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Listening Room: Five Seconds Of Summer, Norah Jones' Puss n Boots and more...
5 Seconds of Summer
"5 Seconds of Summer"
Boy bands aren't always comprised of high-stepping vocalists; sometimes they play guitars, bass and drums and look an awful lot like rock bands -- and it's funny to think the latter is probably what parents prefer in this day and age. 5 Seconds of Summer would certainly like to be thought of in Warped Tour terms; the Australian quartet, which won mass favor (and American Apparel gratitude) with its smash "She Looks So Perfect," plays its own instruments and writes its own song, and on its debut album tips its influences on its sleeve by working with alt.rock producers such as Eric Valentine and Goldfinger's John Feldmann and co-writing with All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth and Joel and Benji Madden of Good Charlotte. But this is also the group that tours regularly with One Direction (with whom it shares management), and pop is definitely ahead of rock in its musical equation -- although there's certainly some genuine brawn and spunk to be found on tracks such as "Don't Stop, "Good Girls," "End Up Here" and "Heartbreak Girl." There's no shortage of mile-wide hooks, huge choruses and buoyant energy; all the girls are hot, the loves are true and never-ending and even the occasional break-up songs sound like celebratory anthems. "Amnesia" ends things on a lush power ballad note, a hint that this might be the band One Direction's crowd remembers when it's ready to move on to something a bit more potent.
Puss n Boots, "No Fools, No Fun" (Blue Note) ***
Over the 12 years since her Grammy Award-winning debut "Come Away With Me," Norah Jones has stayed a stylistic moving target, both on her own and with side projects such as the Little Willies. Her latest surprise teams her with alt.rocker Catherine Popper and jazz troubadour Sasha Dobson, and their Puss n Boots collaboration is heavy on the twang and nods to ther roots via covers of songs by The Band ("Twilight"), Tom Paxton ("Leaving London"), Neil Young ("Down By the River") and Wilco ("Jesus, Etc.") and others. Jones contributes the uptempo "Don't Know What It Means," while Dobson's "Sex Degrees of Separation" provides a welcome moment of irreverent levity. The trio's harmonies, however, steal the show and make us hope they'll pull their Boots on again in the not too distant future.
New & Noteworthy:
Anberlin, "Lowborn" (Tooth & Nail): The Florida Christian alt.rock band returns to its original label for one more album before it disbands.
Black Angels, "Clear Lake Forest" (Blue Horizon): The Austin, Texas group follows its "Indigo Meadow" album with this seven-song EP.
Common, "Nobody's Smiling" (ARTium/Def Jam): The Chicago rapper's first new joint in three years includes guest appearances by Detroit's Big Sean, Jhene Aiko, Cocaine 80s and others as well as production by hitmaker No I.D.
Darkest Hour, "Darkest Hour" (Sumerian): The Washington D.C. death metal group's eighth album introduces a new rhythm section, with a new label to boot.
Dog Fashion Disco, "Sweet Nothings" (RazorToWrist): The Maryland metal group's first new album since 2006 follows a 2013 band reunion.
Fallujah, "The Flesh Prevails" (Unique Leader): The San Francsico troupe continues to develop its brand of ambient death metal with help from guests such as Roniit Alkayam and Christian Muenzner.
Forbidden Broadway, "...Comes Out Swinging" (DRG): The inventive troupe's latest revue of the Great White Way taps into productions of "Rocky," "Bridges of Madison County," "Matilda" and more.
Fozzy, "Do You Wanna Start a War" (Century Media): The Atlanta metal group's fifth album features a guest appearance by Steel Panther's Michael Starr on the track "Tonite."
Freeman, "Freeman" (Partisan): Aaron Freeman, aka Ween's Gene Ween, resurfaces with a new band and a new outlook after sobering up following his previous group's demise.
(hed) Pe, "Evolution" (Pavement): The California headbangers' latest album comes after a four-year wait and some soul-searching that's reflected in its lyrics.
Ill Nino, "Till Death La Familia" (Victory): The seventh studio album by the Latin-flavored metal quintet from New Jersey.
Eric Johnson, "Europe Live" (Provogue): The Austin, Texas-based guitar hero is caught in the act, and on fire, on this concert set.
Sean Jones, "im*pro*vise" (Mack Avenue): The youthful trumpeter's seventh album was influenced by tours with Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock's Tribute to Miles group.
Sammy Kershaw, "Do You Know Me?: A Tribute to George Jones (Big Hit): Kershaw's salute to the Possum includes a duet with daughter Georgette Jones on one of these 14 tracks.
La Roux, "Trouble in Paradise" (Polydor): The sophomore outing from the British synthpop artist Elly Jackson follows the "La Roux" debut by a full four years.
Jesse McCartney, "In Technicolor" (EightOEight): The forth album from the singer and actor follows a six-year wait since his Top 20 "Departure."
Kelley Mickwee, "You Used to Live Here" (self-released): The Trishas members steps out on her own with this Memphis soul-flavored set that includes covers of John Fullbright and Eliza Gilkyson songs.
Nico Vega, "Lead To Light" (Five Seven Music) Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds, husband of Nico Vega's Aja Volkman, produced "I Believe (Get Over Yourself)," the first single from the Los Angeles group's sophomore album.
Overkill, "White Devil Armory" (eOne): Seventeen albums on, the New Jersey thrash metal group is as fiercely potent as it was on its very first release 24 years ago.
RX Bandits, "Gemini, Her Majesty" (Mash Down Babylon/Ingrooves): The California ska rockers end a four year gap since their last release.
Chris Smither, "Still on the Levee" (Signature Sounds): The singer-songwriter celebrates 50 years of music-making by re-recording 22 of his favorites for this retrospective two-CD set.
Wakey! Wakey!, "Salvation (MummaGrubbs/Thirty Tigers): The Brooklyn group`s latest release was funded through a PledgeMusic campaign.
Yes, "Heaven & Earth" (Frontiers): The prog rock veterans' 21st studio album was produced by Roy Thomas Baker and features the first recorded efforts with current singer Jon Davison.
From The Vaults: The Beatles, "Japanese Box" (Capitol/UMe); Gentle Giant, "The Power and the Glory" (Alucard); Phil Ochs, "Live Again" (Rock Beat); ZZ Top, "The Very Baddest Of..." (Warner Bros./Rhino)
Soundtracks: Marco Beltrami, "Snowpiercer" (Varese Sarabande)
New Music DVDs: Various Artists, "Made in America" (Phase 4); Various Artists, "Psycopathic: The Videos Vol. 2" (Psycopathic/Ingrooves); ZZ Top, "Live at Montreux 2013" (Eagle Rock)
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