The Killers, “Imploding the Mirage” (Island)
The Killers have perfected the moment when a song explodes into an anthem, and their sixth album is a master class in those visceral hooks. It’s relentless and a bit campy — throwback rock that draws on mid-’80s Springsteen and MTV synth pop in a way that risks pastiche but usually ends up thrilling.
At this point, the Killers are singer/keyboardist Brandon Flowers and drummer Ronnie Vannucci, plus helpmates. Lindsey Buckingham contributes a wild guitar solo to end “Caution,” k.d. lang duets on “Lightning Fields,” and Weyes Blood’s Natalie Mering sings on several tracks.
But the focus is on Flowers, his dramatic vocals, and those strategically dropped dynamic shifts. “Imploding the Mirage” is full of driving, widescreen songs about breaking out of town or pledging fidelity, opposite themes suitable for arena-size singalongs. Not all songs reach the rafters, but more often than not this album offers escapist, grandiose pleasures.
Steve Klinge, Philadelphia Inquirer
Swamp Dogg, “Sorry You Couldn’t Make It” (Joyful Noise)
Although best known as one of R&B’s more colorful characters, Jerry Williams, aka Swamp Dogg, is no stranger to country. For one thing, he co-wrote the Johnny Paycheck hit “Don’t Take Her (She’s All I Got”), which was nominated for song of the year by the Country Music Association in 1972.
Swamp Dogg delivers his own affecting version here, accentuating the anguish. The set, which features instrumental and vocal contributions from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, also contains some country-soul gems, including “Sleeping Without You Is a Dragg.” “Family Pain” takes the album’s darkest view, while “Billy” is a stone-cold country tear-jerker.
The highlights, though, are two duets with the late John Prine. “Memories” is built around what sounds like a quintessential bit of Prine folk wisdom but is actually a Swamp Dogg original: “Memories don’t leave like people do.” And “Please Let Me Go Round Again” is a plea for more time on Earth.
Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Lana Del Rey, “Chemtrails over the Country Club”
• Big Sean, “Detroit 2”
• Throwing Muses, “Sun Racket”
• Tricky, “Fall to Pieces”
• Bill Callahan, “Gold Record”