Music reviews for week of Nov. 21-27, 2013

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Gazette wire services
Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Various artists, 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Soundtrack

Choosing the tracks for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” soundtrack must have been a mini-Hunger Games in itself after the wild success of the first film. The victors offer a mix of indie and mainstream, adding an energetic, emotional dimension to the film.

The 12 tributes (15 on the deluxe edition) of album No. 2 battle it out to discover who puts out the edgiest, yet accessible, song in homage to the story. One can see a shift in tone from the first film's T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack from folky melancholy to a slicker, more eccentric offering supervised by Alexandra Patsavas.

A few traces from the original DNA remain with such tracks as the folky “Lean” by The National, “Devil May Cry” by The Weeknd and the dulcet tones of “Gale Song” by The Lumineers. The lead single “Atlas,” from British rockers Coldplay, brings a low simmer resignation to boil over into anger. It's a resounding anthem to fighting against oppression and feeling the weight of the world on one's shoulders in dulcet piano tones. Christina Aguilera adds to the film's mainstream cred with her powerful vocals on the catchy “We Remain.”

But the indie performers modulate their voices in a different direction—instead of reassuring, revolutionary tones they all go eerie synth. Teen sensation Lorde does an underwater-sounding cover of Tears for Fears' “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” that takes its original cheerful spirit and twists it into a macabre warning. Australian Sia convincingly taps into the best of tribal pop on “Elastic Heart,” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo, while Ellie Goulding goes all angelic sci-fi electro in “Mirror.”

There's no clear victor on this record, apart from the fan.

—Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press

Daughtry, 'Baptized'

Daughtry takes some cool chances on his fourth album, “Baptized.” The first single, “Waiting for Superman,” which teams Chris Daughtry with the great Sam Hollander and Martin Johnson from Boys Like Girls, is a sleek change of pace, rolling together bits of The Fray and Bon Jovi into the patented Daughtry sound.

On “Long Live Rock & Roll,” he cleverly reminisces about Billy Joel and grunge in a country-style rave-up. But then there's “Battleships,” with the stunningly weird chorus of “We love like battleships … And the cannon goes, 'Boom boo-boom boom boo-boom boom boom,”” which is, well, crazy, and you wonder if he's gone too far.

—Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

Billy Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones, 'Foreverly'

“Songs Our Daddy Taught Us” was a surprise move from Phil and Don Everly in 1958. After a string of pop-rock hits such as “Bye Bye Love” and “Wake Up Little Susie,” the brothers chose to release a set of traditional country tunes for their second album.

“Foreverly” is similarly surprising: It finds Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong harmonizing with Norah Jones on a set of covers of “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.”

Although we've heard Jones sing country in the Little Willies, it's a revelation to hear Armstrong so at ease crooning, without a trace of his pop-punk sneer, on tunes such as “Long Time Gone” and “Rockin' Alone (in an Old Rockin' Chair).” He takes most of the leads, with Jones singing Phil's high harmonies, and the arrangements rely on acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and the occasional harmonica, piano or pedal steel. “Foreverly” is loose, fun and totally sincere.

—Steve Klinge, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Sky Ferreira, 'Night Time, My Time'

Sky Ferreira isn't the first 21-year-old fashion model to turn her attentions from runway to music. Lord knows, she won't be the last.

Yet for several years she's been touted—mostly by her label, which signed Sky when she was 15—as a sultrier, smokier Britney Spears, and therefore the salvation of young adult electro-pop. The edginess that makes her so dynamic was implied by associations with risqué photographer Terry Richardson and a beau arrested for heroin.

Luckily, Ferreira delivers the sad bad-girl goods with bugged-out ease, from top to bottom.

The industrial clang of “Omanko” is like a beautiful woman with awful shoes—pure pop with an ugly noisy ambience. The oversize guitars and crackling beats of “You're Not the One” handsomely complement Ferreira's clear, corrosive voice. She might come across on occasion like a Cat Power impersonator, especially on the dreary title track and the worrisome “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay).” But she turns that on its ear with the chipper “Kristine,” poking at poseurs of all stripes.

—A.D. Amorosi, The Philadelphia Inquirer

Kellie Pickler, 'The Woman I Am'

On the title song of her new album, Kellie Pickler paints herself as both a tough broad, stubborn and proud, and one who sometimes cries at night—a woman who can “fall to pieces with Patsy Cline.” It's a portrait that plays out over the former American Idol contestant's fourth album.

“The Woman I Am” has more mainstream-country polish than last year's career peak, “100 Proof.” The guitars get cranked louder and harder on the rocking numbers, for instance, and songs such as “Little Bit Gypsy” and “Bonnie and Clyde” have a more generic feel to them.

Still, she cuts an appealingly convincing, and country, figure as she moves from a celebration of her great-grandmother on “Selma Drye” to the vengeful glee of “Ring for Sale” and the quiet introspection of “Tough All Over.”

—Nick Cristiano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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