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The Listening Room: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fall Out Boy and more...
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
This New York trio has always been hip, and its fourth studio album is a model of cool restraint -- but without the emotional detachment that sometimes comes with that. You wouldn't know that from the outset of the 11-song set though; "Sacrilege," the opening track and first single, builds from a quiet start into gospel choir bombast not unlike Madonna's "Like a Prayer," and even if singer Karen O never quite specifies what the titular sacrilege is it's still a sweeping sonic experience. But save for occasional bursts of fury -- such as the tribal title track, the punky "Area 52" and the slinky funk vibe of "Buried Alive" (with a guest rhyme by Dr. Octagon) -- the rest of "Mosquito" doesn't make a lot of noise and certainly charts a different course than 2009's dance-happy "It's Blitz!" Rather, the YYYs immerse themselves in treacly ambience on tracks like "Subway," "Under the Earth," "These Paths," the lush tone poem "Always" and even the reggae-tinged "Slave," their seeming sonic serenity countering O's dark, obtuse lyricism -- "Despair," after all, is a love song to that emotion, driven ever so subtly by Nick Zimmer's spaghetti Western-flavored guitar line. It's an album that lets mood star over composition or personality, which is both intriguing and surprising. But that's ultimately why we love the YYYs, who never cease to surprise and unseat any set expectations.
Fall Out Boy, "Save Rock and Roll" (Island) **1/2
Five years after its last album and following a four-year band hiatus, Fall Out Boy is not exactly making the same kind of rock 'n' roll it did when we last saw the quartet. This is 11-song set has more in common with Rihanna than the Ramones, which will undoubtably polarize those faithful to the "Sugar, We're Goin' Down" and "Thnks fr th Mmrs" Fall Out Boy of yore. Then again, this is a group that has never been afraid to "Dance, Dance," so the club grooves, polished R&B/pop hooks and hip-hop production effects (including a guest rap by Detroit's Big Sean on "The Mighty Fall") are fresh but not entirely foreign. FAB steps back into punk mode with Courtney Love on "Rat a Tat," while Elton Join joins the crew for the majestic pop bombast of the album-ending title track.
New & Noteworthy:
Sarah Brightman, "Dreamchaser" (Simha/ADA): The virtuoso singer's first new release in five years covers songs by Wings, Sigur Ros, Elbow and other.
Carla Bruni, "Little French Songs" (Verve): The French-Italian singer's first album in five years features eight original songs as well as a "collaboration" with Chopin on the track "Vase Posthume."
Dead Can Dance," In Concert" (PIAS): The Dead can play live, too, as the Australian group delivers songs from 2012's "Anastasis" as well as a cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren."
Steve Earle & the Dukes (and Duchesses), "The Low Highway" (New West): Earle resurrects the Dukes name for the first time since 1987 while still mining the rock, country and folk synthesis he's done so well since then.
Flaming Lips, "The Terror" (Warner Bros.): The Oklahoma art rockers change direction (again) on their 13th album, taking a quieter and more ambient course than its recent predecessors.
Johnny Fritz, "Dad's Country" (ATO): The Nashville singer-songwriter formerly known as Johnny Corndawg reclaims his real name for his third album.
Ghost B.C., "Infestissumam" (Loma Vista): The Swedish heavy metal band decamped to Nashville to record its second studio album -- as well as a B-side ("I'm a Marionette") that features Dave Grohl on drums.
JJ Grey & Mofro, "The River" (Alligator): The Florida troupe delivers a typically powerful and soulful set, fortified by a more "live" recording situation in the studio.
Greyboy Allstars, "Inland Empire" (SciFidelity): The fourth studio album by the soul/jazz/funk hybridists from San Diego.
Iron & Wine, "Ghost on Ghost" (Nonesuch): Troubadour Sam Beam moves to a new label for his fifth album, though he's still recording with longtime collaborator Brian Deck.
K's Choice, "Echo Mountain" and "Little Echoes" (Sony): The Dutch group brings its latest two overseas releases, from 2010 and 2011 -- ending a decade-long recording hiatus -- to these shores.
Major Lazer, "Free the Universe" (Secretly Canadian): The second album from Philadelphia electronic wizard Diplo's "band" features vocal guests such as Bruno Mars, Tyga, Santigold and members of Dirty Projectors and Vampire Weekend.
Meat Puppets, "Rat Farm" (Megaforce): The Arizona rock trio soldiers on with its 14th studio album, which guitarist Curt Kirkwood calls "real blown-up folk music."
Jane Monheit, "The Heart of the Matter" (Emarcy/Decca): The Grammy Award-nominated vocalist takes on songs by the Beatles, Buffy St. Marie and even "Sesame Street" on her 11th album.
Olly Murs, "Right Place, Right Time" (Epic): The British pop singer's third album hits these shores after topping the charts in his homeland last fall.
Willie Nelson and Family, "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (Legacy): The American music legend sweeps through a variety of favorites from the songbooks of Irving Berlin, Django Reinhardt, Frank Loesser and others.
Ana Popovic, "Can You Stand the Heat" (Artistexclusive): The Serbian-born blues singer and guitarist took herself to Memphis for her fiery sixth studio album.
Kim Richey, "Thorn in My Heart" (Yep Rock): The singer-songwriter is joined by guests such as Trisha Yearwood, Jason Isbel and members of Wilco and My Morning Jacket on these 12 original songs.
Andrew Ripp, "Won't Let Go" (Be Music): The Ryan Cabrera cohort sets off on his own, with an album produced by Grammy Award winner Charlie Peacock.
Skid Row, "United World Rebellion: Chapter One" (Megaforce): The New Jersey rockers deliver their first fresh recording in nearly seven years, the first in a planned series of EPs.
Summer Set, "Legendary" (Fearless): The Arizona pop-rock group moves to a new album for its third album, which was preceded by the single "Boomarang."
Various Artists, "Way To Blue: The Songs of Nick Drake" (StorySound): Robyn Hitchcock, Teddy Thompson and Lisa Hannigan are among those paying tribute to the late British singer-songwriter on this Joe Boyd-produced salute.
From The Vaults: Blind Melon, "Sippin' Time Sessions" (Capitol/EMI); David Bowie, "Aladdin Sane (40th Anniversary Edition)" (Virgin/UMe); Dust, "Hard Attack/Dust" (Sony/Legacy); Shuggie Otis, "Inspiration Information/Wings of Love" (Epic/Legacy); Simple Minds, "Celebrate: Greatest Hits" (Virgin/Universal)
Soundtracks: Henry Jackman, "GI Joe: Retaliation" (Varese Sarabande); Faith Prince, "Total Faith: Live From the Royal Room at the Colony" (Broadway); Various Artists, "Lords of Salem" (UMe)
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