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The Listening Room: Ingrid Michaelson, the Birds of Satan and more...
Ingrid Michaelson informs us near the start of her fifth album that "I got two hands, one bleeding heart, I'll be alright" -- an apt summation of a set that weighs in as the songstress' most weighty and ambitious outing yet. One one hand "Lights Out's" 14 songs are filled with emotional heavy lifting; even seeming love songs carry caveats such as "in the best way you'll be the death of me," and it seems like there's more leaving than arriving throughout. But on the creative tip Michaelson is stretching herself as never before, working with co-writers for the first time on her own music -- including Mat Kearney and Trent Dabbs -- as well as six different producers, though the it still feels like a cohesive work. And despite the dark lyrical tinge we often find Michaelson enthusiastically embracing big pop arrangements, from the urgent single "Girls Chase Boys" to the Coldplay-style dynamics of "You Got Me," while "Warpath" wouldn't sound out of place on a Britney Spears album and "Time Machine" could be an "American Idol" winner's song. There's also plenty of melancholy restraint ("Over You," "Everyone is Gonna Love Me Now," "Open Hands"), and Michaelson's use of choral vocal arrangements throughout is just one of the elements that remind us of what a clever artist she is while also pushing her in fresh directions.
The Birds of Satan, "The Birds of Satan" (Shanabelle) ***
The individual Foo Fighters stay so busy between band projects it's hard to keep tabs, and here drummer Taylor Hawkins finds yet another endeavor -- this one morphing from his 70s/80s hard rock covers band Chevy Metal. The Birds of Satan compresses those influences into new material, with a leaning towards prog rock on the nearly 10-minute "The Ballad of the Birds of Satan" and the dynamic album-closer "Too Far Gone to See." "Wait Til Tomorrow" blasts forward with punky fury while "Raspberries" indulges in psychedelia, and guests such as fellow Foos Dave Grohl and Pat Smear and Yes frontman Jon Davison add extra flavors to make this a respectable and certainly heartfelt homage to Hawkins' musical heroes.
*New & Noteworthy:
Afghan Whigs, "Do the Beast" (Sub Pop): The 90s are back and sounding very 2014 as the Ohio rockers release their first new album in 16 years
Ian Anderson, "Homo Erraticus" (Calliandra/Kscope): The Jethro Tull frontman "teams" with "Thick as a Brick's" fictional Gerald Bostock for another flute-filled conceptual work.
The Both, "The Both" (SuperEgo): Singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Ted Leo team up for this low-key "supergroup" project.
Breathe Carolina, "Savages" (Fearless): The Denver electro rockers' fourth album features guest appearances by Karmin and Asking Alexandria's Danny Worsnop.
Jack Bruce, "Silver Rails" (Esoteric Antenna): The former Cream bassist's first solo album in a decade includes guest guitar work by Robin Trower, Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera and others.
The Crookes, "Soapbox" (Modern Outsider): The third album from the buzzed-about modern rockers from Sheffield, England.
Rodney Crowell, "Tarpaper Sky" (New West): The Americana veteran follows last year's "Old Yellow Moon" collaboration with Emmylou Harris with this self-produced solo set.
Jason Derulo, "Talk Dirty" (Warner Bros.): The Miami R&B/pop singer's fourth album features a wealth of features from fiance Jordin Sparks, Snoop Dogg, Tyga and Kid Ink.
Emerson Hart, "Beauty in Despair" (Hart): The Tonic frontman goes solo for a second time, taking an unabashedly commercial route with producer David Hodges (Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood).
Kyng, "Burn the Serum" (Razor & Tio): The Southern California trio keeps things heavy on its second studio album.
Ziggy Marley, "Fly Rasta" (Tuff Gong): Bob Marley's oldest son reunites with his siblings in the Melody Makers for tracks on his fifth solo album.
Jessica Lea Mayfield, "Make My Head Sing" (ATO): The critically lauded singer recorded her third album in Nashville, backed by husband Jesse Newport among others.
NEEDTOBREATHE, "Rivers in the Wasteland" (Word/Atlantic): The Christian alt.rockers from South Carolina worked with five different producers on their fifth studio album.
Oak Ridge Boys, "Boys Night Out" (Cleopatra): Believe it or not, this is the quartet's first-ever live album in the 40 years of its present lineup.
Pharoahe Monch, "PTSD--Post Tra" (W.A.R. Media/Duck Down Music): The Queens rapper's fourth solo album features fellow rappers such as the Roots' Black Thought and Detroit's Denaun Porter, as well as Talib Kweli.
Billy Porter, "Billy's Back on Broadway" (Concord): Cyndi Lauper guests on this new set by the Tony Award-winning star of her Broadway hit "Kinky Boots/"
Ray Price, "Beauty Is...The Final Sessions" (139th & Broadway): A final hurrah from the country singing icon, who died in December at the age of 87.
The Secret Sisters, "Put Your Needle Down" (Universal Republic): The second album from the traditional country duo from Alabama.
Sevendust, "Time Travelers & Bonfires" (7Bros): The heavy rockers let fans fund as well as pick the tracks for this acoustic-flavored recasting of the group's material.
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, "The Gospel Music of Marty Stewart (Live)" (Gaither Music): The Americana veteran dips into his spiritual side with help from Harry Stinson, Kenny Vaughan, Connie Smith and others.
Various Artists, "Petty's Peculiar Picks" (Chrome Dreams): A two-CD collection of blues,R&B and roots rock favorites Tom Petty plays on his "Buried Treasures" satellite radio show.
Chuck E. Weiss, "Red Beans and Weiss" (Anti-): Fans Johnny Depp and Tom Waits executive produced the idiosyncratic singer-songwriter's first album in eight years.
*From The Vaults: Black Sabbath, "Complete Albums Box 1970-1978" (Warner Bros./Rhino); Bee Gees, "Warner Bros. Years 1987-19991" (Warner Bros./Rhino); Nas, "Illmatic XX" (Columbia/Legacy); Lou Reed, "Winter at the Roxy" (Goldfish); Rush, "ReDISCoovered" (Mercury/UMe)
*Soundtracks: Junkie XL, "Divergent: Original Motion Picture Score" (Interscope)
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