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CD Reviews:
The LIstening Room: Kings of Leon, Icona Pop and more...

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Monday, September 23, 2013

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Kings of Leon

"Mechanical Bull"



Caleb Followill's declaration that "It's all better now" in the middle of Kings of Leon's sixth studio album will come as a welcome assurance to fans who might not have been certain this day would come. The last many saw of the Kings, after all, was Followill's July 2011 meltdown on stage in Dallas, which led to rumors of substance issue and certainly put the band on ice for more than a year. Now, however, it's poised to be "a comeback story of a lifetime" -- unbent, unbowed and, most of all, unbroken on an 11-song set that brings together the rough-and-tumble charm of the quartet's earliest releases with the more spacious, ambient rock approach of 2008's multi-platinum "Only By Night" and 2010 follow-up "Come Around." The family Followill is engaged and decidedly present form the get-so, with "Supersoaker" charging out of the gate like some great lost Strokes track, with Caleb exhorting the band, and perhaps himself, to "act like you mean it." He and cousin Matthew Followill certainly mean business, twisting their guitars together throughout the set and particularly on the propulsive "Don't Matter" and dense, stomping "Coming Back Again," while "Rock City" builds from its smooth-groove start into a stomping Southern anthem and "Temple" boasts a bright, Byrdsy ring. "Comeback Story's" treacly guitar lines and high-life rhythm fit the song's redemptive message well, and the textured ambience of tracks such as "Tonight," "Beautiful War," "Wait For Me" and the closing "On the Chin" are all fortified by the group's playing and Caleb's keening vocals. The Kings may have been down for a time, but they clearly should not be counted out.


Icona Pop, "This Is..." (Big Beat/Atlantic): **1/2

With "I Love It" and "All Night," the first two songs here, Icona Pop has proven it can make hot pop/EDM songs. But can the Swedish duo handle an entire album? The answer on "This Is..." is largely yes, especially for those whose tastes run towards frothy, fun club fare. The 11 tracks here are pleasantly infectious ear candy, filled with anthemic choruses and beats that feel more potent and present-tense than what we're liable to hear this fall from Britney, Katy, Gaga and Miley. "Just Another Night" adds a touch of poignancy, but come to "This Is..." mainly to get your dance groove on.

New & Noteworthy:

Black Label Society, "Unblackened" (eOne): Zakk Wylde and company are softer but no less potent on this mostly live collection of previously electrified material.

Cher, "Closer to the Truth" (Warner Bros.): The ageless pop diva returns with her first new album in 12 years, collaborating with P!nk, Timbaland, Paul Oakenfold and the Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears.

Chvrches, [cq] "Bones of What You Believe" (Glassnote): The debut album from the buzzed about Australian synth-pop trio.

Clannad, "Nadur" (ARC/Naxos): The Irish family band returns with its first all-new album in five years.

Deer Tick, "Negativity" (Partisan): The rootsy Rhode Island rockers make big noise with Los Lobos' Steve Berlin producing on their fifth album.

Drake, "Nothing Was the Same" (OVO/Young Money/Ca$h Money/Republic): The singer-rapper's third studio album is the usual all-star affair with help from Detroit`s Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Jay Z, Detail and others.

Dream Theater, "Dream Theater" (Roadrunner): The progressive hard rockers waited for their 12th studio album to release a self-titled affair, which closes with the 22-minute "Illumination Theory" suite.

Glee Cast, "Glee Sings the Beatles" (Columbia): New recurring cast member Demi Lovato joins the crew for "Here Comes the Sun" on this 14-song Fab Four fest.

Matthew Good, "Arrows of Desire" (Forstbyte): The sixth solo album from the Juno Award-winning Canadian singer-songwriter.

Gov't Mule, "Shout!" (Blue Note): The Mule's latest ride is a two-disc affair featuring dual versions of the same songs with guest vocalists such as Dave Matthews, Grace Potter, Dr. John and others.

Sammy Hagar, "Sammy Hagar & Friends" (Frontiers): The Red Rocker celebrates the 40th anniversary of his recording career by enlisting pals such as Kid Rock, Toby Keith, Ronnie Dunn, Heart's Nancy Wilson for this high-energy set.

Alan Jackson, "The Bluegrass Album" (EMI Nashville): The country star digs into his roots, covering songs by Bill Monroe, the Dillards and more.

Elton John, "The Diving Board" (Capitol): The Rocket Man focuses on his voice and piano for this stripped-down set produced by T-Bone Burnett and written with usual lyricist Bernie Taupin.

Krewella, "Get Wet" (Get Wet): Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump and blink-182's Travis Barker guest on the debut outing by this Chicago electronic trio.

Mazzy Star, "Seasons of Your Day" (Rhymes of An Hour): The dream pop troupe recorded its first album in 17 years in Los Angles, London and Norway.

Metallica, "Through the Never" (Blackened); Megadeth, "Countdown To Extinction: Live" (Tradecraft/UMe): Two of thrash metal's Big Four deliver concert albums, Metallica's as the companion to its new 3D film and Megadeth's celebrating the 20th anniversary of its successful 1992 album.

Oh Land, "Wishbone" (Federal Prison): The Danish singer-songwriter's follow-up to her well-received self-titled effort in 2010.

Yoko Ono & the Plastic Ono Band, "Take Me to the Land of Hell" (Chimera): Sean Lennon produced this 15th solo set by his mother, and third since reactivating the Plastic Ono Band moniker.

Pink Martini, "Get Happy" (Heinz): The unorthodox Portland pops [cq] group welcomes Phyllis Diller, Rufus Wainright, the Von Trapps and others on its sixth album.

R5, "Louder" (Hollywood): The teen trio from Los Angeles takes aim at One Direction and The Wanted on its debut full-length.

Sting, "The Last Ship" (Cherrytree/Interscope/A&M): The former Police man offers a first look at his musical of the same name on this collection of rich, Celtic folk-themed songs.

Allen Toussaint, "Songbook" (Rounder): The iconic New Orleans songwriter and performer trolls through his ouvre, just him and a piano, on this CD and DVD set.

From The Vaults: Ray Charles, "Ray Charles Forever" (Concord); Lenny Kravitz, "Are You Gonna Go My Way (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)" (Virgin/UMe); Donald Lawrence, "Best For Last (20 Year Celebration, Vol. 1)" (eOne); The Waitresses, "Just Desserts: The Complete Waitresses" (Omnivore)

Soundtracks: Various Artists, "The Grandmaster (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (Lakeshore); Various Artists, "NCIS: Benchmark (Official TV Soundtrack)" (Artists' Addiction); Various Artists, "Rush: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Water Tower)

Holiday Albums: Jewel, "Let It Snow: A Holiday Collection" (Reflections)

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