Foster the People
Let's save everyone a lot of trouble. If you're looking for Pumped Up Kicks 2: The Sequel on Foster the People's new album, Supermodel, it's not there. There's nothing even close.
That's not a failure on Foster the People's part, just its statement of purpose. The peppiness of Pumped Up Kicks, which was arguably the song of the summer of 2011, camouflaged the tale of a schoolkid getting ready for a murderous rampage. On Supermodel, they sound more like Vampire Weekend than that band that had everyone singing about outrunning bullets.
Mark Foster and friends incorporate Afro-pop, new wave and SSRq90s alternative in a variety of combinations through most of the album, maintaining an upbeat but edgy vibe. One of the singles, Coming of Age, sounds like New Order meets New Radicals. Another single, Best Friend, adopts the same lyrical-musical disconnect Pumped Up Kicks used, talking about a strung-out best friend while an SSRq80s synth-funk party breaks out behind it.
On The Truth, Foster seemingly debates himself, using both a Bowie-esque baritone and a soaring falsetto to navigate a "world that's so broken." It's the most potent sign on Supermodel that Foster the People isn't content with just having something to say -- it wants to say it in the most engaging way possible. 3 1/2 stars
Download this: The Truth
-- Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
Sam Roberts Band
As with many artists that find some level of success, Canuck singer/songwriter Sam Roberts has begun to search beyond his Montreal base for song inspiration. Roberts spent time in Spain while creating what would eventually be his spirited sixth album.
Lo-Fantasy will still appeal to his maple-leaf-waving fan base, while forcing them to broaden their horizons as he spreads his new sonic creativity into the mix. Opening track Shapeshifters examines the human condition -- the way we deal with varying stressful circumstances by shedding layers of our personality to suit -- to a beat that is ultimately danceable and loose. Those who prefer Roberts' rockist tendencies don't have to look any further than Human Heat and Kid Icarus for fulfilment, but even this pair have had their rhythmic base contoured to a more interesting curvature.
Lo-Fantasy is the kind of album that not only delivers over the course of its 11 smartly crafted songs, it offers a degree of hope for more of the same from an artist who's willing to take chances.
And that's no fantasy. 4 stars
Download this: Metal Skin
-- Jeff Monk
Slow Me Down (RCA Nashville)
The cover of Sara Evans' new album depicts her in front of a giant clock above the title Slow Me Down -- an ironic statement for a country star releasing only her second album in nine years.
But taking her time benefits Evans in one way: Slow Me Down ranks with such past gems as 2005's Real Fine Place and 2000's Born To Fly, two of Evans's best, and most successful, albums. She also profits from working with one producer, Mark Bright, who also co-produced Real Fine Place with Evans, a move away from the multiple producers found on Evans' disappointing 2011 release, Restless.
Bright adds particularly inventive and engaging arrangements to such standout cuts as Sweet Spot and especially You Never Know, with its clever use of strings as a rhythmic element set against drums, bass and guitars. Evans' maturity also informs her new songs, especially the title cut, the equally compelling Better Off (a duet with Vince Gill) and A Little Revival.
Judging from the strength of her new work, Evans should ignore her own advice and speed up recording efforts on the next round. 4 stars
Download this: Sweet Spot
--Michael McCall, The Associated Press
Jazz Country (Anzic)
As the title indicates, New York-based singer Amy Cervini, an expat Canadian, blends two musical loves on her new album. She leads a trio with Jesse Lewis on guitar and Matt Aronoff on bass, with guests including Anat Cohen (clarinet), Marty Ehrlich (saxophone) and Gary Versace (accordion) adding textures over the 14 tunes.
But the hybrid of two American music genres is less important than the showcase it provides for Cervini's excellent voice and delivery.
Calling You, on which Lewis adds vocalese help, is simply a great song, whatever label you put on it.
The chestnut Blue Moon opens the disc with a countrified air and Cervini does a nice job on the Anne Murray waltz Song for the Mira. Go Gently to the Water is a delightful ballad with the singer accompanied only by her husband, the pianist Oded Lev-Ari.
Frim Fram Sauce, while generally well-sung, lacks the sense of sexual innuendo it cries out for (although Cohen's clarinet gives it a bit of a saucy feel).
Neil Young's After the Gold Rush gets a wistful, spare treatment with some excellent guitar work. HHHH
Download this: Calling You
-- Chris Smith
THIS WEEK'S SINGLES
JENNIFER LOPEZ FEAT. FRENCH MONTANA
I Luh Ya Papi (Capitol/Universal)
The first few promo singles (Same Girl, Girls) from J-Lo's upcoming eighth album were deservedly met with a fairly tepid response, but this one feels like much more of a hit. Terrible spelling aside, this effervescent R&B-electro hybrid is the freshest she's sounded in ages. And the French Montana verse isn't half bad either. 3-1/2 stars
There may still be plenty of snow on the ground in our neck of the woods, but Calvin Harris is already looking forward to the sunny season with his latest single. It's not particularly innovative, but it is loaded up with massive, hands-in-the-air pop-trance melodies and a vocal reminiscent of his previous hit Feel So Close. 3 stars
#Selfie (Dim Mak/Universal)
It's unclear whether this novelty dance track is meant to be serious or ironic; either way, you'll likely need the sick bucket by the time it's through. Ultra-obnoxious synths abound as a stereotypical Valley Girl type rambles on about taking selfies at the club. Very much this generation's version of Katalina's equally vapid 1996 hit DJ Girl. 1 star
-- Steve Adams