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Music reviews: Pink, Ben Folds Five, Morning Glory (with audio)

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Here is a look at recently-released music.

Pink "The Truth About Love"

The biggest drawback to Pink’s 2008 release, “Funhouse,” was the artist had a somewhat generic sounding backing band. On “Are We All We Are,” the opening track to the new album, “The Truth About Love,” it seems as though that problem has been remedied.

The track’s music and vocals are both crisp and rather refreshing for a Pink album. But it drops off from there. When you hit the next song, the not-so-cleverly titled “Blow Me (One Last Kiss),” you realize Pink has fallen into a familiar rut of singing a catchy song while trying to be lovable and shocking at the same time. The song, which also is the first single from “The Truth About Love,” was produced by Grammy-nominated producer Greg Kurstin. Pink also worked with Butch Walker on this album, her sixth studio release. Walker had a hand in 2006’s “I’m Not Dead” and 2008’s “Funhouse.” Billy Mann, another frequent Pink collaborator, also is on board again. So maintaining familiar Pink traits is understandable when the same cast of characters is in the studio.

One thing that does set “The Truth About Love” apart from past Pink albums is the introduction of several guest appearances. Unfortunately, most are underutilized. The voice  of Nate Ruess from the band fun.gets lost as he and Pink try to harmonize toward the end of “Just Give Me A Reason.” The guy sang “We Are Young,” one of the biggest hits of late spring/early summer of this year, why not let him sing the hook on his own?

Lily Rose Cooper, the artist formerly known as Lily Allen, shows up to keep “True Love” from sounding like several other Pink songs released in recent years. It doesn’t work. Neither does the rap by Eminem on “Here Comes The Weekend.” He shows up for his part between Pink chanting about putting on lipstick and drinking pink champagne. Rarely has a guest spot sounded so out of place. C’mon Marshall Mathers, you’re better than that.

Ben Folds Five "The Sound of The Life of The Mind"

Ben Folds and his piano are back together with Robert Sledge and Darren Jessee for the group’s first album of new material in 13 years. “The Sounds of the Life of the Mind” is on par with any solo Folds album released during the band’s hiatus. The title track is yet another song in a long line of Folds’ tales of being trapped in a small town. “Draw A Crowd” features lyrics that are as snappy as its piano lines. “If you’re feeling small and you can’t draw a crowd, draw d---s on the wall” Folds sings in a high-pitched tone. Sure that line might sound a little odd, but the tongue-in-cheek humor has been a part of Ben Folds Five albums since the band’s early days. One of the best songs on the album, “Do It Anyway,” has drums that sound like a train chugging down the track. Folds’ piano work also is at its best here. Where this album fails is on the more toned-down numbers. “Sky High” has the three musicians not using their talents to their fullest. The result is a song that could use some more life. Still, Folds’ storytelling ability rarely misses on this release, and probably rescues a few of these songs from being everyday piano-driven power pop.

Morning Glory "Poets Were My Heroes"

Described on their record label’s website as being “somewhere between Oasis and The Clash,” New York’s Morning Glory leans mostly toward the punk side. “Poets Were My Heroes” sounds like a lot of other releases with the Fat Wreck Chords imprint, but with more of a melodic approach. On “Shelter From The Spoon,” the band comes off as a punkier version of The Get Up Kids, complete with piano. Its an interesting mix that probably should have been used more on this album. “Poets Were My Heroes” does offer of fresh take on the genre. While Morning Glory maintains gruff vocals and other punk staples, it tends to make the songs a little more complicated. Actually, two of the songs on this release aren’t punk at all. Both “Touch” and “Care Of Me” only feature frontman Ezra Kire and a piano. The stripped-down effort pays off as it allows you to concentrate more on Kire’s earnest lyrics.

Out this week: Baby Bash & Jay Tee, “M.S.U.”; Band of Horses, “Mirage Rock”; Big & Rich, “Hillbilly Jedi”; Ryan Bingham, “Tomorrowland”; The Blues Broads, “The Blues Broads”; Brother Ali, “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color”; The Burning of Rome, “With Us”; Easton Corbin, “All Over the Road”; Bart Crow, “Dandelion”; Dinosaur Jr., “I Bet On Sky”; The Dollyrots, “The Dollyrots”; Down, “Down IV Part 1 – The Purple EP”; drivin’ n’ cryin’, “Songs about Cars, Space and The Ramones”; Fourplay, “Espirit De Four”; The Four Freshmen, “Love Songs”; Nelly Furtado, “The Spirit Indestructible”; Glee Cast, “Americano/Dance Again”; Grizzly Bear, “Shields”; James Iha, “Look to the Sky”; Carly Rae Jepsen, “Kiss”; Rickie Lee Jones, “The Devil You Know”; Keane, “Upstairs at United”; Kid Koala, “12 Bit Blues”; The Killers, “Battle Born”; Kreayshawn, “Somethin ‘Bout Kreay”; Local H, “Hallelujah! I’m a Bum”; Aimee Mann, “Charmer”; Menomena, “Moms”; Maceo Parker, “Soul Classics”; Sean Paul, “Tomahawk Technique”; Robert Pollard, “Jack Sells the Cow.”; The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, “Meat & Bone”; We Are the Ocean, “Maybe Today, Maybe Tomorrow”; The Whigs, “Enjoy the Company” and Dwight Yoakam, “3 Pears.”

• Rob Carroll writes about pop culture and entertainment for the Northwest Herald. He can be reached at rcarroll@shawmedia.com. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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