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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: JR JR, Ryan Adams, Chvrches, Don Henley and more...

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, September 25, 2015

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(Warner Bros.)

Grade: A

At the start of its third full-length album, the Detroit duo declares that "no one can stay the same." And JR JR certainly hasn't, dropping the Dale Earnhardt portion of its name that garnered so much attention but ultimately undermined the group's own identity. You can almost hear a sigh of relief throughout this 12-song set, whose rich pop charm hews closer to 2011's "It's a Corporate World" than 2013's ambitious but overstuffed "The Speed of Things" -- and is the best thing Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott have done to date. Their songs remain idiosyncratic but not weird, which is a crucial distinction, and their masterful sense of melody and arrangement is particularly evident in hooky choruses that the likes of, say, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Sia or even Lady Gaga would die for. In JR JR's hands, however, they're airy, sometimes edgy confections that straddle a line between Brian Wilson and Brian Eno -- brainy but wholly accessible. The top tracks from this lot -- "In The Middle," "In My Mind -- Summertime," "Electrical Energy," "Gone" -- are among the best songs you'll hear this year, which is not to slight the rest, some of have hints of the hip-hop flavor from 2013's "Produce Volume 1" mixtape. The name may be different, but JR JR is still a clever and arty collaboration that merits far more than an underground hipster status.

New & Noteworthy:

Ryan Adams, "1989" (PAX AM): The iconoclastic singer-songwriter never ceases to surprise, but his track-by-track remake of Taylor Swift's album is a distinctive but heartfelt tribute to massive-selling set.

Chvrches, "Every Open Eye" (Glassnote): The Scottish synth-pop trio's third album is cleaner and smoother -- not to mention cheerful -- than its predecessors.

The Dead Weather, "Dodge and Burn" (Third Man): The third studio outing by the hard-rocking all-star group that features Detroit natives Jack White and Dean Fertita.

Disclosure, "Caracal" (Island): The British electronic duo's second full-length album features a who's who of guests including Sam Smith, The Weeknd, Lorde, Miguel and more.

Patty Griffin, "Servant of Love" (Thirty Tigers): Always worth hearing, the Texas singer-songwriter taps literary influences such as Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman for her 10th studio effort.

Don Henley, "Cass County" (Capitol): The Eagles co-founder returns with is first solo album in 15 years, an Americana-flavored effort that features duets with Dolly Parton, Martina McBride and Merle Haggard and a trio track with Mick Jagger and Miranda Lambert.

Also Out: Mindi Abair and the Boneshakers, "Live in Seattle" (Heads Up International); Herb Alpert, "Come Fly With Me" (Herb Alpert Presents); Gabrielle Alpin, "Light Up the Dark" (Parlophone/Warner Bros.); AndersonPonty Band, "Better Late Than Never" (Liaison Music); Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap, "The Silver Lining -- The Songs of Jerome Kern" (RPM/Columbia); David Berkeley, "Cardboard Boat" (Straw Man); Big Grams, "Big Grams" (Epic); ChessBoxer, "Apollo" (333 Entertainment); Clint Black, "On Purpose" (Black Top); Clannad, "Past Present" (RCA); Shawn Colvin, "Uncovered" (Fantasy); Dead Letter Circus, "Aesthesis" (The End); The Dears, "Times Infinity Volume One" (Dangerbird); Micky Dolenz, "A Little Bit Broadway: A Little Bit Rock & Roll -- Live at 54 Below" (Broadway); Dungen, "Allas Sak" (Mexican Summer); Gloryhammer, "Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards" (Napalm); Graveyard, "Innocence & Decadence" (Nuclear Blast); Huntress, "Static" (Napalm); Julio Iglesias, "Mexico" (Sony Latin); Il Volo, "Grande Amore" (Sony Latin); Kaskade, "Automatic" (Warner Bros.); Adam Klein, "Archer`s Arrow" (Cowboy Angel); Jeff Lorber Fusion, "Step It Up" (Heads Up International); Colin Linden, "Rich In Love" (Stony Plain); Los Lobos, "Gates of Gold" (429); John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension, "Black Light" (Abstract Logix); Monkeyjunk, "MoonTurn Red" (Stony Plain); New Order, "Music Complete" (Mute); Danielle Nicole, "Wolf Den" (Concord); Parkway Drive, "Ire" (Epitaph); Thomas Rhett, "Tangled Up" (Valory); Duke Robillard, "The Acoustic Blues & Roots of..." (Stony Plain); John Scofield, "Past Present" (Impulse!/Universal Music Classics); Silversun Pickups, "Better Nature" (New Machine); Dulcie Taylor and Friends, "Wind Over Stone" (Mesa/Bluemoon); Kurt Vile, "b'lieve i'm goin down" (Matador); Widespread Panic, "Street Dogs" (Vanguard); Webb Wilder, "Mississippi Moderne" (Landslide)

From The Vaults: Marie Antoinette, "Straight From the Harp" (MAH Productions); David Bowie, "Five Years 1969-1973" (Parlophone/Rhino); Johnny Mathis, "The Singles" (Colubmia/Legacy);

Soundtracks: "Outlander: Original Television Soundtrack, Vol. 2" (Madison Gate); "The Walk: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Sony Classics)

Holiday Albums: Kenny Rogers, "Once Again It`s Christmas" (Warner Music Nashville)

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