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The Listening Room: Jana Kramer, Selena Gomez, The Game, Toby Keith and more...
(Elektra Records Nashville)
It's been a bit of a rough ride for the singer and actress from Rochester Hills during the three years since her self-titled Top 5 country music debut --- most notably her broken engagement with fellow country star Brantley Gilbert in August of 2013. All's certainly well for Kramer now -- she married Washington Redskins tight end Mike Caussin and is expecting a baby girl -- but the shrapnel of broken love is scattered throughout the 11 tracks of her sophomore album, whether on songs she chose ("Boomerang," "I Got the Boy") or co-wrote ("Dance in the Rain," "Last Song"). But Kramer sings that she still believes in fairy tales and picking flowers, and she fills "thirty-one" (yes, her age) with a defiant ebullience in hard-rocking tracks such as "Don't Touch My Radio," "Pop That Bottle" and "Bullet." There's certainly a contemporary, Swift-esque edge to songs like "Said No One Ever" and "Circles," but Kramer's distinctive vocal blend of muscle and twang makes those her own, too. And she's in a stronger place by album's end, as she promises that, "This is will be the last song/About all the s*** that went on." Read to move on, yes, but not without getting it off her chest first.
New & Noteworthy:
City and Colour, "If I Should Go Before You" (Dine Alone/Cooking Vinyl): Dallas Green's fifth City and Colour album is his most band-oriented yet, featuring the group he took on the road for his most recent tour.
The Game, "The Documentary 2" (Blood Money/eOne): The rapper's sequel to his 2005 debut loads up with guests, including Detroit`s Dej Loaf, Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, will.i.am, Future and many more.
Selena Gomez, "Revival" (Interscope): The actress-singer delivers her second solo album second solo album in the wake of strong buzz generated by the singles "Good For You" and "Same Old Love" -- and a voice appearance in the box-office topping "Hotel Transylvania 2."
Toby Keith, "35MPH Town" (Show Dog/Universal): The country star's 18th studio album features a duet with pal Jimmy Buffett on the good-humored "Sailboat For Sale."
Protomartyr, "The Agent Intellect" (Hardly Art): The Detroit rock quartet gets aggressive again on its third album but still incorporates some of the sonic textures of 2014's "Under Color of Official Right"
The Zombies, "Still Got That Hunger" (The End): The legendary British group's sixth studio album, and first in two years, lives up to its title with frontman Colin Blunstone and keyboardist Rod Argent still sounding like excited youths in their British Invasion prime.
Also Out: Tori Amos, "The Light Princess (Original Cast Recording)" (Mercury Classics); The Beckies, "The Beckies" (Real Gone); Jason Boland and the Stragglers, "Squelch" (Proud Souls); Alison Brown, "Song of the Banjo" (Compass); The Decemberists, "Florasongs EP" (Capitol); Faithless, "Faithless 2.0" (RCA); Andy Hackharth, "Panorma Motel" (self-released); Infected Mushroom, "Converting Vegetarians II" (Dim Mak); Bobby Ingram, "Postcards From Coconut Grove" (Kingswood); Iration, "Hotting Up" (Iration LLC); Lang Lang, "Lang Lang in Paris" (Sony Classical); Corb Lund, "Things That Can't Be Undone" (New West); Jesse Malin, "Outsiders" (One Little Indian/Velvet Elk); Mayday Parade, "Black Lines" (Fearless); Jon McLaughlin, "Like Us" (Razor & Tie); Michael Monroe, "Blackout States" (Spinefarm); Monster Magnet, "Cobras & Fire (The Mastermind Redux)" (Napalm); Pete RG, "Reaching Fro the Moon" (4L); Brian Ritchie, "Bordeux" (Barrelmaker); Rudimental, "We the Generation" (Atlantic); St. Germain, "St. Germain" (Nonesuch); Saintseneca, "Such Things" (Anti-); Bob Schneider, "The King Kong Suite, Volume 3" (Shockorama); Seventh Day Slumber, "Redline" (VSR); Duncan Sheik, "Legerdemain" (Kobalt); Jake Shimabukuro, "Travels" (eOne); Tall Heights, "Holding On, Holding Out" (Tall Heights Music); Mike Tramp, "Nomad" (Target); Joe Louis Walker, "Everybody Wants a Pieces" (Provogue/Mascot); W.A.S.P., "Golgotha" (Napalm); Ann Wilson, "The Ann Wilson Thing!" (Rounder)
Soundtracks: "Cry-Baby: The Musical (Original Studio Cast Recording)" (Broadway); "It Shoulda Been You (Original Broadway Cast Recording)" (Ghostlight)
Holiday Albums: Steven Curtis Chapman, "Christmas Hymns" (Sparrow); Gaither Vocal Band, "Christmas Collection" (Gaither Music Group); John Gary, "The John Gary Christmas Album" (Real Gone); George Melachrino and His Orchestra, "Christmas Joy" (Real Gone); Mercyme, "Mercyme, It's Christmas" (Fair Trade Services); The Three Suns, "A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas" (Real Gone)
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