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Pop reviews — week of Nov. 24

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‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ Soundtrack

Various artists

Choosing the tracks for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack must have been a mini-Hunger Games in itself. The victors offer a mix of indie and mainstream, adding a rounded, energetic and emotional dimension to the film.

The 12 tributes (15 on the deluxe edition) battle it out to discover who puts out the edgiest, yet accessible, song in homage to the story. One can see a shift in tone from the first film’s T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack from folky melancholy to a slicker, more eccentric offering supervised by Alexandra Patsavas.

A few traces from the original DNA remain with such tracks as the folky Lean by the National, Devil May Cry by the Weeknd and the dulcet tones of Gale Song by the Lumineers. The lead single Atlas, from Coldplay, brings a low simmer resignation to boil over into anger. It’s a resounding anthem to fighting against oppression and feeling the weight of the world on one’s shoulders in dulcet piano tones. Christina Aguilera adds to the film’s mainstream cred with her powerful vocals on the catchy We Remain.

But the indie performers modulate their voices in a different direction — instead of reassuring, revolutionary tones they all go eerie synth. Teen sensation Lorde does an under­water-sounding cover of Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World that takes its original cheerful spirit and twists it into a macabre warning. Australian Sia convincingly taps into the best of tribal pop on Elastic Heart, featuring the Weeknd and Diplo, while Ellie Goulding goes all angelic sci-fi electro in Mirror.

— Cristina Jaleru

Associated Press

King and Maxwell

David Baldacci

David Baldacci brings back former Secret Service agents Sean King and Michelle Maxwell to investigate another bizarre case in his new book, King and Maxwell.

King and Maxwell are private investigators now. They have a knack for poking around for answers, and the alphabet agencies tend to get upset with their questions.

While driving at night in the pouring rain, the duo almost hits a young boy named Tyler Wingo. He’s just learned his father has been killed in Afghanistan. They take Tyler to his home, where they see his mother, as well as the soldiers who brought the tragic news.

Something seems off, but before they can ask any questions, Tyler reveals he’s been asking questions about his father and feels like he’s been getting the brushoff.

Maxwell wants to help the young boy, but King is reluctant since the death occurred on another continent. Plus, they’ve dealt with the military and government before, and they know that getting answers can sometimes be painful. King soon changes his mind when he learns Tyler received an email from his dad the day after he supposedly died.

What was Tyler’s father doing in Afghanistan? Why was Tyler told his dad is dead if he’s still alive?

Baldacci has crafted another terrific tale with two great protagonists. Just when the story line seems to veer into familiar areas, Baldacci steers it into another shocking direction.

This is the best book yet in the series.

— Jeff Ayers

Associated Press

Foreverly

Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones

Songs Our Daddy Taught Us was a surprise move from Phil and Don Everly in 1958. After a string of pop-rock hits such as Bye Bye Love and Wake Up Little Susie, the brothers chose to release a set of traditional country tunes for their second album. Foreverly is similarly surprising: It finds Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong harmonizing with Norah Jones on a set of covers of Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.

Although we’ve heard Jones sing country in the Little Willies, it’s a revelation to hear Armstrong so at ease crooning, without a trace of his pop-punk sneer, on tunes such as Long Time Gone and Rockin’ Alone (in an Old Rockin’ Chair). He takes most of the leads, with Jones singing Phil’s high harmonies, and the arrangements rely on acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and the occasional harmonica, piano, or pedal steel. Foreverly is loose, fun and totally sincere.

Coincidentally, this is the third set of Everly Brothers covers this year, following a creaky charmer from Bonnie “Prince” Billy & Dawn McCarthy, and a beautifully somber one from the Chapin Sisters.

—Steve Klinge

Philadelphia Inquirer


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