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click to enlarge Pharrell  - In My Mind  -  -  - Interscope  -  - Whether you know it or not, Pharrell Williams has - influenced hip-hop for over a decade, first as a member - of the influential production duo The Neptunes (Britney - Spears, *Nsync, Usher, Nelly, et al.) and later as a - rapper-on-the-rise contributor with Jay-Z. After - releasing his single "Frontin'" a few years ago, Pharrell is - ready to break out, solo style, with his recently released - debut album. In My Mind features hip-hop - anthems up front, followed by smooth R&B moments - later on. Keepers on the 14-track disc include the chest- - thumping "How Does it Feel?," the funky falsetto "Our - Father" and the Usher-sounding "Take it Off (Dim the - Lights)." If there's a knock on In My Mind, it's - the fact it has a double-album feel, perhaps leaving - Pharrell to decide whether he's a hip-hop player or a - smooth R&B crooner. In My Mind may not blow - your mind, but it's a solid debut.  John - Benson
  • Pharrell

    In My Mind

    Interscope

    Whether you know it or not, Pharrell Williams has influenced hip-hop for over a decade, first as a member of the influential production duo The Neptunes (Britney Spears, *Nsync, Usher, Nelly, et al.) and later as a rapper-on-the-rise contributor with Jay-Z. After releasing his single "Frontin'" a few years ago, Pharrell is ready to break out, solo style, with his recently released debut album. In My Mind features hip-hop anthems up front, followed by smooth R&B moments later on. Keepers on the 14-track disc include the chest- thumping "How Does it Feel?," the funky falsetto "Our Father" and the Usher-sounding "Take it Off (Dim the Lights)." If there's a knock on In My Mind, it's the fact it has a double-album feel, perhaps leaving Pharrell to decide whether he's a hip-hop player or a smooth R&B crooner. In My Mind may not blow your mind, but it's a solid debut. John Benson

click to enlarge Five for Fighting  - Two Lights  -  -  - Columbia  -  - Remember when you were convinced Five for Fighting - was a one-hit wonder with its 2001 hit single "Superman - (It's Not Easy)"? Well, you were right. The alt- - contemporary act is back again with its fourth album, - Two Lights, which features more middle-of- - the-road, second-rate Train (that says it all right there!) - tracks. However, you have to give singer-songwriter John - Ondrasik credit for releasing the best Counting Crows - song in seven years with "'65 Mustang," which contains - the Adam Duritz-esque lyrics "It all comes back to me ... - I'm 17 or 23." Kowtowing patriotic anthem "Freedom - Never Cries" comes from a good place, but in the end is - too schmaltzy. Two Lights is too light on - substance to be taken seriously.  John - Benson
  • Five for Fighting

    Two Lights

    Columbia

    Remember when you were convinced Five for Fighting was a one-hit wonder with its 2001 hit single "Superman (It's Not Easy)"? Well, you were right. The alt- contemporary act is back again with its fourth album, Two Lights, which features more middle-of- the-road, second-rate Train (that says it all right there!) tracks. However, you have to give singer-songwriter John Ondrasik credit for releasing the best Counting Crows song in seven years with "'65 Mustang," which contains the Adam Duritz-esque lyrics "It all comes back to me ... I'm 17 or 23." Kowtowing patriotic anthem "Freedom Never Cries" comes from a good place, but in the end is too schmaltzy. Two Lights is too light on substance to be taken seriously. John Benson

click to enlarge Dashboard Confessional  - Dusk and Summer  -  -  - Vagrant  -  - With all the pressure of the world to write a smash - follow-up to the 2003 platinum album A Mark, A - Mission, A Brand, A Scar, Dashboard Confessional - singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba overcame any internal - pressures and external expectations with the band's - recently released fourth effort Dusk and Summer - . From the opening yearn of lead single "Don't Wait" - to the aggressive nature of "Reason to Believe," the - songwriting is top-notch. Infectious melodies and - heartfelt lyrics do the impossible by diminishing the - band's trendy emo tag and instead replacing it with a - justified singer-songwriter label. Without a doubt, - Dusk and Summer will be viewed as the - beginning of the next chapter for Carrabba and - company.  John Benson
  • Dashboard Confessional

    Dusk and Summer

    Vagrant

    With all the pressure of the world to write a smash follow-up to the 2003 platinum album A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, Dashboard Confessional singer-songwriter Chris Carrabba overcame any internal pressures and external expectations with the band's recently released fourth effort Dusk and Summer . From the opening yearn of lead single "Don't Wait" to the aggressive nature of "Reason to Believe," the songwriting is top-notch. Infectious melodies and heartfelt lyrics do the impossible by diminishing the band's trendy emo tag and instead replacing it with a justified singer-songwriter label. Without a doubt, Dusk and Summer will be viewed as the beginning of the next chapter for Carrabba and company. John Benson

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