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Albums of the Week:

Albert Hammond Jr.
“AHJ”
Cult, Oct 2013

Unsurprisingly, after The Strokes created an album as amazing as “Comedown Machine” earlier in the year, lead guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. released his new solo EP and it is just as good. Though the five-track EP may be short, it packs a punch.

“St. Justice” opens the album to an overwhelmingly great start. It’s addictive to hear his bubbly indie-rock style of playing electric guitar—something I wish more bands would implement. Similar to The Strokes’ first two albums, “Is This It” and “Room On Fire,” it makes me wonder if Hammond will write music alongside Julian Casablancas for future Strokes albums.

It also sounds like he is trying to prove he can succeed without drugs, which is perfectly fine because this EP, in my opinion, is better than his previous solo work. He utilizes his most creative tools, and I don’t see it getting wasted in the future, either. Hammond conserves this genre in an extraordinary way.

Static Jacks
“In Blue”
Fearless, Sept 2013

Having formed in New Jersey in 2007, Static Jacks’ debut album, “If You’re Young” (2012), sounded OK but nothing very special. Luckily, they jazzed up things for their new album, “In Blue.”

Although I like all of the songs, a couple really stand out. Their single “Wallflower” may be the best song they’ve ever written. It’s radio ready, and I suspect listeners will hear a lot more from “In Blue” in the coming future.

“Ninety Salt” contains a very heavy bass and grungy vibe. It solidifies the album more in the rock genre, while paring down its pop-indie flavor. Altogether, “In Blue” reeks of Weezer influences. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought it was a different band recording.

Based on “In Blue,” Static Jacks reassure their future in the music industry. Catchy music and lyrics will keep fans singing to the top of their lungs.

Cage The Elephant
“Melophobia”
RCA, Oct 2013

Cage the Elephant’s title for their latest album, “Melophobia,” is ironic because it means “the fear of music.” Yet, there is certainly nothing to fear here—CTE has made their best album so far.

The band’s self titled debut album was a blast. “No Rest For The Wicked” is a song everyone has heard at least once; it brought CTE fame, thanks to its rough, gritty sound loved by many. In contrast, “Melophobia” flows easier and and is a melodic reserve full of rocky edge inspired by blues and restrained yet as effective energy.

As the band ages, their music becomes more mature and complex. “Come A Little Closer,” the album’s first single, features a motley run of guitar riffs embedded in the chorus. The bass, while difficult to recognize without a close ear, contains an important part of the song: It carries each verse. “Take It Or Leave It” comes with a funky beat that diverges from the fuzzy vocals.

The changes Cage the Elephant is starting to make with their sound pulls them away and makes them stand out from other modern rock bands. Their experimenting will take them far as a band and bring a more diverse group of fans to listen to their music.

Lorde
“Pure Heroine”
Motown/Universal, Sept 2013

At only 16, Lorde quickly is rising in the music world, thanks to Tumblr, music blogs and YouTube. The New Zealand singer began songwriting at 14, honing her penmanship with nonfiction stories. Advertisements on Vevo’s YouTube page coddle her hit single “Royals” to no avail.

Her overnight success is for great reason: Lorde isn’t like the other girl groups pictured on teenager’s hipster blog. She actually has talent. Her distinctive range of voice impresses, especially for someone so young. And her writing ability is marvelous—more so, it’s appropriate for her age, as heard in “Tennis Court”: “Pretty soon I’ll be getting on my first plane/I’ll see the veins of my city like they do in space.”

She writes about her changing life and how shes adjusts to it, which give her music a personal touch. The songs hit all the aspects people love about indie electronic pop: loud, abrasive and fun.

“Pure Heroine” covets that ’80s vibe, thanks to the use of synthesizers. Her previous EP, “The Love Club,” features “Royals” and “The Love Club,” the latter being my personal favorite. Its content about popularity and the idea behind it will give teens a more insightful look at the upside to introversion.

“Pure Heroine” has something to offer for people who like pop. Having been at the top of music charts everywhere lately, Lorde can be the next queen of pop if she continues to write even better music in the future.

Kings Of Leon
“Mechanical Bull”
RCA, Sept 2013

Kings of Leon return to the music world after three years of inactivity, but it feels as if nothing has changed. They continue to write awesome music that all of their fans will enjoy.

Mechanical Bull’s opening track, “Super Soaker,” contains an unforgettable chorus that has a nice ring, which sticks in the listener’s head all day. The problem? This is the most exciting track off the album. The next track, “Rock City,” contains longer riffs and upholds a classic-rock vibe, which brings back a little similarity from their previous albums. “Beautiful War” slows down the album and gives it a soothing, mellow touch.

The variety improves the album’s listenability most of the time. Older bands writing new albums should work toward more being adaptable across music genres, since it really displays a full range of their abilities. “Family Tree” brings a funky, disco vibe, while the closing track, “On The Chin,” infuses country. However, the latter is something I’m not a fan of, as it doesn’t feel fitting. Kings of Leon need to keep their music predominantly rock.

Also lacking: the usage of lyrics. Their deepest evocations don’t stand out musically in any way and tend to be hidden somewhere in the verses. I don’t expect this album to have another “Use Somebody” or “Sex On Fire” because the choruses fail to inspire people to sing along or even care about what’s being said.

Though “Mechanical Bull” isn’t Kings Of Leon’s greatest, it won’t disappoint completely.

Haim
Polydor, Sept 2013

After about five years of writing, recording and tweaking, Haim finally released an album to be proud of. “Days Are Gone” exhibits this girl group’s talents better than ever before and shows how much hard work can pay off.

Sisters Este, Danielle and Alana Haim rock a retro ’60s look while performing ’80s-style music. The album overall evokes a great synth influence. All of the girls know how to use their instruments to create eccentric harmonies in their songs, especially “Let Me Go.” Echoed and complicated rhythms of drums
(“Running If You Call My Name”) and harmonizing vocals (“If I Could Change Your Mind”) take what would have been a boring album and make it into an astonishing creation.

“The Wire” is the best song they’ve written so far because its pleasing fuse of instruments and exceptional chorus—not to mention a humorous music video—show the devotion the sisters poured into “Days Are Gone.” They’re on the way to becoming an unforgettable girl band of this era.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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