Music reviews for Feb. 20, 2014

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Gazette wire services
Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Candice Glover, “Music Speaks”

Might “American Idol's” slide into irrelevance be a boon for its talent? That's one takeaway to be drawn from the surprisingly strong debut by Candice Glover, who last year won the televised singing competition amid historically low ratings.

A big-voiced soul belter, Glover ended a lengthy stretch of victories by white-guy guitar strummers, including Lee DeWyze and Phillip Phillips—reason enough to celebrate her win. But she's also made a better record than the last few “Idol” champs, one that doesn't sound like its quirks have been ironed out in an attempt to satisfy the show's once-enormous audience.

There are signs of individual life here: the palpable regret in “Damn,” about falling in love “with someone else's man”; the old-fashioned sass suffusing “In the Middle”; the tension between desire and virtue in “Passenger,” with a characteristically woozy beat by producer Mike Will Made It. And, reprised from the show, there is Glover's powerful rendition of the Cure's “Lovesong,” which might go down as the final must-see “Idol” performance. TV's loss is music's gain.

—Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times

Phantogram, “Voices”

The so-called “sophomore slump” is something most artists aim to avoid but somehow manage to hit with precision.

Not so with Phantogram. The New York-based duo, whose songs blend deep and defined throbbing foundations with swirling but dirgelike grooves that float and careen around in a whirl of melody, has safely hopped over that trap with “Voices,” its new 11-track album.

It's the follow-up to the electronic rock act's 2009 debut, “Eyelid Movies,” and the new album comes after Phantogram's well-received collaborations with Big Boi of Outkast.

There's no slumping on “Voices” to be found anywhere except for the heavy-handed lyrics and layer upon layer of heavy tones that wrap listeners in a mummy's bandages of longing and regret as is experienced on “Never Going Home.”

But it's not all melancholy. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have found an equilibrium that pulls the very best of each other's talents to the forefront and blends it for songs that have a stunning heft.

This isn't music for jubilant parties. This is music for listening, parsing for meaning, for introspection and for making bold declarations that, as the song “Howling at the Moon” proclaims: “Let the shooting stars, let the crashing cars, let the future pass, wasn't made to last.”

Phantogram has crafted an epochal album, a generational capstone that will reside in the playlists for a generation to come and returned to in times of heady joy and nostalgic reminiscence, too.

—Matt Moore, Associated Press

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