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The Listening Room: Bruno Mars, Green Day and more...
With a title like "Unorthodox Jukebox," you get a pretty good idea of what Bruno Mars is up to on his second album, the follow-up to 2010's platinum "Doo-Wops & Hooligans." Much like his recent episode-stealing Pandora sketch on "Saturday Night Live," Mars is irrepresively and unapologetically all over the map on these 10 tracks, leapfrogging styles like a hyperactive toddler digging through a toy box. Working with a committee of producers -- including the Smeezingtons, Mark Ronson, Jeff Bhasker, Diplo and Ann Arbor's Emile Haynie -- Mars delivers kinetic New Wave on the first single, "Locked Out of Heaven," sleazy strip club funk on "Money Make Her Smile" and "Treasure," tribal urgency on "Young Girls," dubby reggae on "Show Me" and shimmering, melodic polish for "Moonshine." Mars is just as effective accompanied only by piano on "When I Was Your Man" as he is stirring together genres on the audaciously tricked-out "Gorilla" -- the kind of track Prince would be proud to have in his quiver -- and if you want a real sonic rollercoaster ride check out "Old & Crazy," the Target exclusive bonus track that teams Mars with Esperanza Spalding and adds a Django Reihnardt sample for a modern urban take on gypsy jazz. Mars' "Jukebox" is indeed unorthodox and a bit of an aural blur, but that's what makes it one of the year's most enjoyable musical adventures.
Green Day, "Tre!" (Reprise): [3 stars]
And so ends Green Day's ambitious trilogy -- with frontman Billie Joe Armstrong declaring, with nearly shocking prescience, "Next stop is therapy." "Tre!" has a few other references to the troubled state of mind that landed Armstrong in rehab since the September release of "Uno!" -- check out "Sex, Drugs and Violence" especially -- but the 12-track set's real story is its diversity. Where "Uno!" and "Dos!" hearkened to Green Day's power punk/garage rock roots, the trilogy's final installment stretches things further with the soulful, horn-laden, Sam Cooke-reference opening track "Brutal Love" to the string-laden, album-closing piano ballad "The Forgotten" that also appears on the "Twilight Saga -- Breaking Dawn Part 2" soundtrack. And the six-minute-plus "Dirty Rotten Bastards" is the kind of suite-like epic that Green Day perfected on "American Idiot and "21st Century Breakdown." A reflective tone gives even the blazing punk tracks a mature emotional heft, making the achievement of three solid albums in as many months that much more impressive.
New & Noteworthy:
Big Boi, "Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors" (Purple Ribbon/Def Jam): The OUtKast member's second solo album features collaborations with T.I., Kelly Rowland, B.o.B., A$AP Rocky, Kid Cudi, Little Dragon and more.
Blur, "Parklive" (Virgin): The British group's Summer Olmpics-closing concert in London's Hyde Park is captured on the standard two-CD set, while a four-CD deluxe edition includes a 100 Club show and other live tracks.
Boys LIke Girls, "Crazy World" (Columbia): The Massachusetts punk rock band's third album and first in three years, follows the three-track "Crazy World" EP that came out during the summer.
Mike Cooley, "The Fool On Every Corner" (Thirty Tigers): The Drive-By Truckers guitarist's first solo album mixes acosutic versions of his songs fro teh band along one one new song and a cover of Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors."
Cosculleula, "War Kingz" (Universal Latino): The fourth album from the Puerto Rican reggaeton singer.
Game, "Jesus Piece" (DGC/Interscope): The Cali rapper's fifth album includes guest appearancs by Detroit's Big Sean, Meek Mill, Kanye WEst, Common, Lil WAyne, Jamie Foxx and a host of others.
Tara Hugo, "Tara Hugo Sings Philip Glass" (Orange Mountain): The singer-actress takes on pieces that Glass intended over the years for Mick Jagger, Leonard Cohen, Natalie Merchant and others.
Katherine Jenkins, "Music From the Movies" (Decca): The Welsh singer lends her mezzo-soprano pipes to favorites from "The Bodyguard," "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves," "Evita" and more.
Lifehouse, "Almeria" (Geffen): The California rock trio stretches its sound a bit on its sixth album, which includes guest appearances by Natasha Bedingfield, Peter Frampton and Charles Jones.
Patti LuPone, "Far Away Places: LIve at 54 Below" (Broadway): An aural souvenir of the conceptual show that highlights the "Evita" Tony Awards winner's range, from European cabaret to contemporary pop.
Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale, "Buddy and Jim" (New West): The summit meeting from these Americana titans releases wide after a Black Friday rollout for independent stores only.
Anthony Rapp, "Without You" (101 Dist.): The "Rent" star captures his one-man, autobiographical show in these 26 songs.
Various Artists, "BET Sunday Best Top 10" (Music World Gospel): The reality show's stars, including Joshua Rogers, Le'Andria Johnson and others, are featured on this compilation set.
Various Artists, "The Music of 'Nashville' " (Big Machine): Songs from the hit ABC drama's first season -- sung by Connie Britton, Hayden Panettiere, Charles Esten and others -- are showcased on this collection.
Wang Chung, "Tazer Up" (DSR): The British duo's first new album in 23 years starts with a new remix of its 80s hit "Dance Hall Days."
New Holiday Albums: Glee Cast, ``Glee The Music: The Christmas Album, Volume 3" (Columbia)
From the Vaults: Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "LIve in California 74" (~Razor & Tie); Interpol, "Turn on the Bright Lights: 10th Anniversary Edition" (Matador); The Jam, "The Gift (Deluxe Edition)" (Polydor/UMe); Peter, Paul & Mary, "Live in Japan 1967 (Deluxe Edition)" (Rhino); War, "The World is a Ghetto: 40th Anniversary Edition" (Avenue/UMe)
Soundtracks: Howard Shore, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" (WaterTower Music); Various Artists, "Jerome Kern: The Land Where the Good Songs Go" (P.S. Classics); Various Artists, "On The Road" (Verve); Various Artists, "This is 40" (Capitol)
New Music Videos: Blur, "Parklive" (Virgin); Circle Jerks, "My Career as a Jerk" (MVD); Metallica, "Quebec Magnetic" (Blackened); Pink Floyd, "Reflections and Echos" (Classic Rock Legends)
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