by Mike Evans
KEANE — Strangeland
THE GOOD: England’s piano-driven Keane returns with their fourth full-length.
THE BAD: Same as above.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Better than Snow Patrol, but not as accomplished as Coldplay, Keane are that “adult alternative” outfit that has given “Something Only We Know” to about 5,700 movie trailers and countless 40-something ladies’ iPods the world over. And after broadening their sound (and crashing commercially as a result), Strangeland is their “return to form.”
That’s right — 45 minutes of steadily rocking, keyboard-coated emotional syrup. And I must admit, most of this album is damn catchy. Unfortunately, all of it is painfully predictable. Strangeland is a true paint-by-numbers collection. Swaying stadium anthem? “On The Road.” Weepy cautionary break-up song? “Watch How You Go.” Drumless contemplative closer? “Sea Fog.” Clone of the aforementioned hit from the band’s debut? Take your pick. You get at least four of them.
Oh well. The next time the wife drags me into any Bath and Body Works location, at least I know what’ll be playing inside the store.
BUY IT?: That’s up to you. Strangeland isn’t disagreeable, but you’ve been here many times before.
OBERHOFER — Time Capsules 2
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Brad Oberhofer and his Brooklyn band bring on an ambitious debut. Sorry — there’s no Time Capsules 1.
THE BAD: Sometimes the record is too damn clever for the room.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The 21-year-old snagged legendary producer Steve Lillywhite (Peter Gabriel, Rolling Stones, U2) to lend his ear to the proceedings. I’m not sure it helped.
Capsules shines in spots but sounds like a muddled mess in others. Opening track “HEART” begins with a thunderous piano and grows more bombastic as it plays on. The tune is fetching, but makes you wonder just how over-the-top a lovelorn confessional has to be.
“I Could Go” comes off like a hyper-active nursery rhyme; Brad trying to be cheeky but shouting all the while. “Cruisin’ FDR” is a summertime jam that crosses the Beach Boys with the more manic tendencies of Field Music.
But that’s where Capsules often goes — combining disparate elements and having them clash ever-so-slightly. It’s a lot to swallow in places; Brad perhaps reaching beyond his own abilities.
BUY IT?: Your call. Oberhofer is good. These beginnings are just a little rocky.
RUFUS WAINWRIGHT — Out of the Game
THE GOOD: Singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright goes for glorious pop on his seventh proper album.
THE BAD: Game may be slightly flawed, but it finds Wainwright getting back to where we want him.
THE NITTY GRITTY: The singer’s last great album was 2007’s Release the Stars. Since then, he’s been giving us live discs, lavish box sets, operas, and the depressing All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu (2010)— the intimate set recorded while his mother was dying from cancer.
It’s time for the guy to have a little fun again. So Wainwright has teamed up with producer Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Kaiser Chiefs, Adele) and while Game isn’t exactly “lighthearted,” it’s a record with positive vibes and solid backbeats. Tunes like “Jericho” and “Welcome to the Ball” bring forth an energy that’s been sorely missing for half a decade. “Bitter Tears” and the title cut prove Wainwright hasn’t lost his pop chops.
For those who crave a good dose of the less flamboyant, delicate sweeping pieces like “Montauk” and “Candles” are far more hushed and personal.
BUY IT?: Yes. Wainwright delivers a balanced and highly enjoyable record.
NEW RELEASES — CD
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD — Hypnotic Nights
JIMMY CLIFF — Rebirth
MATISYAHU — Spark Seeker
NAS — Life is Good
SOUL ASYLUM — Delayed Reaction
NEW RELEASES — DVD
FRIENDS WITH KIDS with Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt
INTRUDERS with Clive Owen
LOCKOUT with Guy Pearce and Maggie Grace
SALMON FISHING IN THE YEMEN with Emily Blunt
and Ewan McGregor
THE THREE STOOGES (2012)