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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj, Asking Alexandria, Foreigner and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, December 15, 2014

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Charli XCX


(Neon Gold/Asylum/Atlantic)

Grade: B

The world needs another female pop songstress about as much as it needs another cooking reality show, but for Charli XCX we'll make room. The British singer and songwriter established herself via hit collaborations with Icona Pop ("I Love It") and Iggy Azalea ("Fancy"), but her third album, ebullient and blessedly guest-free, shows she can handle things just fine on her own. "I just wanna break the rules" she declares in "Break the Rules," but what Charli really does so well is take well-established conventions, past and present, and combine them into something distinct, whether she's raving out on that song, "Body of My Own" and the title track or exploring glammy guitar rock ("Breaking Up"), kinetic New Wave ("London Queen") and big beat indie rock on "Hanging Around," co-written by Weezer's Rivers Cuomo -- all with a chin-out, Girl Power 'tude that would make forebears the Spice Girls proud. "Doing It" and the floaty "Die Tonight" boast chill, soulful underpinnings, while the closing "Caught in the Middle" is a retro-modern girl group salute fit to be sung on the street corner outside a techno club. There are points during "Sucker's" final third when the album starts to lose steam, but Charli manages to find hear groove again and deliver a welcome late-year set that will bring her a deserved star stature in 2015.

New & Noteworthy:

Asking Alexandria, "Live From Brixton and Beyond" (Sumerian): The British hard rocker troupe fills the gap between its third and fourth album with this live set recorded on its home turf.

Foreigner, "The Best of Foreigner 4 & More" (Sony Music/CMG): A live set from October shows in Atlantic City, with the group's latest lineup focusing on the iconic 1981 "4" album but still playing favorites such as "Cold As Ice" and "I Want To Know What Love Is."

Jonny Greenwood, "Inherent Vice: Original Soundtrack" (Nonesuch): Radiohead guitarist Greenwood's latest set of film music has already been named the year`s Best Music Score by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

Nick Minaj, "The PinkPrint" (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic): The rapper-singer's third album seems to have been coming forever; it's finally here, sporting guest appearances by Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Drake, Lil Wayne and more.

Rich Robinson, "Dirigible Utopia" (The End): The Black Crowes guitarist follows his latest solo album, "The Ceaseless Sight," with this four-song EP of acoustic instrumentals.

Various Artists, "Peter Pan Live!" (Broadway): Liked it on NBC? Come back to Neverland with this 26-track set capturing all the, er, magic from Allison Williams, Christopher Walken and all the lost boys.

Also Out: Rubin Banks, "Modern Classic" (self-released); Steve Taylor & the Perfect Foil, "Goliath" (Sprint Entertainment); Starbomb, "Player Select" (self-released)

Soundtracks: Alexander Desplat, "Unbroken" (Atlantic); Alberto Iglesias, "Exodus: Gods and Kings" (Sony Classical)

From The Vaults: B.B. King and Joan Baez, "Live at SingSing" (Zyx)

New Music DVDs: Katy Perry, "Getting Intimate" (Vision Films)

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