- - Monday, October 15, 2012

Night Train

Jason Aldean

Broken Bow Records

★★

Jason Aldean never met a cliche he didn’t like. His latest album, “Night Train,” is full of them, from the water tower that looms over a lonely, one-horse town in “Water Tower” to the good ol’ Southern boy who works the fields in “The Only Way I Know.”

Album cover for Leona Lewis "Glassheart".
Album cover for Leona Lewis “Glassheart”. more >

At 15 tracks, there’s plenty of room for “Night Train” to go off course and explore new territory. It doesn’t. Like the broken-hearted girl working at a gentlemen’s club in “Black Tears,” unable to tear herself away from a bad situation, Mr. Aldean can’t seem to stop churning out predictable country songs.

Let’s rephrase that last sentence. Mr. Aldean didn’t write any of these songs, so he’s not churning out predictable material as much as putting his own stamp on somebody else’s predictable material.

That would be fine if Mr. Aldean could somehow elevate the songs — with powerhouse vocals, maybe, or even just a unique guitar style — but he sounds anonymous, delivering each song with a personality-free voice and relying on his backup band to do most of the heavy lifting.

He sings the praises of country life on “This Nothin’ Town,” waxes nostalgic on “1994,” compares his tour bus to a bullet on “Wheels Rollin’” and attempts to woo his girlfriend — on the hood of a Ford truck, no less — during “Talk.” Each song sounds colossal, stacked to the brim with power chords, keyboards and swooping pedal steel, but “Night Train” feels hollow at the middle, like it’s running on fumes instead of actual inspiration.

Glassheart

Leona Lewis

Syco Music

★★★

Leona Lewis is a fantastic, savvy singer whose vocal chops always seem to outshine her songs. By focusing on hip, detailed dance music instead of gauzy ballads, though, “Glassheart” puts the two on equal ground.

Like most club albums, “Glassheart” pays a lot of attention to production. The songs are decorated like one-bedroom Manhattan apartments; every last inch is crammed with stuff, from keyboards to sweeping strings to throbbing, electro-pop percussion. Miss Lewis‘ voice is pushed to the forefront, and she sounds great, belting out a string of throaty R&B riffs one minute and flipping into a gorgeous, sublime coo the next.

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