CD reviews: Zac Brown Band and Maroon 5

  • Updated: July 17, 2012 - 10:36 AM

Zac Brown Band's "Uncaged"

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COUNTRY

Zac Brown Band, "Uncaged" (Atlantic)

Zac Brown Band is about comfort. That's comfort in sound, as reflected in the group's capable but unoriginal mixture of country, bluegrass and jam band unraveling; comfort in presentation, which is casual to a fault; and comfort in attitude, which is to say, relaxed, man.

Brown's band's third major-label studio album feels polished, bright and concise, not necessarily assets when it comes to this band's skill set.

Zac Brown Band is an anomaly in modern country: not slick, not romantic, not Taylor Swift. It is a ragtag outfit that emphasizes musical interplay and harmony and has never really shaken loose of its rootsy veneer. The most notable thing about "Uncaged" is how it still manages a farm-to-table air in a fast-food package. Zac Brown Band's sound was built on the road, and for years this group was far more dangerous live than in the studio. Sandpapering its shaggy bits has been a continuing process, and a successful one.

"Uncaged" is just a collection of concessions, one windowless box after the next. Take the song "Natural Disaster," about a preacher's daughter who "never did what Daddy taught her," or "Day That I Die," in which Brown again clings to music as if it were life itself.

The band's catalog, and this album in particular, is full of infectious songs of no particular consequence. Brown isn't a powerful singer, which means that he's most effective when triggering collective goodwill, singing songs of families and friends and escape.

Zac Brown Band performs Nov. 10 at Target Center.

JON CARAMANICA, NEW YORK TIMES

POP/ROCK

Maroon 5, "Overexposed" (A&M/Octone)

The title of Maroon 5's new album, "Overexposed," feels almost scientifically pitched at the point of contact between an apology and a boast. Mostly, the title alludes to the television stardom of its lead singer, Adam Levine, now taping his third season as a judge on NBC's "The Voice." Levine has embraced that implication in a spate of promotional interviews, along with a narrative of heartbreak.

Hence a song like "The Man Who Never Lied," in which he sings about spoiling his perfect record of honesty to spare a quarreling lover some hurtful feelings; and "Beautiful Goodbye," in which he delivers the line "And I can't take it, you're even perfect when you cry."

Perhaps it's best to consider this album an inevitable consequence of "Moves Like Jagger," the unstoppable single from Maroon 5's previous album with guest work by Christina Aguilera. The equivalent tune here is "Payphone," with a breezily profane verse by Wiz Khalifa and a hook engineered to feel irresistible. "Payphone" sounds no shallower or slicker than the rest of "Overexposed."

NATE CHINEN, NEW YORK TIMES

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