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The Listening Room: Selena Gomez, Edward Sharpe and more...
Like fellow teen queens Demi Lovato and Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez is growing up -- and wants to tell us all about it. On "Stars Dance" she's jettisoned her pop-rock group The Scene and teamed with a combination of contemporary pop producer-writers such as Toby Gad and Freddy Wexler and teams such as Stargate, Dreamlab, Rock Mafia and the Cataracs. The collaborations on this 11-song set certainly put Gomez right in the heart of that scene, from the clubby flavors of "Slow Down," "Birthday," "Forget Forever" and "B.E.A.T." to the Rihanna-aping bounce of "Come & Get It" and the Britneyesque swirl of "Undercover" -- all tuneful and appropriate growth in her sound but also somewhat anonymous, making Gomez another indistinct voice in a crowded field without the peppy charm of her previous work. The most interesting material on "Stars Dance" includes the optimistic "Like a Champion," which incorporates a Buju Banton sample for a bit of rhythmic freshness, and the chill love song "Write Your Name," which hangs on to the innocence that's in the rearview mirror on so many other songs. There's at least more emotional depth to some of these songs, particularly the album-ending "Love Will Remember" -- one of four tracks that Gomez co-wrote and which she's acknowledged is about her on-again, off-again romance with Justin Bieber ("Boom, gone/Yeah, we move on/Even if we try to forget").
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, "Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros" (Community Music) ***
It took this California collective three years to release its second album and just 14 months to deliver its third, and a sense of prolific, crackling creative drive is clearly audible on this self-titled set. The hippie-esque love-power lyricism of these 12 tracks may not be to everyone's taste in 2013, but it's hard to deny the hand-clapping gospel commune buoyancy of songs such as "Let's Get High" -- with frontman Alex Ebert in full preacher hollerin' mode -- "If I Were Free" and "Country Calling." "Remember To Remember," sung by Ebert`s foil Jade Castrinos, is a soulful gem, and the group shows it's rock can be rustic on "Life is Hard" and polished on the sweet couple's duet "Two." Edward Sharpe's party is unique, but the celebration is irresistibly magnetic.
New & Noteworthy:
Marc Anthony, "3.0" (Sony Music Latin): The hip-swiveling singer gets back to his salsa roots for the first time in more than a decade.
Bombadil, "Metrics of Affection" (Ramseur): The North Carolina roots rockers return to active duty after being sidelined for nearly three years by a nerve injury to member Daniel Michalak.
Etienne Charles, "Creole Soul" (Culture Shock): The Trinidadian trumpeter adds covers of Thelonious Monk, Willie Cobb, Bob Marley and others to the six original compositions on his fourth album.
Guy Clark, "My Favorite Picture of You" (Dualtone): The title track of the Texas singer-songwriter`s first new album in four years was written by his wife Susanna, who passed away in 2012.
Christopher Cross, "A Night in Paris" (Eagle Rock): This two-CD/DVD set captures Cross still riding like the wind during a 2012 concert in France.
Gogol Bordello, "Pure Vida Conspiracy" (Casa Gogol/ATO): The gypsy punk rockers from New York recorded their sixth album at the famed Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas.
Grant Hart, "The Argument" (Domino): The former Husker Du drummer taps John Milton's "Paradise Lost" as the conceptual center of his fourth solo studio album.
Victoria Liedtke & Ginger Wildheart, "Hey! Hello!" (The End): An uptempo first collaboration from this Anglo-American duo.
James Maddock, "Another LIfe" (Julian): The Americana singer-songwriter from New YOrk funded his latest album entirely through fan donations to PledgeMusic.
Old Gods, "Stylized Violence" (Forge Again): The Detroit punk outfit unleashes its debut full-length after a well-received 2011 EP.
Van Dyke Parks, "Songs Cycled" (Bella Union): The composer-performer of Beach Boys "SMiLE" fame (and more) offers up his first album of new material in more than 20 years.
Kevin Presbrey, "Dust Unto Dust" (self-released): The Painkiller Hotel frontman trades rock for Americana on his solo debut.
Relient K, "Collapsible Lung" (Mono vs. Stereo): The Canton, Ohio, modern rock troupe mixes a bit of melancholy into the mostly upbeat tact of its seventh studio album.
Secrets, "Fragile Figures" (Rise): The San Diego hardcore band's sophomore release showcases new singer Aaron Melzer.
Sons of Hippies, "Griffons at the Gates of Heaven" (Cleopatra): The Florida psychedelic rock troupe hooked up with Seattle grunge producer Jack Endino on this ambitious new outing.
Tallhart, "We Are the Same" (Rory): The Tampa, Fla., indie rockers make their debut for Say Anything frontman Max Bemis' Rory label.
The Tangent, "Le Sacre Du Travail" (Inside Out): Pals from Porcupine Tree and the Flower Kings help this prog rock troupe on its seventh studio album.
Truth & Salvage Co., "Pick Me Up" (Megaforde): The sophomore release from the harmony-loving Americana sextet from North Carolina.
U-God, "Keynote Speaker" (Soul Temple): The fourth solo album by the Wu-Tang Clan member features production by RZA and guest appearances by Kool Keith, Inspectah Deck, GZA, Method Man, Styles P and Detroiter Elzhi.
Volto!, "Incitare" (Fantasy/Concord): The debut outing by the instrumental rock-jazz fusion group featuring Tool drummer Danny Carey hits iTunes this week and goes wide on Aug. 6.
We Came As Romans, "Tracing Back Roots" (Equal Vision): The Detroit area (Troy) headbangers joined forces with Aaron Gillespie of The Almost on one of the tracks from their third studio album.
The Winery Dogs, "The Winery Dogs" (Loud & Proud): The debut outing by the new "supergroup" formed by members of Poison, Dream Theater, Mr. Big, Adrenaline Mob and others.
From The Vaults: Chixdiggit!, "Double Digits" (Fat Wreck Chords); Steve Hillage, "Live in England 1979" (Gonzo MultiMedia); Smashing Pumpkins, "Aeroplane Flies High" (Virgin/Universal); Various Artists, "The Idolmaker" (Varese Sarabande)
Soundtracks: Marco Beltrami, "Wolverine" (Sony Masterworks; Cirque Du Soleil, "Zarkana" (Cirque Du Soleil); Harald Kloser and Thomas Wander, "White House Down" (UMe)
New Music DVDs: Aerosmith, "Rock For the Rising Sun" (Eagle Rock)
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