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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Gaslight Anthem, Passion Pit and more...

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Monday, July 23, 2012

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The Gaslight Anthem




The Gaslight Anthem is a genuine rock band cranking it out at a time when the definitions and distinctions of “true” rock ’n’ roll have blurred. But there’s no mistaking this quartet’s place in the music world on any of its four albums. And particularly the new “Handwritten,” which eschews the more erudite craft of 2010’s “American Slang” and the rootsy tenor of frontman Brian Fallon’s Horrible Crows side project in favor of a muscular, blue-collar assault of loud guitars, fist-pumping anthems and hand-wringing angst so intimate that Fallon even frets about “if I put too much blood on the page.” There’s a little bit of Jersey Shore soul in these tunes, as well as plenty of tough urban swagger. Fallon and company certainly give no quarter in the punky attack of “45,” “Howl” and “Desire,” the grinding grit and murderous imagery of “Keepsake” and the anthemic stomp of the title track. “Here Comes My Man” has a Spectorian majesty with sha-la-las that mask its dark sentiments of departure, while the defiant “Biloxi Parish” puts forward the creepy duality of a narrator who promises “I’ll be with you through the dark,” but also makes it clear that he may, in fact, be responsible for some of that darkness. The album-closing “National Anthem” says a quiet goodbye, but it’s the righteous rock ’n’ roll noise that speaks loudest on this midsummer gem.


Passion Pit, “Gossamer” (Columbia) **1/2

Michael Angelakos is a bit of a troubled soul; he just canceled all of Passion Pit’s July tour dates, after all, to “work on improving (his) mental health.” That fragility is certainly evident on the group’s sophomore album, a collection of broken relationships, desperation, recrimination and resignation. But Passion Pit’s synthesizer-driven electropop makes the sorrow sound celebratory with songs that shimmer and stomp, from the infectious, full-monty onslaught of “I’ll Be Alright” to the lush pop choruses of “On My Way,” the rocking urgency of “Love Is Greed” and the Flaming Lips-style grandeur of “Mirrored Sea.” Angelakos’ vocals aren’t quite up to the New Jacky soul of “Constant Conversation” or the emotive drama of Diplo-assisted “Where We Belong,” but most of “Gossamer” is as silky and enveloping as the material from which it takes its name.

New & Noteworthy:

Beyonce, “4 (Deluxe)” (Columbia): The pop diva’s 2011 effort re-releases with six additional tracks, including remixes.

The Blakes, “Art of Losses” (Light in the Attic): The brother-duo from Seattle traveled cross-country to Maine to record its sophomore album.

8ball, “Life’s Quest” (eOne): The Memphis rapper takes a break from partner MJG again for his seventh solo outing.

Eternal Summers, “Correct Behavior” (Kanine): The Virginia duo morphs into a power trio for its second full-length album, co-produced by the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner.

Fang Island, “Major” (Sargent House): The sophomore album outing by the indie rock trio that shares an alma mater (the Rhode Island School of Design) with Talking Heads.

Foals, “Tapes” (IK7): A mix-tape style outing by the British rock quintet to fill the interim before its third album.

Gucci Man, “I’m Up” (1017 Brick Squad): Another mixtape by the Alabama rapper to bide time until he releases a follow-up to last year’s “The Return of Mr. Zone 6.

Idjut Boys, “Cellar Door” (Smalltown Supersound): A typically wide-ranging set of mixes from the prolific electronic duo.

J Dilla, “Shining” (BBD): Detroit jazz drummer and Dilla pal Karriem Riggins helped put together this posthumous set, which includes vocals from Common, Busta Rhymes, Dwele, Black Thought and more.

Elton John vs. Pnau, “Good Morning to the Night” (Casablanca): Sir Elton gave the Australian electronic duo access to the master tapes from his early albums for this mash-up project.

Jennifer Lopez, “Dance Again: The Hits” (Epic): The former “American Idol” judge’s compilation sports a pair of new songs, including the Pitbull-featuring title track.

Love and Theft, “Love and Theft” (RCA): The country group downsizes to a duo for its sophomore album, co-writing four of its 11 tracks.

Meek Mill, “Dreamchasers II” (Maybach/Warner Bros.): The Philadelphia rapper’s 11th mixtape features guests such as Drake, Rick Ross, Wale, 2 Chainz and Detroit’s Big Sean.

Minnesota, “Are You There” (Hymn & Holler): The debut recording collaboration between singer-songwriter Peter Himmelman and screenwriter David Hollander.

Mozella, “The Brian Holland Sessions” (Beverly Martel): The Detroit singer teams with Motown writer-producer Holland on 10 original songs that span classic soul, doo-wop and contemporary styles.

Om, “Advaitic Songs” (Drag City): The fifth album from the California drone/chant band fronted by former Sleep bassist Al Cisneros.

Purity Ring, “Shrines” (4AD): The buzz-generation single “Fineshrine” has stirred interest in this Canadian duo’s debut album.

Rodriguez, “Waiting For Sugar Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)” (Light in the Attic/Legacy): The iconoclastic Detroit singer-songwriter gets his due on this soundtrack companion to the documentary about his life, which opens Aug. 3 in the metro area.

Saint Saviour, “Union” (Surface Area/AEG): The British singer’s debut album was partially funded by fan contributions through the PledgeMusic service.

Kevin Toney 3, “New America Suite” (K-Tone Enterprises): The former Blackbyrds keyboardist gets patriotic on this first outing by his new trio, which features Detroit-born bassist Michael Bradford.

The Treatment, “This Might Hurt” (Spinefarm): The British headbangers’ new album sets up for its first U.S. tour, opening for Kiss and Motley Crue.

From The Vaults: Peter Green Splinter Group, “Blues Don’t Change” (Eagle Rock); GZA/Genius, “Liquid Swords: The Chess Box” (Get On Down); The Heptones, “Good Vibes” (AAO); Of Mice & Men, “The Flood: Deluxe Reissue” (Rise); Reverend Horton Heat, “25 To Life” (Yep Roc); Neil Sedaka, “The Show Goes On” (Eagle Rock); Slipknot, “Antennas To Hell” (Roadrunner); Sugar, “Copper Blue/Beaster (Deluxe Edition),” “File Under Easy Listening” (Merge)

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