Sound Advice 

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The Black Keys Attack and Release
Nonesuch Records
Sounds like: Fuzzy blues rock with beats

Short take: Did they really need Danger Mouse?

There's a lot to be said for The Black Keys' consistency. Starting with 2003's Thickfreakness, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney established themselves as the down-home distortion blues id to Jack White's semi-avant superego. Though Attack and Release contains much of their bread-and-butter sound in tracks like the slow-rolling "Lies" (featuring a guest solo from free jazz guitar god Marc Ribot) and the amped-up "Strange Times," the duo reaches out to musical mad scientist Danger Mouse for a little genre-bending love. However, the heavily Mouse-tracked "Same Old Thing" seems forced. Adding Curtis Mayfield Superfly-style bass and Cream-derivative vocal effects doesn't do much good; ditto for the acid-jazz pings on "Oceans & Streams." Maybe future remixers will redeem Mr. Grey Album's work by unmashing his thrown-in contributions from this otherwise solid effort. Jason Notte

To download this CD: The Black Keys - Attack & Release

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Various Artists Punk Goes Crunk
Fearless Records
Sounds like: What happens when two worlds collapse

Short take: A marketing ploy past its sell-by date

Taking the art of misnomer to new depths is Punk Goes Crunk, a collection featuring no punk bands and only one crunk song. The latter comes courtesy of Lil Jon's "Put Yo Hood Up," as misinterpreted by Punk Goes Acoustic 2 vets Set Your Goals. Even unrepentant fans of Limp Bizkit will find little to love in a compilation that seems equally divided between covers that insult the original (Person L's lifeless rendering of The Roots "The Seed," New Found Glory's whiny version of Arrested Development's "Tennessee") and reprises of songs that hardly needed to be covered in the first place (All Time Low doing Rihanna's ubiquitous "Umbrella," Forever the Sickest Kids unearthing Will Smith's "Men In Black"). Lorene Drive's power-pop take on "Hey Ya!" rises slightly above the rest, but only because the OutKast song itself is so impossibly catchy. Bill Forman
To download this CD: All Time Low - Punk Goes Crunk

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Sarah VonderHaar Are You Listening Now
Sounds like: 35 minutes of pop hell

Short take: Pure cheese

Former America's Next Top Model contestant Sarah VonderHaar wears grungy black Converse sneakers on the cover of her debut album, Are You Listening Now. When the album loads in iTunes, its genre comes up as "Alternative & Punk." The liner notes include a photo of VonderHaar playing a guitar. All this creates an image that contrasts completely with the listening experience. The album holds 11 tracks of mindless pop with an excess of do-do-dos, na-na-nas and sha-la-las. VonderHaar's limited vocal range and weak voice fail to impress; when the producers attempt to beef it up, we get distracting echo effects. A close reading of the liner notes reveals that VonderHaar plays no instruments on the album. The title track, which VonderHaar wrote in memory of her father, works better than the others because she shows some emotion in her voice. Overall, though, this album flops. Meghan Loftus
To download this CD: Sarah VonderHaar - Are You Listening Now (Bonus Track Version)


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