Kenny Chesney, “Cosmic Hallelujah” (Columbia Nashville)
Kenny Chesney has built a stadium-filling career, as well as a country subgenre, with his songs about escaping the rat race. Here, he not only adds to that canon, but for the first time also sings about the reasons that escape seems so alluring.
It’s sort of jarring to hear the generally laid-back singer deliver the dark “Rich and Miserable,” with its chorus of complaints including “Enough is never enough, American dream never wakes up. We won’t be happy till we’re rich and miserable.” But Chesney handles it well, showing a new side of his worldview.
The same goes for the recent single “Noise,” on which he adopts Bon Jovi-esque stadium rock to rail about all the distractions of the modern world. Another departure is Chesney’s current hit, a duet with Pink called “Setting the World on Fire” that sounds more like it came from Taylor Swift than the guy who did “I Go Back.” It’s the closest thing to a pop crossover hit Chesney has had since a string of ballads more than a decade ago. No wonder he decided to retool the album and push its release back three months to accommodate it.
That said, Chesney is still at his best when he champions those working for the weekend. And he may have given them his best anthem yet with the instant-classic “Bucket,” where he offers this solution to life’s problems: “I made a bucket list, changed the ‘B’ to an ‘F.’ ” The result will fit nicely between Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” and Georgia Satellites’ “Keep Your Hands to Yourself.” In other words, country perfection.
GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday
Phantogram, “Three” (Republic)
No longer content to be the big fish in the little pond that is maudlin glitch-hop, the shimmering sonic duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter remove all swishes of gothic gloom and switch out the “hop” for “pop” on their third LP.
Phantogram still faces down and braces for the worst on the breathily forlorn “Barking Dog,” the nightmarish “Answer” and the dub-heavy “Run Run Blood.” From there, Phantogram’s gray skies go from woe to wow-worthy silvery linings and find anthemic melody lines to match Carter’s mopey-but-bright samples and Barthel’s faux-Kate Bush drones.
Collaborating with Meghan Trainor’s main man Ricky Reed finds Phantogram on hot ice for the discophonic “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” and the uplifting “You’re Mine.” “Cruel World” may be heavy-handed and “Same Old Blues” might feel same and old, but overall, “Three” is as cheery and cool as it is dour.
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Alicia Keys, “Here”
• Bon Jovi, “This House Is Not for Sale”
• Jim James, “Eternally Even”
• Ryan Adams, “TBA”
• Common, “Black America Again”
• Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, “Until the Hunter”