Music reviews for Dec. 26, 2013

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Gazette wire services
Thursday, December 26, 2013

We The Kings, “Somewhere, Somehow”

Despite Travis Clark's sweet-sounding vocals, We The Kings have always been scrappy.

So when the Florida group decided to fund its fourth album through an Indiegogo campaign with the help of fans, it was no surprise that the job got done. What is surprising is how much the band members improved after going it alone.

“Somewhere, Somehow” is the band's best album yet, filled with strong pop hooks and pristine production. “We could rule the world, own everything,” Clark sings on “Queen of Hearts,” one of three strong songs he co-wrote with Steve Shebby, who also co-produced the tracks with him. “I'll be the Jay Z, you be the B.”

While many of their Warped Tour contemporaries, such as Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco, have opted to try out other genres, We The Kings have decided to continue to hone their sound, making everything catchier and harder-hitting.

“That Feeling,” another Clark-Shebby collaboration, pushes hard on the galloping, thumping verse and bridge, before leaning back for the sweet chorus. Soon, it's off to the races again, which is a clever way to approximate the feeling of young love they're singing about. It's that extra layer of artistry that makes “Somewhere, Somehow” sound so much more impressive than its predecessors.

On “Art of War”—which Clark wrote for the recent “Hunger Games” soundtrack, though it wasn't used—the band shows how it can add depth to the lyrics while staying on a chosen course. On “Somewhere, Somehow” they've made it.

—Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

Various artists, “The Wolf of Wall Street Soundtrack”

Unlike the soundtrack from Leonardo DiCaprio's other big movie of 2013, “The Great Gatsby,” the soundtrack to “The Wolf of Wall Street” draws mainly from previously released music.

The only new songs are a grand cover of “Goldfinger” from Sharon Jones and The Dap-Kings, who appear in the movie as a wedding band, and a stomping rocker from 7Horse called “Meth Lab Zoso Sticker” that blends Black Keys rootsiness with indie-rock distortion.

The soundtrack's strange mix of styles is actually charming—from Billy Joel's “Movin' Out” to Eartha Kitt's “C'est Si Bon,” with excursions to Romeo Void's punk and Malcolm McLaren's island-tinged “Double Dutch.”

—Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

Various artists, “Inside Llewyn Davis: Original Soundtrack Recording”

Should he want it, a career in folk singing awaits Oscar Isaac, the actor who brings soulful depth to the sad-sack jerk title character of “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coen brothers' riff on the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early 1960s.

As in the movie, Isaac more than holds his own with professional singing types such as Justin Timberlake, who plays a blandly likable folkie, and Broadway actor Stark Sands. Isaac brings conviction to traditional tunes performed solo or accompanied by Marcus Mumford or the Punch Brothers.

When he's not on the mike, the soundtrack is a mishmash, with the too-cute novelty tune “Please Mr. Kennedy” not worthy of repeat listenings and the odd cut by Bob Dylan and Dave Van Ronk, on whom Davis is partially based, adding to the jumble.

—Dan DeLuca, The Philadelphia Inquirer

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