Album Reviews: The Killers, Bob Dylan & more


Battle Born

Producers: various

Island Records

Release Date: Sept. 18

The Killers covered an impressive amount of ground in pop music across their first three albums. But on "Battle Born", the Las Vegas quartet apparently decided it was time for some consolidation. The 12-track set touches on bits of its predecessors -- the new wave pomp of "Hot Fuss", the brawny rock of "Sam's Town", the '80s-leaning bravado of "Day & Age" -- with a few new tricks along the way. But the tone is serious and occasionally somber. Frontman Brandon Flowers grapples with nostalgic melancholia on more than a few songs, including "The Way It Was," "Here With Me" and the melodramatic "A Matter of Time." Those sit alongside rousing fare like the opening call to arms "Flesh and Bone," the charging first single "Runaways," the country rocker "From Here On Out" and the Americana-flavored title track, an anthem muscled up with a vocal chorale and strings. And some of the album's highlights wear their influences openly and unapologetically: "The Rising Tide" would fit comfortably on most Cars albums, while the low-key "Heart of a Girl" sounds like how a young Bruce Springsteen would have approached the Velvet Underground's "Sweet Jane."-GG



Producer: Jack Frost

Columbia Records

Release Date: Sept. 11

Once again, Bob Dylan has made an album strong enough that his fans will need to revise his discography's pecking order; it's among his 15 best. Stronger lyrically and more diverse musically than his last effort, the blues-based "Together Through Life" (2009), new album "Tempest" leans on the styles that inspired Dylan early on: folk-rooted story songs filled with history and tragedy, the blues and '50s rock'n'roll. The title track is a 13-and-a-half-minute detailed recounting of the sinking of the Titanic, told Chaucer-like in a musical marriage of Dylan's "Hurricane" and "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowland." It's a breath-taker. Backed by his working band along with guest guitarist/accordionist David Hidalgo, the album has an airy, human feel, making Tempest more the chronicle of a performance than a laboriously assembled album. The grandfatherly growl in Dylan's voice has deepened to the point that when he speaks of approaching storms, departing trains and pending death, he becomes an otherworldly figure. Rich in stories and some piercing couplets, Tempest hits high marks on the seven-minute "Tin Angel," the edgy "Pay in Blood" and the grinding blues-rocker "Narrow Road."-PG



Producers: Claes Bjorklund, Jonna Lee

To Whom It May Concern/Cooperative Music

Release Date: Sept. 4

The music is only one element of iamamiwhoami: The Swedish audiovisual project/band started as a YouTube sensation, releasing a series of evocative clips before even identifying itself. The starkly colored videos show frontwoman/mastermind Jonna Lee in environments natural and industrial: decked out like Princess Leia in a Lady Gaga-esque white room, dancing with some wooly Maurice Sendak-like creatures that left-field dance-pop heroine Roisin Murphy would love or emoting on mountaintops and beaches. The sounds of debut album Kin ring just as many bells: There's Cocteau Twins' shimmery 4AD funk on "Play," the dirge synths of current goth-house star Purity Ring on "Idle Talk" and shades of synth-pop voices from Kate Bush to Oh Land throughout. Lee belongs in such lofty company: iamamiwhoami comes to us a fully formed new creation, just eerie enough to make us question singing along-which is unavoidable. When she chants "Come on/Just kill this" on album standout "Kill," whether it's a relationship, a soul or a fly, one can't help but feel the dread.-KM



Silver Age

Producer: Bob Mould

Merge Records

Release Date: Sept. 4

Bob Mould has spent so much time pondering his past lately -- first with last year's "See a Little Light" memoir, then with Merge's reissue of the Sugar catalog -- that one might expect his latest solo album to sound like a book report. It doesn't: On "Silver Age" the former Husker Du frontman, now 51, exchanges the creaky folk-rock settings of "District Line" (2008) and "Life and Times" (2009) for a supercharged hard-pop attack that should please fans of Foo Fighters, who recently took Mould on the road and invited him to contribute to their Grammy Award-winning album, "Wasting Light". As he did in Sugar, Mould coats the candied melodies of "Steam of Hercules" and "Round the City Square" in layers of guitar fuzz. Elsewhere, "The Descent" gets extra sweetening from Mould's stacked vocal harmonies. Yet thanks to crisp drumming by Superchunk's Jon Wurster, the music maintains a forward momentum that lends credence to Mould's self-description in the bruising title track: "Never too old to contain my rage."-MW

Animal Collective

Centipede Hz

Producers: Animal Collective, Ben H. Allen III


Release Date: Sept. 4

The aural circus is back in town-with a full cast this time. The return of Josh "Deakin" Dibb on Animal Collective's latest studio excursion, "Centipede Hz", marks the first time the original quartet has been together on record since 2007. The group makes up for lost time by crashing hard into the opening "Moonjock," with synthesizers trolling underneath a pounding percussive tattoo that drives a rhythmic melody and sentimental memories about childhood road trips spent listening to the radio. That's just the beginning of the 11-track set's textured, carefully arranged soundscapes that layer the troupe's avant experimentalism with arty pop conceits that border on the neo-prog and sonic ornamentation that makes headphones (not earbuds, kids) required. The swirling "Today's Supernatural" lives up to the "bionic hee-haw" referenced in its lyrics, while the tribal energy of "Wide Eyed" and "Pulleys" complement the smoother flow of "Father Time" and the mechanical metaphysics of "Monkey Riches." But for all of its carefully detailed arrangements, "Centipede Hz" also boasts a live, organic attack that makes the album sound as muscular as it is ambitious.-GG

Cat Power


Producer: Chan Marshall

Matador Records

Release Date: Sept. 4

In the unlikely event that anyone reading this review doesn't already know, "Sun" is Cat Power's first album of original material in six years and was recorded in the wake of singer Chan Marshall's breakup with her longtime boyfriend, actor Giovanni Ribisi. The latter fact probably informs the sound of this album more than the former: After the Memphis-spawned warmth of 2006's "The Greatest" and the follow-up covers album "Jukebox" (2008), "Sun" is darker-pretty but often brittle and angular like her earlier albums. There are several upbeat tracks ("Cherokee," "Ruin," "Manhattan") but it's often eerie, with loads of echo and dark corners with strange percussion and electronic sounds. The set is also deceptively sparse: There are often few instruments but Marshall has piled on so many vocal overdubs that the songs sound much bigger than they actually are. "Sun" isn't as cuddly as "The Greatest", but it finds Marshall continuing to evolve as an artist in intriguing and unexpected ways.-JA



Eye on It

Producers: various

ForeFront Records

Release Date: Aug. 28

Since his early days in the pioneering rap-rock trio DC Talk, Toby McKeehan (aka TobyMac) has been one of Christian music's most innovative and visionary artists. On his fifth album, "Eye on It", the Grammy Award-winning impresario delivers with a lyrically substantive 12-song collection that blends rock, pop and hip-hop into an intoxicating musical cocktail. The set opens with the ingratiatingly catchy "Me Without You," and the title track is an explosive, in-your-face tour de force that is sure to be a concert favorite. "Forgiveness" is a compelling midtempo that features rapper Lecrae. Group 1 Crew's Blanca adds to the party atmosphere on "Unstoppable," while Jamie Grace guests on the sunny, island-flavored "Favorite Song." TobyMac's son, Truett, who contributes the smile-inducing "Mac Daddy," shows the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. TobyMac takes the Christian genre beyond the walls of the church, and "Eye on It" will continue to broaden perceptions about faith-based music.-DEP

Edited by Mitchell Peters.

CONTRIBUTORS: Jem Aswad, Jon Blistein, Phil Gallo, Gary Graff, Andrew Hampp, Jason Lipshutz, Kerri Mason, Deborah Evans Price, Ryan Reed, Lindsey Weber, Mikael Wood

All albums commercially ­available in the United States are eligible. Send album review copies to Mitchell Peters at Billboard, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 500, Los Angeles, CA 90036 and singles review copies to Jason Lipshutz at Billboard, 770 Broadway, Seventh Floor, New York, NY 10003, or to the writers in the appropriate bureaus.


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