Leave This Town
Keeping a rock sensibility proved a big priority on Daughtry's second release, and power tunes and loud, aggressive numbers dominate what's going to be this week's No. 1 disc.
Daughtry takes the right approach to make this work, featuring a bombastic and rangy voice that doesn't lose steam or volume throughout tunes like "You Don't Belong" and "Everytime You Turn Around," as well as lighter pieces like "Supernatural" and the change-of-pace "Tennessee Line."
Daughtry's bandmates carry the musical day here rather than hired-gun types, though Nickelback's Chad Kroeger joins the party on "No Surprise" and "Life After You."
Still, Daughtry shows on Leave This Town that his popularity won't be fading for a while yet.
Jason Aldean's animated, energetic vocals have elevated him to the top rung among country males, and he continues that success with a strong third studio CD that's already yielded his second chart-topping single, "She's Country," his first since 2006.
Like several others on this latest Michael Knox production, the emphasis remains on Aldean's lean, tight lead and minimal, ideal backing and arrangements.
"Big Green Tractor" was a good second tune, but there are other cuts here such as "The Truth," "On My Highway," "Crazy Town" and "Love Was Easy" that reaffirm Aldean's growing confidence as a stylist.
They also once more highlight his ability to score commercially without softening or diluting the traditional edge that fortifies his music.
Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band
The somber lyric terrain Conor Oberst often explores in his Bright Eyes material is always intriguing, but it can also be quite depressing.
So it's interesting to hear how frequently he displays a lighter, even optimistic side with Outer South, the first Oberst work that's divided songwriting duties with his Mystic Valley comrades.
Some of this CD's best numbers were done by others, among them Nik Freitas' "Black Nothing" and Taylor Hollingsworth's "Air Mattress." Macey Taylor stars on "Worldwide," but Oberst gets plenty of the writing and performing spotlight on other numbers such as "Cabbage Town," "White Shoes" and "Spoiled."
Still, this is much more a collaborative venture than an Oberst solo vehicle, and it shows he can be a fine supportive performer as well as standout star.
After he's done five discs and repeatedly capitalized on his record-setting ability to deliver 11.2 syllables per second, the stylistic novelty has worn thin for rapid-fire rapper Twista.
He tries to show more versatility and staying power on his newest session, teaming with multiple producers (The Tastemakers, Legendary Traxster) and performers in a set that's sometimes brilliant, and other times utterly disposable.
When he's on his game, particularly "Yellow Light" with a revived R. Kelly and other selections with Akon ("On Top") and Erika Shevon ("Wetter"), Twista is verbally swift and lyrically inventive. But other partnerships with Gucci Mane & OJ the Juiceman, Lil Boosie and Busta Rhymes fizzle more than sparkle.
Those who purchase this at Best Buy get four bonus tracks, the best being "Block Music" that includes guest stints from Liffy Stokes, Skooda Chose and B-Hype.
Where he was once a firebrand vocalist whose zeal fueled the Gap Band's slithering grooves, Charlie Wilson now strikes a balance on his solo dates between steamy adult ballads, funk-tinged dance tunes, and selections where he elicits the assistance of rappers and younger singers to keep his material in the mix for urban radio play.
Songs that fall into the latter setting here include disc finale "Supa Sexxy" with T-Pain and Jamie Foxx, and "Let It Out," where Wilson's joined by the ever-present Snoop Dogg.
But the songs more emblematic of Wilson's still formidable vocal signature include "Can't Live Without You," "Back to Love" and "There Goes My Baby," while "Homeless" offers socio-political insights, and "Shawty Come Back" revisits his funk roots.