MOVE LIKE THIS, The Cars (Hear Music)
The Cars emerged from the musically restless New Wave to fashion a successful career spinning well-crafted, synth-heavy rock and pop tunes perfect for date nights and summer parties. The band peaked in 1984 with the commercial high-water mark "Heartbeat City," and stuck around one album too long with the unfortunate swan song "Door to Door" in 1987.
Despite a renewed interest in keyboard-driven pop by recent bands like the Killers, New Wave music has been dead for decades, which makes the latest album from the Cars, "Move Like This," all the more remarkable. This is an album that feels right at home in the early 1980s, perhaps as a long-lost companion to "Heartbeat City."
With all its original members in place -- with the exception of bassist and vocalist Ben Orr, who died in 2000 of pancreatic cancer -- the Cars are again led by writer, producer, vocalist, and rhythm guitarist Ric Ocasek. Ocasek always was the visionary of the band and Orr its preferred voice; the latter's icy, detached delivery is missed at times here as well.
But Ocasek, who also sang on some of the band's big hits ("Shake it Up," "Good Times," "Magic"), has a distinct delivery of his own, which serves him well on more upbeat songs like "Free" and "Keep on Knocking." The real star of "Move Like This," though, is keyboardist Greg Hawkes, who adds flurries of distinctive synth both familiar ("Blue Tip") and fresh ("Sad Song," featuring a poppy chorus straight from the Killers with an opening that's pure Cars).
About the only complaints with "Move Like This" is that lead guitarist Elliot Easton is mostly MIA when it comes to his quick and memorable guitar solos. The Cars also stick to the recognizable script too much, including the expected but not memorable ballads "Soon" and "Too Late."
Still, of the 10 tracks on "Move Like This," there isn't a clunker in the bunch.
-- KIRK BAIRD
THE BROKEN RECORD, Corey Smith (Essential Broadcast Media)
Corey Smith might very well be one of the best country singer/songwriters you never heard of. He has built a solid career and substantial fan base by passing up the traditional Nashville path to success from his hometown of Jefferson, Ga., and releasing six well-received albums independently.
In five years, he played more than 650 shows across the United States, grossing $7.5 million in revenue. His albums sold 150,000 copies and 800,000 singles. Not bad for an independent.
This new album -- 17 tracks over more than 51 minutes -- shows Smith at his singing, songwriting best. Lively instrumental work accents a fine baritone, interesting melodies, and some sassy lyrics. The songs, all written by Smith, are often earthy, yet well-crafted slices of life that range from politics to hard partying.
-- KEN ROSENBAUM
KING OF HEARTS, LLOYD (Zone 4/Interscope)
Lloyd, who will appear Friday at Huntington Center, was the odd one out in the Murder Inc. posse, only getting attention when Ja Rule and Ashanti weren't around. His early hits -- especially "Southside" with Ashanti and "You" with Lil Wayne -- felt like teenage coattail-riding.
That's what makes his ambitious new album "King of Hearts" such a stunning surprise. Now part of Polow Da Don's crew, Lloyd, at 24, proves himself to be a bold thinker and a skillful singer who can handle almost anything.
He makes his intentions clear from the start with the X-rated but catchy "Dedication to My Ex (Miss That)," that has a lot in common with Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" in style and substance. Then, Andre 3000 arrives and kicks it to the next level.
But the shocks don't stop there, considering his soulful spin on "World Cry," a Marvin Gaye-styled protest filtered through Michael Jackson that also includes R. Kelly, Keri Hilson and K'Naan, and the current single "Cupid," which smooths out Polow Da Don's usual aggressive production for a pretty, stylish pop ballad. On "This Is 4 My Baby," he tweaks a Justin Timberlake-ish track and sets himself up as a real rival to Chris Brown, who he outsings on "Luv Me Girl," and Drake.
-- GLENN GAMBOA, Newsday