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The Listening Room: Jason Aldean, K'Naan and more...
Jason Aldean's set a high bar for himself since his 2005 debut, with three platinum-or-better albums and 15 Top 10 hits -- including the lusty "Take a Little Ride" from his new "Night Train," which is his fastest-rising single yet. That's an indication that Aldeanmania remains strong, and it's likely his fifth album will keep it in first gear. The Georgia native continues to favor the rockin' side of country on "Night Train," and a track like the moody road anthem "Wheels Rollin' " or crunchy fare such as "When She Says Baby" and the ringing, melodic "This Nothin' Town" owe more to Bon Jovi, Bad Company and Tom petty that side of the divide than to Aldean's country forebears, while "1994," Aldean's tribute to Joe Diffie, is a spirited bit of hip-hop 'n' roll and "The Only Way I Know," a tri-ette with Luke Bryan and Eric Church, is a vocal party. But what really makes an Aldean album work so well is that he and longtime producer Michael Knox have knack for picking songs that Aldean can sing in a deceptively understated manner that makes them that much more convincing -- whether it's the longing "Feel That Again," the feral come-on of "Talk," the midtempo love songs "Night Train" and "Walking Away," the three-hanky lost love lament "I Don't Do Lonely Well" or the rich sentimentality of "Water Tower." "Black Tears," meanwhile, is an edgy profile of a stripper struggling with her emotional lot -- hardly standard-issue Nashville material but empathetically rendered by Aldean's drawling deep tenor. The guy simply sings a good song well, which continues to be an effective virtue here.
K'Naan, "Country, God or The Girl" (A&M Octone) ***
Three albums in, this Somali-Canadian rapper/singer continues to mine his compelling life story, escaping his homeland's tragic civil war, for material, but he's turned into a rich and positive worldview that gives most everything he does a buoyant energy. That doesn't mean Keinan Abdi Warsame's world doesn't turn dark at times; a recent divorce fuels tracks such as "The Sound of My Breaking Heart," though he still delivers it with galloping flow that seems to exercise the demons through sheer sweat equity. But "Country, God or the Girl" covers a wide range from melodic pop hooks ("Better," "More Beautiful than Silence"), defiant gangsta jams ("The Seed," "Nothing to Lose" with Nas), sinewy African polyrhythms ("The Wall," "Simple") and change-ups like the show-tuney "Waiting is a Drug." Guests such as Nelly Furtado, will.i.am, U2's Bono and the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards are all well deployed, while the riff from the Romantics' "Talking in Your Sleep" gives "Alone" its lift-off.
New & Noteworthy:
A Fine Frenzy, "Pines" (Virgin): The fourth album by singer-songwriter Alison Sudol is accompanied by a book and an animated short film.
Trey Anastasio, "Traveler" (Rubber Jungle/ATO): The Phish guitarist's latest solo album includes collaborations with members of the National, Mates of State and others.
Anberlin, "Vital" (Universal Republic): The Florida alt/Christian rock troupe sings about "God, Drugs & Sex" and other voices and virtues on its sixth studio album.
Bat For Lashes, "The Haunted Man" (Parlophone); The third full-length album by British singer-songwriter Natasha Khan was preceded by the single "Laura."
Brandy, "Two Eleven" (Chameleon/RCA): The R&B singer gets help from Chris Brown, Frank Ocean, Drake and others on her first new album in four years -- which is named for her birthday as well as the day Whitney Houston died.
Craig Chaquico, "Fire Red Moon" (Blind Pig/eOne): More six-string pyrotechnics from the former Jefferson Starship guitarist.
Dethklok, "Dethalbum III" (Wiliams Street); The third full-length from the "Adult Swim" virtual death metal band and brainchild of writer/producer Brendon Small.
Donald Fagen, "Shrunken Condos" (Reprise): The voice of Steely Dan worked on his fourth solo album with touring trumpeter Michael Leonhart and takes on a cover of Isaac Hayes' "Out of the Ghetto."
Friar Alessandro, "Voice From Assisi" (Decca): We can't have too many singing friars, and rock producer Mike Hedges brings a full-bodies sound to this Franciscan figure's debut album.
Benjamin Gibbard, "Former Lives" (Barsuk): The Death Cab For Cutie and Postal Service frontman piled up material for his first solo album over the course of the past eight years.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, "Allelujah! Don't Bend! Ascend!" (Constellation): The Canadian rock troupe gives a wide release to its latest album after quietly unveiling it at an Oct. 1 concert in Boston.
Jamey Johnson, "Living For a Song: Tribute to Hank Cochran" (Mercury Nashville): The country iconoclast pays loving tribute to a favorite forebear with help from Willie Nelson, George Strait, Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and more.
Jason Lytle, "Dept. of Disappearnce" (Anti-): The fourth solo album from the former Grandaddy member and multi-instrumentalist.
Mika, "Origin of Love" (Universal Republic): The flamboyant British singer's third album includes duets with Pharrell Williams and Priscilla Renea.
Pinback, "Information Retrieved" (Temporary Residence Ltd.): The San Diego indie rock duo issues its fifth album, and first in five years.
Swedish House Mafia, "Until Now" (Polydor): The Swedish DJ trio's farewell set includes collaborations with Usher, Ryan Tedder, Coldplay, Miike [cq] Snow, John Martin, Florence and the Machine and others.
Twiztid, "Abominationz" (Psychopathic): The Detroit rap duo's ninth album includes feature spots from Royce Da 5'9" and, of course, label chiefs Insane Clown Posse, among others.
Martha Wainwright, "Come Home to Mama" (Cooperative Music): Sean Lennon, Wilco's Nels Cline and others help Wainwright on her first set of new material in four years.
ZZ Ward, "Til the Casket Drops" (Boardwalk/Hollywood): The debut full-length from the buzzed-about Los Angeles by way of Oregon singer and songwriter.
Widespread Panic, "Wood" (Widespread): This live set from the jam band's recent acoustic tour includes a variety of covers and a guest appearance by Col. Bruce Hampton.
From The Vaults: Chickenfoot, "Chickenfoot I" (eOne); Gov't Mule, "The Georgia Bootleg Box" (Evil Teen); Ben Harper, "By My Side" (Virgin)
Soundtracks: Marco Beltrami, "Trouble With the Curve" (Varese); John Carpenter, "The Fog" (Silva America);
New Holiday Albums: Francesca Battistelli, "Christmas" (Fervent); Kem, "What Christmas Means" (Motown); Scotty McCreery, "Christmas With Scotty McCreery" (19/Mercury Nashville); Christina Perri, "A Very Merry Perri Christmas" (Atlantic); Various Artists, "A Very Special Christmas: Bringing Peace on Earth"; Various Artists, "A Very Special Christmas -- 25 Years" (Big Machine/Word);
New Music Videos: Neil Young, "Neil Young Journeys" (Sony)
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