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CD Reviews:
The Listening Room: Cage The Elephant, Chris Brown, Monica,

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Friday, December 18, 2015

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Cage The Elephant

"Tell Me I'm Pretty"


Grade: A

In the middle of Cage The Elephant's fourth album, frontman Matthew Schultz laments, "Got so much to lose/Got so much to lose/God don't let me loose my mind." The Kentucky quintet's first two albums certainly established CTE as a rock 'n' roll comer and undoubtable put some pressure on "Tell Me I'm Pretty," but the group delivers and even exceeds expectations with an artfully stripped-down set of psychedelic-tinged garage rock that certainly benefits from having kindred spirit Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and the Arcs in the production chair. "Tell Me I'm Pretty" is cutting-edge retro, a high-tech lo-fi romp that swings like CTE is playing a hot gig with a bad PA for a basement dance party. Tracks such as "Cry Baby," "Mess Around," "That's Right" and "Portuguese Knife Fight" have plenty of hips and slinky hooks, while "Sweetie Little Jean" has a Mersey charm and "Cold Cold Cold" sounds like a folk-pop gem from the early Hollies. "Punchin' Bag" reels in swaggering white boy R&B, and "Too Late To Say Goodbye" slows things down into rough-hewn blues. Schultz notes early on that, "We all got something to say but talking is a waste of time;" good thing, then, that CTE lets its music do the talking and more than make its point on "Tell Me I'm Pretty."

New & Noteworthy:

Baroness, "Purple" (Abraxan Hymns): The fourth album from the Georgia headbangers features two new members and shows the group to be unbowed after a horrific 2012 bus accident.

Chris Brown, "Royalty" (RCA): The still-controversial R&B singer's sixth studio album goes light on the guests, keeping the spotlight on Brown's sultry vocal skills throughout.

Kid Cudi, "Speedin' Bullet 2 Heaven" (Wicked Awesome/Republic): The prolific Cleveland rapper's fifth outing includes collaborations with blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, among others.

Joseph LoDuca, "Ash vs. the Evil Dead" (Varese Sarabande): Who better to score the spin-off of this Michigan-born horror series than the Detroit homeboy who also works with "The Librarians."

Monica, "Code Red" (RCA): The Atlanta singer-actress' eight album finds Monica at her most aggressive, especially on team-ups with Missy Elliott on the title track and Lil Wayne on "Just Right For Me."

Pusha T, "King Push -- Darkest Before the Dawn: The Prelude" (GOOD Music/Def Jam): The Virginia album sets up his planned 2016 "King Push" album with this 10-song set featuring Kanye West, Jill Scott, A$AP Rocky, The-Dream and more.

Also Out: The Avett Brothers, "Live Vol. Four" (Republic); Bunbury, "MTV Unplugged: El Libro De Las Mutaciones" (Warner Music Latina); Seong-Jin Cho, "Winner: 17th International Chopin Piano Competition Warsaw 2015" (Deutsche Grammophon); Cass McCombs, "A Folk Set Apart" (Domino).

From The Vaults: Pantera, "The Complete Studio Albums 1990-2000" (Elektra/Rhino); Various Artists, "Senegal 70: Sonic Gems &...." (Analog Africa)

Soundtracks: "Be More Chill: Original Cast Recording" (Ghostlight); Various Artists, "Brooklyn: Music From the Motion Picture" (Lakeshore); James Newton Howard, "Concussion" (Sony Classical); "Daddy Long Legs: Original Broadway Cast Recording" (Razor & Tie); Ludwig Goransson, "Creed" (WaterTower); Various Artists, Jaco" (Sony Legacy); Cliff Martinez and Greg Tripi, "The Knick Season 2" (Milan); Night Club, "Moonbeam City: Original Series Soundtrack" (Milan); Various Artists, "Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight" (Verve); John Williams, "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (Walt Disney); "Youth: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack" (Milan).

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