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The Listening Room: Vampire Weekend, Pop Evil and more...
"Modern Vampires of the City"
Almost halfway through Vampire Weekend's third album, frontman Ezra Koenig declares that "youngbloods can't be settling down" -- and the New York quartet certainly doesn't here. While "Vampire Weekend" and "Contra" were clever and brainy, the Strokes by way of Paul Simon's "Graceland." "Modern Vampires of the City" goes light on the polyrhythms (they're still present in "Everlasting Arms") but adds more heart, soul and ambient spaciousness to the mix, making for an album that combines arty ambition with playful passion. "Obvious Bicycle" starts things off with a hollow beat and light piano under a trick vocal arrangement, while "Unbelievers" takes VW back into the garage, with Rostam Batmanglij's organ in the driver's seat. The group's noisy side gets a fierce workout on "Diane Young" and the kinetic of "Finger Black" (with a spoken-word section set in Jerusalem) while the beat-crazy "Ya Hey" and "Worship You" make use of African-flavored vocalics and chorales, respectively. The takeaway from "Modern Vampires...," however, is the sophisticated popcraft embodied in songs such as "Step," "Hudson" and the closing "Young Lion." This clearly isn't a band that plans to stay in one place very long, which over time may prove to be the greatest virtue of all.
Pop Evil, "Onyx" (eOne): **1/2
Pop Evil's time has been coming for awhile, but the Grand Rapids hard rock group is in a new state of arrival on its fourth album. With the single "Trenches" already a Top 5 rock radio hit, the quintet has elevated its game on every level with this 12-track -- from pithy songwriting to tight playing to dynamic, impactful production and even, yes, commerciality on chart-worthy songs such as "Beautiful," "Fly Away" and the power ballads "Torn To Pieces," "Silence & Scars" and "Behind Closed Doors." Fans of the heavier stuff, meanwhile, will gravitate towards "Deal With the Devil," "Sick Sense," "Divide" and the album-closing duo of "Welcome to Reality" and "Flawed," while the confluence of all these parts should lock Pop Evil into rock's big leagues this time around.
New & Noteworthy:
Trace Adkins, "Love Will..." (Show Dog Universal): The deep-voiced country star is joined by Colbie Caillat, the Harlem Gospel Choir and members of Exile -- on a remake of "Kiss You All Over," of all things -- for his 11th studio album.
Sam Amidon, "Bright Sunny South" (Nonesuch): The Vermont-born, London-raised singer-songwriter covers songs by Tim McGraw and Mariah Carey on his debut full-length.
Randall Bramblett, "The Bright Spots" (New West): The veteran Georgia singer, songwriter and Gregg Allman and Steve Winwood sidekick keeps a soul root on his latest solo set.
Jason Boland & the Stragglers, "Dark and Dirty MIle" (Proud Souls/Thirty Tigers): The fiesty country-rocker co-produced his seventh album with kindred spirit Shooter Jennings.
Boxer Rebellion, "Promises" (Absentee): The British indie rock quartet made its fourth album in Los Angeles with co-producer Billy Bush.
Will Calhoun, "Life in this World" (Motema Music): The Living Colour drummer embraces his jazz roots on this solo set, joined by luminaries such as Ron Carter, Donald Harrison, Wallace Roney and others.
The Del Lords, "Elvis Club" (GB Music): Three of the hard-hitting New York group's founding members are back on board for the band's first new album in 23 years.
The Dillinger Escape Plan, "One of Us is the Killer" (Party Smasher/Sumerian): The New Jersey headbangers stay topical on their fifth album, even bellowing about "The Threat Posed by Nuclear Weapons."
Escape The Fate, "Ungrateful" (Eleven Seven): the Las Vegas metal troupe sports two new members on its fourth studio album.
Eve, "Lip Lock" (From the Rib): The hip-hop singer's fourth album is loaded with guests such as Missy Elliott, Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, Pusha T and Cobra Starship's Gabe Saporta.
Agnetha Faltskog, "A" (Universal): The blond ABBA singer delivers her first English album in nine years, and her first of original material since 1987.
Amy Grant, "How Mercy Looks From Here" (AGP/Sparrow): The Christian/pop singer-songwriter gets help from James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Carole King, husband Vince Gill and others on her latest outing.
The Handsome Family, "Wilderness" (Carrot Top): The rootsy Chicago husband-wife duo's latest release comes with a companion book of essays and artwork by banjoist Rennie Sparks.
Christian McBride & Inside Straight, "People Music" (Mack Avenue): The busy and inventive bassist employs two different versions of his Inside Straight band on this set of jazz tracks.
Mindless Self Indulgence," How I Learned To Stop Giving a S*** & Love..." (Uppity Cracker): The New York synthpop troupe is as gleefully irreverent and profane as ever on its fifth studio album.
Demi Lovato, "Demi" (Hollywood): The "Camp Rock"-bred pop singer and "X Factor" judge continues to mature on her fourth studio album, with co-writing credits on several of its 13 tracks.
Bobby McFerrin, "spirityouall" (Sony Masterworks): the facile vocalists honors his father, opera baritone Robert McFerrin Sr., on this spiritually minded set.
MSMR, "Secondhand Rapture" (Columbia): The Brooklyn indie pop duo debuts after courting hipster cred with its "Candy Bar Creep Show" EP.
George Strait, "Love is Everything" (MCA Nashville): The country legend rides into retirement (from touring, at least) with is 28th studio album, which ends, appropriately, with "When the Credits Roll."
Tea Leaf Green, "In the Wake" (Greenhouse): The San Francisco jam band taps into the wake of some personal tragedies on its most personal set of songs to date.
Scott Tournet, "Vera La Luz" (self-released): Grace Potter is a not-so-surprising guest on this solo debut by her Nocturals bandmate.
Steve Tyrell, "It's Magic: The Songs of Sammy Cahn" (Concord): The Texas-born vocalist pays tribute to one of the greatest figures in the Great American Songbook.
From The Vaults: The Breeders, "LSXX" (4AD); Devo, "Live in Seattle 1981" (Redeye); Grateful Dead, "Dave's Picks: Volume 6" (Deadnet/Rhino); Head East, "Live" (Rock Candy); Kings of Leon, "The Collection Box" (RCA/Legacy); Huey Lewis & the News "Sports (30th Anniversary Edition)" (Capitol/Universal); R.E.M., "Green (25th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)" (Rhino)
Soundtracks: Michael Giachhino, "Star Trek: Into Darkness" (Varese)
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