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From Sharon Jones to J.C. Brooks to Mayer Hawthorne to Charles Bradley to Eli "Paperboy" Reed, indie labels and rock clubs are chock-full of retro-soul and R&B acts these days, offering varying degrees of stylish nostalgia and earnest emotionali

Fitz & the Tantrums: "More Than Just A Dream"
Fitz & the Tantrums: "More Than Just A Dream"Read more

More Than Just A Dream

(Elektra **1/2)

nolead ends From Sharon Jones to J.C. Brooks to Mayer Hawthorne to Charles Bradley to Eli "Paperboy" Reed, indie labels and rock clubs are chock-full of retro-soul and R&B acts these days, offering varying degrees of stylish nostalgia and earnest emotionalism in an age when both can seem lacking. Until now, you would have counted Fitz & the Tantrums, the L.A. sextet fronted by Michael Fitzpatrick with the assistance of singer Noelle Scaggs, among them. But on its second release, the band has chosen to leave the past behind. Or rather, it has chosen to exchange its former obsession, the Motown 1960s, for an '80s template that incorporates synth-pop and Hall & Oates-style blue-eyed soul. The impulse to separate themselves from the pack is a good one, and F&TT's songs are still catchy, but for every experiment that works, like the opener, "Out of My League," there's another, such as "Break the Walls," in which the human element is swallowed up in a blaring wall of production.

- Dan DeLuca

New Recordings

Top Albums in the Region

This Week Last Week

Locally   Nationally   Locally

1   1    Michael Buble To Be Loved   -

2   2    Fantasia Side Effects of You   -

3   3    Justin Timberlake 20/20 Experience   3

4   4    Phoenix Bankrupt!   -

5   5    Fall Out Boy Save Rock & Roll   1

6   7    Rob Zombie    -

Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor

7   10    P!nk Truth About Love    7

8   9    Will.I.Am #WillPower   -

9   11    Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist   8

10   8    Kid Cudi Indicud   2

SOURCE: SoundScan (based on purchase data from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Delaware, Bucks, Chester, Camden, Burlington, and Gloucester Counties). Billboard Magazine 5/11/13 © 2013

New Recordings

In Stores Tuesday

Patty Griffin, American Kid Natalie Maines, Mother

Pistol Annies, Annie Up

She & Him, Volume 3

nolead begins Tom Jones
nolead ends nolead begins Spirit in the Room
nolead ends nolead begins (Rounder ***)

nolead ends Since Rick Rubin started building a fresh audience for Johnny Cash with his American Recordings series 20 years ago, the resuscitation of the careers of senior citizen "legends" by decades-younger producers has become a commonplace pop music narrative. So much so that Spirit in the Room, which was helmed by Ethan Johns, known for his work with Kings of Leon and Ryan Adams, is the second such recent effort by Tom Jones, 71 and still robust of voice. It follows 2010's gospel CD Praise & Blame. With Spirit in the Room, Johns turns the volume down on a series of covers, written mostly by contemporaries of the white-goateed Welshman, such as Leonard Cohen, Richard Thompson, and Tom Waits. The latter's "Bad as Me" is hammy and strained, and the collection is a bit hit-or-miss. Not Odetta's finger-snapping "Hit or Miss," though, which allows the otherwise contemplative Jones to strut a bit. The best tracks here, like Bob Dylan's "When the Deal Goes Down," and especially Blind Willie Johnson's "Soul of a Man" search for meaning in the face of mortality in a most moving way.

- D.D.

nolead begins Fall Out Boy
nolead ends nolead begins Save Rock and Roll
nolead ends nolead begins (Decaydance/Island ***)

nolead ends When Fall Out Boy reunited and entered Billboard's album chart last week at number one, they weren't really looking to save rock and roll. They were saving themselves. During their hiatus, composer/ guitarist/vocalist Patrick Stump released his electro blue-eyed R&B album Soul Punk (it was damn good), and flashy bassist Pete Wentz formed the ska-danz Black Cards outfit (it was not good). Neither solo effort rocked the charts.

Stump's bold vocal range, brash falsetto, and emotionalism splayed across spiky, bass-y, glossy power-pop of the highest order is still the focus of FOB. Whether it's Stump compositions or the zingy band-penned "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)," the singer's voice is the brightest light in a blindly shining mix. Nothing is small or subdued here - not its flossy, epic power-ballads, its racing rockers, not even Elton John schmutzing up the title track. Stump's stabs at intimate soul are noble. What is odd is how Stump & Co. insist on fingerprinting sounds that aren't their usual, like the death-discoid "The Phoenix" or the ghastly Mumford/Lumineers folk of "Young Volcanoes." No matter, right? These guys can make dirt sparkle, for better or for worse.

- A.D. Amorosi