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Now Hear This

Reviews of recent CDs by Kelly Clarkson, Indigo Girls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Foundation.


Kelly Clarkson, “All I Ever Wanted” (RCA)
Who pissed off Kelly Clarkson? We'd like to thank them. The “Idol” veteran is back with a pop-kissed vengeance on her latest and sounds like a Pink protAcgAce distancing herself from the bubble-gum trappings of Disney rock. She attempted to do this on her last disc, “My December,” but failed thanks to the doom-and-gloom nature of it all. The lesson learned was that pop music is supposed to be fun even when you've been burned. This go-round, she gets it. She's older, got bitten in the ass by the music business and, clearly, has been dumped again to turn out tracks like “Don't Let Me Stop You,” a gritty kiss-off tune, and “Whyyawannabringmedown” a blistering punk outburst sure to please the Hot Topic set. Rounding out the disc are a handful of her signature, lung-busting ballads a la “Breakaway.” Ms. Cyrus, Kelly would like her crown back. HHHII — Hilary Langford

Indigo Girls, “Poseidon & the Bitter Bug” (Vanguard)
“Poseidon & the Bitter Bug,” the Indigo Girls' 11th album, shows just how far Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have grown apart during their two decades together. Saliers writes lilting melodies and plainspoken homilies about love and life, and her songs “Digging for Your Dream” and “I'll Change” could have been written for any of their albums. By contrast, Ray is the Andre 3000 to Saliers' Big Boi: a restless sonic tinkerer who seems increasingly hemmed in by the strictures of their chosen genre. Her subtly erotic “Sugar Tongue” and sweetly nostalgic “Driver Education,” with its swerving melody and tactile details, are the best songs here, positioning her somewhere between Springsteen and Strummer. “Poseidon” is actually two albums, one with full-band performances of these songs and the other with drowsy acoustic versions. It's an intriguing idea that proves both singers, no matter how different they may be, have at least one thing in common: They both sound better with a full band behind them. HHHII — Stephen M. Deusner

The Indigo Girls perform April 19 at 7 p.m. at the Charlottesville Pavilion. Tickets are $25-$37. They also return to Richmond this summer on June 10 at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “It's Blitz!” (Interscope)
Damn you, Karen O. Where's the spit and fury of smeared lipstick, dirty guitars and primal growls? With its last full-length, “Show Your Bones,” the New York trio ventured away from the usual lip-busting punk beats and snarling guitars, punctuated by Karen O's yips and yows, for a more subdued sound. Slightly disappointed die-hards were offered hope by way of a self-titled EP that returned to the band's grittier beginnings. Unfortunately, it seems that the YYYs are back to “meh,” settling down on a synth-drenched plateau that's palatable, but ultimately sounds like watered-down Blondie and lacks a lasting punch. “Maps” proved long ago that the spastic lead singer could be tamed and still come off fierce, so the argument with this album is not so much with tempo or pace, but rather that most of it just doesn't stick with you. There are a few bright spots including “Zero,” an '80s-infused dance track with burbling electro rhythms, and the shameless rocker “Shame and Fortune,” which reminds us that Nik Zinner should spend more time with his guitar on this album. But overall, this blitz is a bust. HHIII — H.L.

Foundation, “Chimborazo” (Paper + Plastick)
Locals know Rob Huddleston as frontman from the punk band Ann Beretta, but he's been crafting solo material in a folksy, acoustic-driven style for years. Named after the historic eastern area of Church Hill, “Chimborazo” finds Huddleston's campfire rockers polished to a country-rock and Americana sheen.
These dozen heartfelt songs lyrically evoke blue-collar romance in a minor Springsteen mode, while getting the full-color treatment from guest musicians on electric guitar, pedal steel, fiddle, dobro, piano and accordion. Huddleston has a good enough voice to carry these simple, sing-a-long melodies, although he benefits from harmony help provided by background vocalist Stella Maxwell on driving, radio-friendly rockers such as “Don't Let Me Go,” which provide solid pop-hook moments. Elsewhere, he evokes a more intimate, stripped-down feel with the quiet guitar-driven song, “Until I,” which feels like a cross between Billy Bragg and John Denver.
Not much new here, but it's all cleanly executed, and you get the feeling it would sound even better live. Recorded at Slipped Disc Studios in Ashland, the album has a slick feel to it that might seem at odds with a punk background (drummer Russ Jones also played with Ann Beretta); nevertheless, Huddleston makes this crossover into rootsy, southern-tinged rock sound easy. HHHII — Brent Baldwin

Foundation plays an album release party at the Canal Club on Friday, March 27, at 8 p.m. with Austin, Texas, band Cruiserweight and Dave Hause of the Loved Ones. Tickets are $10. 643-2582.


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