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Fitz & the Tantrums, Lady Antebellum, Little Boots 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge CD cover of More Than Just a Dream

Fitz & the Tantrums

More Than Just a Dream

Elektra

File next to: The Killers, Gnarls Barkley

The first two tracks of More Than Just a Dream, "Out of My League" and "Break the Walls," seem bound for radio domination with their slick production and immediately familiar, iron-lunged choruses. Whether the excessively hooky, conspicuously Killers-like approach here is good, bad or otherwise is a matter of personal taste, but Fitz & the Tantrums have much more to offer. The band sticks to its soul roots on tracks like the funky "6AM" and "Spark," a fiery track that recalls the late Amy Winehouse, while the strutting, synth-meets-Motown duet "Last Raindrop" features an especially gritty, impressive performance from co-lead vocalists Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs. The synthesis of the Tantrums' soul influences and the glossy indie-pop production can sometimes result in a confused sound, but there's no shortage of talent to be found, and a thorough listening will likely yield something for everyone. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge CD cover of Golden

Lady Antebellum

Golden

Capitol

File next to: Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town

Four albums into their career, Lady Antebellum has zeroed in on what works for the group: mid-tempo, pop-flavored material with just enough hints of twang to qualify as country. That's what worked with hits like "Need You Now," "We Owned the Night" and "I Run to You." And the formula also stands up on Golden with stronger songs like "Can't Stand The Rain" (which is not the Ann Peebles signature song) and the album's standout track, "Goodbye Town." Elsewhere, there's the soulful pop ballad, "It Ain't Pretty," which scales back the instrumentation to focus on Hillary Scott's honeyed vocal. "Downtown" is particularly twangy by Lady A standards, but otherwise fairly uninteresting, while the more rock-influenced "Better Off Now (That You're Gone)" could fit on a Tom Petty album. The rest of Golden sits squarely in the group's stylistic pocket, making this a safe but solid effort. — Alan Sculley

click to enlarge CD cover of Nocturnes

Little Boots

Nocturnes

On Repeat Records

File next to: Goldfrapp, Hot Chip

Little Boots' Nocturnes is infectious dance music, but, as the title implies, it's made for insomniac dancers. For all the neon synthesizers and chic vocoders, the entire affair has an unmistakably sultry and late-night mood. The densely arranged electronic percussion offers hints of '80s "Madchester" bands, while icy strings and bells evoke Black Celebration-era Depeche Mode. While often hypnotically repetitive in the service of the dance floor — most notably on "Broken Record"— there are also plenty of compelling details available for more sedentary listeners. The genuinely funky bass line on "Beat Beat" wouldn't be out of place on a Zapp record, "Crescendo" leans closer to anthemic New Wave, and "Every Night I Say a Prayer" is a superior slice of Madonna-esque club fodder. A fine dance-pop collection, Nocturnes is richly atmospheric and eclectic without sacrificing its sense of energy and fun. — Collin Estes

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