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Passion Pit, Gossamer – Passion Pit’s sophomore album doesn’t disappoint. While some songs are as evocative and airy as the album’s name, others are heavy and driving, all powered by the catchy synth beats and delicate falsetto vocals that made them popular. The band is clearly pushing themselves to try new things, and it works.
The Gaslight Anthem, Handwritten – This is earnest, working-class rock at its best (See also: Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, The Hold Steady). The Gaslight Anthem aren’t the coolest punks, but they’re the type of band whose fans will travel hours to see them. This album sees them reaching for a slightly bigger scope, expanding their straightforward sound into extremely Springsteen-esque territory with songs built for arenas.
Joe Jackson, The Duke – With help from some friends, Joe Jackson reinterprets Duke Ellington’s classics. As with all cover albums, the worst moments are pretty cringe-worthy, but the best moments are clever and creative, and there are some great guest vocals from Iggy Pop, Sharon Jones, and others. Unfortunately, the tone of the covers is never quite cohesive enough to make this sound like more than a fun experiment.
Glen Hansard, Rhythm and Repose – Glen Hansard is one half of The Swell Season and, with partner Marketa Irglova, won an Oscar for “Once.” Clearly, he’s found a formula that works; slow-building choruses and sweeping lyrics. Irglova, in fact, shows up for a duet on “What Are We Gonna Do,” a high point of the album. This solo album is nothing groundbreaking for him, but fans will be happy about that.