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Review Round-up: Alicia Keys, Sleeping Bag, Challenger

By: Andrew McNallyColumnist

Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire Grade: B- There’s something to be said about growing older. Alicia Keys’ first album with a husband and a child finds her most definitely not on fire, but closer to room temperature. The opening track, “Brand New Me,” doesn’t wait to address these changes with her typical booming voice and near-virtuoso piano playing. But from there on, Keys often fails to ignite. Duets with Maxwell and Nicki Minaj bolster the album’s midpoint, but too many tracks succumb to weaker lyrics than we’re used to. Still, you can choose to ignore that on tracks like the closer, “101,” by just taking in Keys’ talent. If You Like: Beyonce, Whitney Houston

Sleeping Bag – Women Of Your Life Grade: C There is nothing remotely impressive or unique about this album. But, that’s what Sleeping Bag seems to be about. “Women of Your Life” is a short, 10-track ride through what appears to be a no-regrets blending of pop-punk and guitar indie. The result is something along the lines of Blur, minus the 90’s feel. Tracks like “Saturday Night” and “Soda You” are nothing more than fun, bouncy songs. These are songs that are meant to be sung along with, if the vocals were louder. But the lyrics are unintelligible and the music ultimately isn’t all that interesting. If You Like: : Blur, Guided By Voices

Challenger – The World is Too Much For Me Grade: A- I was expecting the punk band Challenger, so when the album opened with an airy chorus of children, I was confused. This Challenger is a new electronic band, and they’re strange. The second track, “Are You Scared Too?” is largely a cappella, with moments of total silence. The album throws twists at the listener – sudden tempo changes, and tonal shifts between songs. The middle of the album gets bogged down in generic electro-dance music, but “Takers” suddenly breaks that, with solely guitar. The lyrics are consistently destructive, but sung in a breezy tone. Challenger rises above mostly every other electronic band out there. If You Like: Crystal Castles, School of Seven Bells

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