The Band Perry
Like film director Tim Burton, the Band Perry puts an entertaining spin on the darker aspects of life and love. With their second album Pioneer, singer Kimberly Perry and her brothers Neil and Reid continue to blend sinister and innocent in deliciously fresh ways.
The trio’s new work highlights just how well-developed they’ve become as songwriters — they’re responsible for nine of the 12 songs — and how inventive they can be with arrangements. They bring out the best in veteran producer Dann Huff, who does his best work here since helping Keith Urban create his distinctive sound.
Like Urban, the Band Perry use banjos and other string instruments to create a down-to-earth foundation on songs like the No. 1 country hit Better Dig Two. They also like juxtaposing acoustic and electric elements, which adds texture to catchy tunes like the anthemic I’m a Keeper and the Cheap Trick-like Night Gone Wasted — both co-written with another family group, the Henningsens.
Throughout, Kimberly Perry wields her smoky voice like a skilled actress, inhabiting each song to bring the lyrics alive. Pioneer is an artistic tour de force that furthers the potential shown on group’s award-winning 2010 debut.
— Michael McCall
No Way Back
No Way Back is the latest high-octane thriller from Andrew Gross, the best-selling author of 15 Seconds. One woman’s life is destroyed and another hides a secret from her past.
Wendy Gould has a fight with her husband. She waits in a bar for a girlfriend who doesn’t show. Wendy flirts with a stranger and soon finds herself in his hotel room. Before things get hot and heavy, she realizes her mistake and runs into the bathroom. When she hears another voice in the room, she peeks out to see a man with a gun. Soon, two men are dead — and she’s on the run.
Meanwhile, young nanny Lauritzia Velez has a secret that could prove deadly. She’s on a shopping trip at a mall with her charges when a gunman tries to shoot them. A security guard kills the shooter before he can harm them, but Velez realizes she has to flee if she wants the family to survive.
Gross is a master of suspense, and No Way Back will put him on the best-seller lists once again. However, one weakness in the story is that both women need men to help them survive. It’s too bad neither character comes across as strong enough to do it without help.
— Jeff Ayers
Girl Who Got Away
Some artists are compelled to stay with a style they’re comfortable with. Others? They’re not shy about ranging into new territory now and then.
Dido? She’s exploring new frontiers, soaking up the sights and sounds, coalescing her experiences, desires and treks into songs on Girl Who Got Away that jump from tart electronica-inspired landscapes to earnest, almost low-key folk-oriented confessions that can be likened to an afternoon coffee klatch for two.
“No one could have told me how much I’d miss you, and how soon the world moves on,” she sings in Loveless Hearts, her voice an emotional sheen atop a gently rising crescendo of crisp keyboard tones climbing swiftly in time.
Such is the ranging, diverse offerings from Girl Who Got Away, Dido’s fourth album and first since 2008’s Safe Trip Home. It features styles that encompass lush orchestral layouts, darkly hypnotic dance grooves and the clarity of life and all its foibles. It’s an intensely personal album, reflecting Dido’s creative spark while retaining an accessibility that remains fresh, if not vital.
— Matt Moore