Heidecker & Wood


Little Record Company

I have seen the future of parody soft rock and their names are Tim Heidecker and Davin Wood. “Some Things Never Stay the Same,” the duo’s second album, overflows with thematic density, nuance, fake authenticity and heartfelt parodic cliche.

Eleven songs about the thrill of drugs, the challenges of a life of crime and the dangers of weather patterns, the work resonates for a variety of reasons.

The L.A.-based duo succeeds by mixing the best aspects of yacht rock, soft rock, boogie rock, meadow rock and country rock — but with the added urgency of gangsta rap. You can hear echoes of John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band’s seminal work, Chris Gaines’ unsung “In the Life of Chris Gaines” and Don Johnson’s “Miami Vice”-era solo album, all of which combine to suggest an act in it for the proverbial long haul.

The only negative in this endeavor is a backing vocalist, Aimee Mann, whose appearance must have been some act of charity. She’s pitchy, to say the least. The disconnect is especially apparent considering the enduring quality of the musicians surrounding her. Where does she get off tainting such perfection?

— Randall Roberts,

Los Angeles Times

Kellie Pickler

“The Woman I Am”

Black River Entertainment

Kellie Pickler has always had the sassy country part down.

From her early days as a ditzy, but fun “American Idol” contestant to her recent “100 Proof” album, Pickler had a strong sense of where she fit in the world of country — following in the footsteps of Reba and Dolly Parton.

But then she arrived on “Dancing With the Stars” and won the show, as well as America’s hearts, with her graceful dance moves and pretty, more grown-up performances. That newfound comfort with beauty finds its way into “The Woman I Am.”

On the title track, which she co-wrote with husband Kyle Jacobs, Pickler approaches the autobiographical song with a new focus on sweet notes and elegant phrasing that shine in the spare arrangement, even as she declares, “I get loud with a beer in my hand … Sometimes I cuss too much because I don’t give a damn.” She channels Patty Griffin, in tone and delivery, on the poignant single “Someone Somewhere Tonight” and the lovely, empathetic “Tough All Over.”

Pickler’s growth is impressive, but she is still at her most charming when she lets that sassiness out. With “The Woman I Am,” Pickler shows how the next phase of her career may be bigger than she ever dreamed.

— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday



Mute Records

Erasure’s new album, “Snow Globe,” is a weird mix of year-end treats. It’s a holiday album, of sorts, so it includes Andy Bell’s angelic delivery of classics like “The Christmas Song” and “Silent Night” over Vince Clarke’s inventively spare, bleepy-bloopy synth arrangements.

There also are dark originals — “Blood on the Snow” and “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” — that bridge the gap between holiday songs and more expected Erasure numbers. There also are new dance anthems, including the groovy party-starter “Brooklyn” and the sweetly retro “Loving Man.”

Does it hold together? Does that really matter? It’s fun.

— Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

James Blunt


Atlantic Records

Can we blame James Blunt for establishing that super-earnest British folkies can rule the mainstream pop charts? His treacly, inescapable 2004 single “You’re Beautiful” earned huge sales and abject loathing from critics. His latest, “Moon Landing,” is his sort-of attempt to get back to flintier, personal songwriting.

He does manage to out-Mumford and out-Sheeran his countrymen on the rustic single “Bonfire Heart” (ironically, co-written with super-pop penman Ryan Tedder). Whether you want to hear James Blunt plowing that field is a conversation between you and your god.

“Heart to Heart” has some upbeat sock-hop fun. But James Blunt titling a song “Always Hate Me?” He might as well leave a 24-pack of toilet paper on his lawn on Halloween with a sign reading “Have at It, Guys.”

— August Brown,

Los Angeles Times