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The Listening Room: Foster The People, the Pretty Reckless and more...
Foster the People
Foster the People are in one-hit-wonder danger zone. The group had a monster, the quadruple-platinum "Pumped Up Kicks," from its 2010 debut album "Torches" and nothing that's come close since. That assigns "Supermodel" the unenviable task of defining the Los Angeles modern rock trio's future and also puts the group itself in the position of looking like a failure if it doesn't repeat that success. The truth is it probably won't -- but that does not make "Supermodel" a flawed endeavor. In fact, the 11-song set does what sophomore albums are supposed to do, which is to gently but determinedly expand Foster the People's sonic palette, exploring a more organic and immediate terrain that's warmer and more muscular than "Torches" but still has a decidedly contemporary edge. "Coming of Age," "Supermodel's" first single, is a winning pop anthem, propelled by synthesizers and cutting guitar riffs atop an urgent groove. The opening "Are You What You Want To Be?" incorporates exotic Afro-Caribbean flavors while the Beach Boys-style a capella harmonies of "The Angelic Welcome of Mr. Jones" lead into "Best Friend," a buoyant R&B workout that Pharrell could have put on his new album. Mark Foster and company still incorporate plenty of electro touches from the New Wave and Industrial schools throughout "Supermodel," but there's a greater balance this time with the songs' melodic and harmonic structures. It may not be as pumped-up as its predecessor, but "Supermodel" still has plenty of kicks.
The Pretty Reckless, "Going To Hell" (Razor & Tie) **1/2
Actors moonlighting in music are generally buyer-beware, but "Gossip Girl's" Taylor Momsen showed she meant business on the Pretty Reckless' 2010 debut "Light Me Up," and the new "Going To Hell" is even better. Having established its headbanging cred last time out, Momsen and company push the parameters further this time, sounding particularly comfortable with gentler, acoustic tracks such as "Burn," "Absolution" and "Waiting on a Friend," as well as the smoothly mainstream "F***ed Up World." They still bring plenty of heavy, too -- albeit with more dynamic variety -- on "Follow Me Down," "Heaven Knows," "Sweet Things" and the title track, making Hell sound like a fairly interesting place to spend some time.
New & Noteworthy:
Black Lips, "Underneath the Rainbow" (Vice): Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney is one of three producers who worked on the Atlanta rockers' seventh album.
Capital Cities, "In a Tidal Wave of Mystery (Deluxe)" (Lazy Hooks/Capitol)): The Los Angeles synthpop group adds to its 2013 debut with a new songs ("One Minute More") and a cover of Sinead O'Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U."
Dethklok, "Metalocalypse: the Doomstar Requiem -- A Klok Opera" (BS Records): Adult Swim's cartoon death metal band rides again, this time accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra.
Luther Dickinson, "Rock 'n' Roll Blues" (New West): The North Mississippi All Stars co-founder and Black Crowes alumnus offers up some "folk punk country blues" on his second solo album.
The Exploited, "Beat the Bastards" (Nuclear Blast): The latest blast of ear-bombing hardcore from the veteran Scottish punk rockers.
Eliza Gilkyson, "The Nocturne Diaries" (Red House): The singer-songwriter`s first new album in three years includes one song, "Fast Freight," co-written with her father, Terry Gilkyson.
Gus G., "I Am the Fire" (Century Media): Ozzy Osbourne's latest guitarist and the Firewind co-founder releases his first solo album, with help from members of Steel Panther, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Megadeth, Mr. Big and more.
Enrique Iglesias, "Sex and Love" (Universal Republic): The Son of Julio stays on a bilingual tip, welcoming guests such as Pitbull, Flo Rida and others.
Lionize, "Jetpack Soundtrack" (Weathermaker): Clutch drummer Jean-Paul Gaster co-produced this outing by the hard-hitting blues-rock group from Silver spring, Md.
Madlib & Freddie Gibbs, "Pinata" (Madlib Invasion): The hip-hop duo polke around together with pals from Odd Future, Wu-Tang Clan, Mac Miller and Detroit's Danny Brown joining the party.
Joe Dee Messina, "Me" (Dreambound/eOne): The country veteran co-wrote seven of the 12 tracks on her latest release, which was crowd-funded via a Kickstarter campaign.
George Michael, "Symphonica" (Island): The former Wham! frontman's first album in seven years gets orchestrated on his first new albumin seven years, with covers of standards and his own past hits.
Ronnie Milsap, "Summer Number 17" (Sony Nashville): The country music veteran celebrates the 40th anniversary of his first No. 1 hit with this set of new recordings, which covers songs by Ray Charles, Hank Williams, Bobby Darin, Jimmy Ruffin and others.
Nick Moss Band, "Time Ain't Free" (Blue Bella): The hotshot guitarist and bandleader from Chicago continues to bring more rock and R&B flavors to his blues-based music.
John Oates, "Good Road to Follow" (PS/Elektra): The curly-haired half of Hall & Oates groups his latest batch of singles into a three-disc set of EPs, featuring collaborations with OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, Hot Chelle Rae, Vince Gill, Jim Lauderdale and others.
Matt Sorum, "Stratosphere" (Rok Dok/Kobalt): The Guns N' Roses/Velvet Revolver/Cult drummer steps away from the kit for a diverse exploration into his other musical roots.
Taking Back Sunday, "Happiness Is" (Hopeless): The Long Island alt.rockers' reunited "classic" lineup makes its second consecutive album in following up 2011's self-titled set.
Tycho, "Awake" (Ghostly International): The fourth full-length set, and first in three years, from the California ambient artist.
The War on Drugs, "Lost in a Dream" (Secretly Canadian): The Philadelphia indie rock troupe recorded its third album over a three-year period at several east coast studios.
Wishbone Ash, "Blue Horizon" (Intergroove): The veteran British outfit keeps pounding out the music, even if you've lost track of how many albums there have been since 1970.
Y.G., "My Krazy Life" (Pu$ha Ink/CTE World/Def Jam): The Compton rapper's debut album sports features from executive producer Young Jeezy, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q,
From The Vaults: Elvis Presley, "Elvis Recorded Live On Stage in Memphis" (RCA/Legacy); Rod Stewart, "Tonight's the Night: Live 1976-1998" (Warner Bros.); Therion, "Theli" (Nuclear Blast)
Soundtracks: Various Artists, "The Muppets Most Wanted" (Walt Disney)
New Music DVDs: Judy Collins, "Live in Ireland"; The Dukes of September, "Live" (429)
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