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The Listening Room: Broken Bells, Eric Paslay and more...
"After the Disco"
Near the start of Broken Bells' second album, James Mercer sings that he's "got nothing left to give/It's kind of wonderful." The truth of the matter is the Shins frontman and Broken Bells partner Danger Mouse have plenty in the tank here -- and it's more than "kind of" wonderful. The duo's Grammy-nominated 2010 debut and 2011 "Meyrin Fields" EP were exceptional surprises, a winning collusion rather than a collision of Mercer's indie rock grace and Danger Mouse`s tasteful kitchen-sink sonics. "After the Disco" is even better, taking some of the spectral, nighttime ambience of "Broken Bells" and putting a more muscular beat behind it to create a contemporary brand of early-80s New Wave with a smattering of techtronic rock flavors from David Bowie's Berlin adventures. Mercer and Mouse don't waste any time in showing off their ambitions, either, starting "After the Disco" with the six-minute-plus soundscape "Perfect World," its airy, piano-driven opening morphing into kinetic dynamics, slinky synthesizer hooks and a sharp guitar solo. Mercer's falsettos pierce the Beatlesy chorus of the single "Holding on For Life," and songs such as "The Changing Lights," "Control," "No Matter What You're Told" and the title track are soundtracks during, rather than after, the disco. "Lazy Wonderland" lets Broken Bells indulge in psychedelia, while "The Angel and the Fool" and "Leave It Alone," the latter a bitter kiss-off laced with gospel-tinged backing vocals, provide gentler changes of pace. The duo still has something special going on here, and this second full album is a welcome demonstration of its staying power.
Eric Paslay, "Eric Paslay" (EMI Nashville) ***
Eric who? you may ask. It's a fair question, but know that Paslay is already a big deal in the country world by virtue of the hits he's written for Jake Owen, Love and Theft, Lady Antebellum, the Eli Young Band and others. Not surprisingly, his first artist album sounds like a collection of well-crafted singles -- he even includes Lady A's "Friday Night" and Big Kenny's moving "Less Than Whole" amidst originals both perky ("Country Side of Heaven," "Like a Song," "Here Comes Love") and tear-jerking ("She Don't Love You," "Good With Wine"), while "Song About a Girl" and "Never Really Wanted" lean to the contemporary side of country. A strong debut from an established name on the scene.
New & Noteworthy:
Augustines, "Augustines" (Oxcart): The Brooklyn indie rock trio puts on a happier face for its sophomore album than it displayed on 2011's "Rise Ye Sunken Ships."
Behemoth, "Satanist" (Metal Blade): The Polish heavy metal quartet does more than throw a few devil's horns on its conceptual 10th solo album.
Big Head Todd & the Monsters, "Black Beehive" (Shout! Factory): The jammy Denver quartet celebrates its 25th recording anniversary with a new set that includes a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, "Black Beehive."
Bombay Bicycle Club, "So Long, See You Tomorrow" (Vagrant): The fourth album in five years from the productive British rock troupe.
Toni Braxton & Babyface, "Love, Marriage & Divorce" (10 Spot/Universal): The two R&B/pop hitmakers, collaborators since 1992, deliver their first entire album of duets.
The John Butler Trio, "Flesh & Blood" (Vanguard): The Australian three-piece made its first studio album in nearly four years in just 20 days at Butler's facility in Fremantle.
Karl Denson`s Tiny Universe, "New Ammon (Stoopid): The Greyboy Allstars reeds man returns to his own jazz-funk ensemble after a nearly four-year hiatus.
Mary Lambert, "Welcome to the Age of My Body" (Capitol): The voice of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" offers a physical release of the sung/spoken word EP she released digitally in December.
Les Duo De Twang Claypool, "Four Foot Shack" (ATO): The first release from the country/Americana collaboration between Primus' Les Claypool and MIRV guitarist Bryan Kehoe.
Little Mix, "Salute" (Syco/Columbia): The second album from the British girl group and "X Factor UK" winner is already a big hit in its homeland, where it came out during November.
Pat Metheny, "Kin (<-->)" (Nonesuch): The jazz (and more) guitarist's first album since adding multi-instrumentalist Giulio Carmassi to his acclaimed Unity Group.
Danilo Perez, "Panama 500" (Mack Avenue): The Panamanian pianist, last year's Detroit Jazz Festival Artist in Residence, dips into his homeland heritage on his latest release.
Paul Rodgers, "The Royal Sessions" (429): The Bad Company and Free frontman indulges his love of Memphis soul on this set of covers recorded at the city's famed Royal Studios.
Ruben Studdard, "Unconditiional Love" (Verve): The second "American Idol" winner delivers love songs made famous by Paul McCartney, the Carpenters, Bonnie Raitt, Teddy Pendergrass and more, with Stevie Wonder and Lalah Hathaway guesting.
Joanne Shaw Taylor, "Songs From the Road" (Ruf): The British blues singer and guitarist is at her best on stage, as evidenced by this hot CD and DVD souvenir.
Various Artists, "Now 49: That's What I Call Music" (UMe): The perennially popular series continues with the latest hits from Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Imagine Dragons and many more.
Whiskey Myers, "Early Morning Shakes" (Wiggy Thump): The third release from the country-rock quintet out of Tyler, Texas.
Wild Moccains, "88 92" (New West): The sophomore outing by the idiosyncratic indie pop group quintet from Houston.
Within Temptation, "Hydra" (Nuclear Blast): The sixth album by the Dutch symphonic metal band includes guest appearances by former Killswitch Engage frontman Howard Jones, former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen, rapper Xzibit and Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner.
Xiu Xiu, "Angel Guts: Red Classroom" (Polyvinyl): Recording for the California experimental group's ninth album was done in both Los Angeles and producer John Congleton's home base of Dallas.
From The Vaults: Tony Bennett, "The Classics" (Columbia/RPM/Legacy); Michael Bloomfield, "From His Head to His Heart to His Hands" (Legacy); Fankhauser Cassid Band, "On the Blue Road" (Gonzo Multimedia); Aretha Franklin, "The Queen of Soul" (Atlantic/Rhino); Paul Potts, "The Greatest Hits" (Columbia); Otis Redding, "The King of Soul" (Atlantic/Rhino); The Small Faces, "Here Come the Nice: The Immediate Years 1967-1969" (Charly/Amazon.com exclusive); Tina Turner, "Love Songs" (Parlophone/Rhino)
Soundtracks: Pedro Bromfman, "Robocop" (Sony Masterworks); Alexandre Desplat, "Monuments Men" (Sony Masterworks); Patrick Doyle, "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" (Varese) Various Artists, "Together" (Milan); Various Artists, "Toomorrow" (Real Gone); Various Artists, "Vampire Academy" (UMe)
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