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The Listening Room: Ke$ha, Paloma Faith and more...
At the start of her second full-length album, Kesha Sebert, who we know better as Ke$ha, is still the defiant partymeister that she was on her multi-platinum 2010 debut "Animal" and the subsequent "Cannibal" EP. Tracks such as "C'mon," the single "Die Young," "Crazy Kids", the title track and "Thinking of You" -- an ex-lover diss that would make Taylor Swift proud -- all find Ke$ha with her chin out, dukes up and the occasional drink in hand as she declares that "we were born to break the doors down and fight until the end!" But a funny thing happens at about the halfway point of "Warrior;" Ke$ha grows up. The balance of the 12-track set is more mature, more measured and at times experimental. "Supernatural," built on the melody from Nik Kershaw's "Wouldn't It Be Good," and "Supernatural" are unconditional and even sentimental love songs, while the melodic rocker "Wonderland" is propelled by the Black Keys' Patrick Carney. The chill ambience of "Love Into the Light" is so patterned after Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" that he should have gotten a co-writing credit, and Ke$ha teams with members of the Strokes on the kinetic "Only Wanna Dance With You" and with Iggy Pop on the soulful garage rocker "Dirty Love." "Warrior's" deluxe edition, meanwhile, finds her dipping deep into EDM on "Out Alive" and working airy atmospherics with the Flaming Lips and Ben Folds on "Past Lives." The warrior image may suit Ke$ha well, but on "Warrior" it's the spirit of an adventurer that serves her best.
Paloma Faith, "Fall To Grace" (Epic): ***
On her sophomore album, British singer, songwriter and actress Paloma Faith falls comfortably in the middle of the late Amy Winehouse, Adele and Ellie Goulding, mixing soul stylings with a smoky vocal timbre and electronic ambience shrewdly deployed by producers such as Nelle Hooper and Jake Gosling. "Fall To Grace" is more cohesive than Faith's debut, "Do You Want the Truth...," with standout moments in the aching first single "Picking Up the Pieces," the vibey "Let Me Down Easy," a boldly stripped-down "Just Be," the gospel-referencing "Let Your Love Walk In," the buoyant "Freedom" and a subtly orchestrated cover of INXS' "Never Tear Us Apart." She may not have the profile yet, but this certainly puts Faith on track to join the upper echelon of the U.K.'s blossoming batch of pop-soul divas.
New & Noteworthy:
Atkins May Project, "The Valley of Shadows" (Gonzo Multimedia): The first set of music from the teaming of former Judas Priest frontman Al Atkins and Christian rock guitarist Paul May.
Gavin DeGraw, "Sweeter Live" (RCA): The New York singer-songwriter documents his 2012 summer tour on this CD/DVD set that, despite its title, includes material from throughout his career and not just the "Sweeter" album.
Esham, "Venus Flytrap" (Aknu Media): The veteran underground Detroit rapper steps out wide on his latest release, which features 31 new songs, some of which incorporate dubstep into the sonic mix.
Florida Georgia Line, "Here's To Good Times" (Republic Nashville): The southeastern country duo's full-length debut features five tracks that also appeared on its earlier EP "Cruise."
Hinder, "Welcome to the Freakshow" (Republic): The Oklahoma rock band stretches a bit further on its fourth album, which frontman Austin Winker says was inspired by "a really, really dark drug binge" while writing the songs.
Wiz Khalifa, "O.N.I.F.C." (Rostrum/Atlantic): The Pittsburgh rapper's fourth proper album, whose title acronym has multiple meanings, features guest appearances by 2 Chainz, Akon, The Weeknd [cq] and Cam'ron, as well as Khalifa's fiance Amber Rose.
Lisa Matassa, "Somebody's Baby" (Itiswhatitis): The country singer-songwriter follows her third album, released earlier this year, with an EP that includes remixes, a live track and a version of "The Christmas Song."
Mogwai, "Wrenched Virile Lore" (Sub Pop): A remix album featuring songs from last year's "Hardcore Will Never Die..." album revamped by Cylob, Xander Harris, Zombi and others.
Joshua Rogers, "Well Done" (Music World): A new collection of spiritual anthems from the South Carolina winner of BET's "Sunday Best" reality singing show.
Smashing Pumpkins, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" (EMI): The deluxe version of this reissue of the group's landmark 1995 two-CD set adds three more discs of outtakes, demos and live tracks.
JD Souther, "Midnight in Tokyo" (eOne): The veteran singer-songwriter's live album cashes in on his recent casting in ABC's hit "Nashville" series.
Scott Walker, "Bish Bosch" (4AD): The 14th solo album from the former Walker Brothers member closes with the offbeat holiday track "The Day the 'Conducator' Died (An Xmas Song)."
Paul Wall, "No Sleep Til Houston" (Swishahouse/Asylum): The guest list on the Houston rapper's latest album includes homeboy Slim Thug, Propain, Marcus Manchild and more.
Wayne Wonder, "My Way" (Singso): Shaggy and Mya help the Jamaican-born, Miami-based singer on his 13th album.
New Holiday Albums: Gary U.S. Bonds, "Christmas is On!" (G.I.A.)
From The Vaults: Johnny Cash, "The Complete Columbia Album Collection" (Columbia/Legacy); Chevelle, "Stray Arrows -- A Collection of Favorites" (Epic); Eric Clapton, "Slowhand 35th Anniversary" (RSO/UMe); Alice Cooper, "Old School (1964-1974)" (UMe); The Jam, "The Gift: Deluxe Edition" (Polydor/UMe); Kiss, "The Casablanca Singles" (Mercury/UMe); McFly, "Greatest Hits" (Island); Mary Wells, "Something New: Motown Lost & Found" (Motown/UMe); Frank Zappa, "The Lost Episodes" (Zappa/UMe)
Soundtracks: Danny Elfman, "Hitchcock" (Sony Masterworks)
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