Release Date: June 26
To call Maroon 5 a pop band isn't exactly a stretch. The quintet has hunkered down in that mainstream since 2002's hit-spewing "Songs for Jane." But the group's newest album, "Overexposed," is a different kind of pop. With a title that takes a gentle poke at frontman Adam Levine's TV notoriety on "The Voice," the set turns the once self-contained band into a fully collaborative outfit with top-shelf songwriters/producers like Ryan Tedder, Benny Blanco, Shellback and executive producer Max Martin. In fact, it's seven songs in before band members other than Levine - notably guitarist James Valentine and bassist Mickey Madden - share songwriting credits. "Lucky Strike," "Love Somebody," "Fortune Teller" and "Doin' Dirt" offer state-of-the-art pop/R&B/electronic dance music blends, while "One More Night" incorporates reggae. Elsewhere, Wiz Khalifa raps on the single "Payphone." Levine spends much of the album lamenting the shortcomings of his love life, but on "Payphone" he also declares, "All those fairy tales are full of shit/One more fucking love song, I'll be sick." Accompanied solely by piano, he's all earnest angst on "Sad," but "Overexposed" aims more for happy feet than wringing hearts.
Rhythm and Repose
Producer: Thomas Bartlett
Release Date: June 19
Since the launch of the Swell Season and especially the release of the film "Once," Glen Hansard has turned romantic nuance into a genre of its own. Few of those he addresses on his first solo album are in fine, unconditional shape. Only "Races" brims with unfettered optimism ("For you I could throw with abandon/Old glories and everything to the wind"). The rest of "Rhythm and Repose" faces down the challenges of relationships and pleas for resolution ("Oh love, don't keep me guessing . . . Show yourself to me"). Hansard also knows how to build on the moment, leading many of the set's 11 meticulously crafted songs to tortured swells of keening desperation. It's not a light little trip into the heart, but the Jimmy Webb-like "Maybe Not Tonight" and the Van Morrison-aping "High Hope" and "Love Don't Leave Me Waiting" - as well as vocal counterpoints from Swell Season partner Marketa Irglova and "Once the Musical" star Cristin Milioti - show Hansard at his most engaging.
The Idler Wheel . . .
Producers: Fiona Apple, Charley Drayton
Release Date: June 19
Fiona Apple knows she's a handful. "Every single night's a fight in my brain," she sings at the start of her first new album in seven years. And halfway through the set she acknowledges, "How can I ask anyone to love me/When all I do is beg to be left alone?" In other words, if you're getting involved with Apple, as fan or paramour, buyer beware: The singer won't make it easy. (And that includes the full album title: "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do.") But Apple always makes it interesting, and with new co-producer/touring drummer Charley Drayton she's fashioned a spare, intimate collection that wraps its confessions within stark melodies and seemingly random and, at times, startling sonic touches. The metaphor-laden "Daredevil" sounds like it was culled from a Brecht/Weill musical, while "Jonathan" and "Left Alone" riff with jazzy playfulness. And "Anything We Want" is a lilting, island-flavored come-on from the waning days of childhood. On "Hot Knife," meanwhile, Apple's layered vocals scat the album to a dizzying close. Somewhere along the way she proclaims herself "a sensible girl," but Apple never loses the loose hinges that keep us hanging on.