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Notable CDs

Notable CDs | Five pop and rock new releases

Issue: "Food stamps surge," Nov. 19, 2011

Come to the Well

The only thing wrong with this album is that there's nothing wrong with it. In other words, it's exactly what one would expect from album-generating software when uploaded with the top-10 essential 21st-century CCM ingredients: songs sung by a man, songs sung by a woman, songs sung by both a man and a woman, scriptural and vernacular exhortations, praise, slow and mid-tempo songs, loudness, quietude, and rousing earnestness. It's dueling with Adele atop the album charts. Make of that phenomenon what you will.

Hysterical

Alec Ounsworth's most impressive accomplishment is that, from bits of early New Order and U2, he's fashioned a shimmeringly anthemic sound that keeps the keening thinness of his voice from being annoying. He even delivers the mellow change of pace "Misspent Youth" without making the Hamlet pose he strikes in it seem ridiculous. As for the poses he strikes elsewhere, they're tougher to assess because the music's whooshing grandeur tends to overwhelm the words. It's probably just as well, as the music seems to be the point.

Fastlife

Jonas Brothers fans tend to be Hannah Montana fans. So people who buy and play this album will probably feel that they've been-there-done-that with Miley Cyrus' Can't Be Tamed. The concept is "former teen idol tries to prove he's grown up." So electronic beats, cliché-heavy songs breathlessly sung to elusive hotties, songwriting and production by committee, Autotune, and faux machismo abound. And then there's Lil Wayne-whose contributions to the second of three versions of "Just in Love" explain the parental-advisory sticker.

Vice Verses

Blogging about this album last September on the Huffington Post, Switchfoot's Jon Foreman wrote, "We wanted a record that would speak to the polarity of our existence, the darkness and the light, the despair and the hope." They also apparently wanted the hardest sound of their career, the better perhaps to pound home their theme, which is basically Romans 7:15 in existential clothing. Bold stuff-bracing even. Only on "Selling the News," in which Foreman refrains from saying "Fox," do they lack the courage of their convictions.

Spotlight

Chris Pizzello/AP

Alice Cooper's Welcome 2 My Nightmare (Universal) is a sequel to his 1975 million seller, Welcome to My Nightmare. So it's easy to understand why a major label would want a piece of its action. Throw in Cooper's old producer Bob Ezrin and four members of his original band, and you've got as surefire a recipe for a hit as any 63-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Famer is likely to concoct.

But the most important ingredient is the music. And even in his youthful prime Cooper was better at serving up singles than at delivering full-course meals. So it's par for his course that three songs stand out: "Ghouls Gone Wild" (a Ramones-worthy hybrid of "Summertime Blues" and "California Sun" with lyrics that Weird Al Yankovic might envy), "Something to Remember Me By" (the latest of Cooper's gorgeous romantic ballads), and "I Am Made of You" (a bold and heartfelt declaration of dependence on Christ).

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