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The Listening Room: Linkin Park, Mayer Hawthorne's Jaded Inc. and more
"The Hunting Party"
Machine Shop/Warner Bros.
Linkin Park's last couple of albums, forays into electronic-laced heavy rock, has tested its fans -- but apparently not too much, as both debuted at No. 1. But "The Hunting Party," the sextet's sixth studio release overall, rediscovers the guitar-driven fury that marked early career efforts such as "Hybrid Theory" and "Meteora" without a hint of rust. Linkin Park still weaves some of the synthesizers and loops of "A Thousand Suns" and "Living Things" into this 12-song set, but co-producer Brad Delson's guitars are driving the show this time out, from the opening riff of "Keys to the Kingdom" through the punk ferocity of "War" and fist-waving anthemry of "Rebellion," on which Delson teams up with System of a Down's Daron Malakian. "The Hunting Party" has some other guest shooters, including Helmet's Page Hamilton on the defiant "All For Nothing" and rapper Rakim on "Guilty All the Same," while Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, E Street Band) provides uncharacteristic atmospherics on the instrumental "Drawbar." Co-frontman Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda, meanwhile, continue to find fresh ways to stir together their sung and rapped vocalics, and the arrangements of tracks such as "Mark the Graves," "Until It's Gone" and "A Line in the Sand" are as ambitious as anything Linkin Park has done to date. This is one "Hunting Party's whose aim is true."
Jaded Inc., "The Big Knock" (Casablanca/Republic) ***
Suffice to say Mayer Hawthorne hasn't forgotten his roots -- and neither has fellow Michigander 14KT, his partner in this new endeavor. The duo combines in this new project for a blend of vintage Ghetto Tech, hip-hop and techno flavors, with Hawthorne's soulful melodicism dashed in for an entirely different kind of look. The motif is mostly spare and laden with synthesizers and beats ("Monster" is built on one from the late J. Dilla, in fact), but "Coconut Sofa" has a decidedly Thomas Dolby electropop feel while "Cubicle" is a pop song in electronica clothing and "Quantum Enganglement" sports a particularly rich vocal amidst the ambience. It's a lot more than boys playing with their studio toys, in other words, an homage to influences that still have a place at the contemporary table.
New & Noteworthy:
The Antlers, "Familiars" (Anti-): The fifth studio outing by the arty indie rock group from Brooklyn.
Mary J. Blige, "Music From and Inspired by the Film Think Like a Man Too" (Epic): The hip-hop soul songstress' semi-soundtrack includes guest appearances by Pharrell Williams and The-Dream.
Jonathan Butler, "Living My Dream" (Artistry): A new offering from the eclectic, and prolific, South African singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Lana Del Rey, "Ultraviolence" (Interscope): The New York singer strips down a bit on her third album but doesn't shirk on the dark drama that's her trademark.
Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters, "Good News" (Stony Plain): The hot-rocking blues guitarist teams with singer Diane Blue and fellow string-benders Nicholas Tabarias and Zach Tunis on his latest release.
G-Eazy, "These Things Happen" (G-Eazy): The third full album from the independent rapper from Oakland, Calif.
David Gray, "Mutineers" (Good Soldier Songs): It's been a long time since his "Babylon" success, but this British singer-songwriter clearly hasn't lost inspiration over the years.
Hiromi, "Alive" (Telarc): The Japanese jazz pianist returns to a trio format for her ninth album as a band leader.
Joe, "Bridges" (BMG): The R&B singer's latest includes a duet with Kelly Rowland on "Love & Sex Pt. 2." Wanna guess what that's about?
Kitten, "Kitten" (Elektra): The L.A. rockers release their first full album after three reputation-building EPs.
Jennifer Lopez, "A.K.A." (Capitol): The "American Idol" judge's latest endeavor includes rap guest shots by T.I., Iggy Azalea, French Montana, Rick Ross and Pitbull.
Mali Music, "This Is Mali" (RCA): The first major label album from the gospel/R&B/hip-hop vocalist who's actually from Georgia by way of Arizona.
The Mastersons, "Good Luck Charm" (New West): The second album from the alt.country husband-wife duo that does double duty in Steve Earle's Dukes band.
Ian McLagen & the Bump Band, "United States" (Yep Rock): The Small Faces/Faces keyboardist is in fine fettle on his latest solo album, recorded in his home studio near Austin, Texas.
Nazareth, "Rock 'n' Roll Telephone" (Conveyor): The veteran British rock troupe's latest is the last for original signer Dan McCafferty, who's being sidelined by health issues.
Willie Nelson, "Band of Brothers" (Sony/Legacy): The American music icon's latest album is his first in nearly two decades to feature mostly original songs form his own pen.
The Nighthawks, "444" (Ellersoul): The roots rockers from Washington, D.C. haven't mellowed a bit, even in their 41st year.
Playing For Change, "Playing For Change 3: Songs Around the World" (Palm): The multi-media collective's latest project features contributions from the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards, Keb' Mo', members of Los Lobos, Sara Bareilles and others.
Joshua Redman, "Trios Live" (Nonesuch): The saxophonist's latest title says it all, as he works with two different trios on this seven-song set.
Ed Sheeran, "x" (Atlantic): The flame-haired British troubadour enlisted a slew of collaborators for a sophomore album that's more varied and broad-reaching than 2011's breakthrough "+."
Sam Smith, "In the Lonely Hour" (Capitol): The buzzed-about British singer's debut arrives Stateside after topping the charts in his homeland.
Tiesto, "A Town Called Paradise" (PM-AM/Musical Freedom): The Dutch DJ works with Icona Pop, Krewella, Ladyhawke and more on his fifth artist album.
The Verve Pipe, "Overboard" (LMNO Pop): The Michigan stalwarts get back to rock for the first time in 13 years.
From The Vaults: Sam Cooke, "Portrait of a Legend 1951-1964" (ABKCO)
Soundtracks: Original Broadway Cast, "Aladdin" (Disney); Jeff Beal, "House of Cards: Season 2" (Varese); John Powell, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" (Caroline)
New Music DVDs: Jimi Hendrix, "Blue Wild Angel: Live at the Isle of Wight" (Experience Hendrix/Legacy Blu-Ray); B.B. King, "Life of Riley" (UMe)
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