings, woodwinds and a choir.
The World Famous Headliners, "The World Famous Headliners" (Big Yellow Dog Music): The debut outing by the Americana "supergroup" featuring NRBQ's Big Al Anderson, Pat McLaughlin and others.
Yeasayer, "Fragrant World" (Secretly Canadian): The experimental rock trio from Brooklyn continues to push the sonic envelope on its third full-length album, embracing more R&B flavors and pop hooks.
From The Vaults: Kiss, "Destroyer -- Resurrected" (Mercury/UMe); Los Lobos, "Kiko: 20th Anniversary Edition," "Kiko Live" (Shout! Factory); Taj Mahal, "The Hidden Treasures of Taj Mahal 1969-1973" (Columbia/Legacy)
Soundtracks: Michael Stearns and Lisa Gerrard, "Samsara" (Varese Sarabande)
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