Nekesa Mumbi Moody, AP Entertainment Writer
Alice Smith, "She" (RainWater Recordings/Thirty Tigers)
Six years is a long time to build up anticipation.
That's how long it's been since Alice Smith released her sultry, soulful 2007 debut, "For Lovers, Dreamers & Me." With that album, the singer-songwriter was tagged with that coveted "next big thing" title. And then ... silence.
She went through the label maze, had a child, performed here and there, but "She" is her first collection of music since that promising first album.
With her sophomore album, Smith shows the promise is still there. Vocally, Smith is still a powerhouse who vacillates between smoldering and soaring; lyrically, she can still craft ear-catching couplets, like on "The One." Still, the magic that made "For Lovers" so strong, and enduring, is largely missing from "She." Technically, she gets points, but few songs on the album stir the soul quite like its predecessor: Much of the spark of that album was due to an irreverent sass that's missing here. Maybe she just grew up, but "She" sounds a bit staid at times. The most vital performance on the album is her cover of "Fool for You" by CeeLo Green - who could teach her a thing or two about vibrance.
The Ocean Blue strong with 'Ultramarine'
Matt Moore, Associated Press
The Ocean Blue, "Ultramarine" (Korda)
It's been more than a decade since Pennsylvania's The Ocean Blue released a full-length album and the quartet makes no secret that "Ultramarine" came together in bits and pieces as members David Schelzel, Bobby Mittan, Oed Ronne and Peter Anderson recorded here and there.
Singer and songwriter Schelzel referred to it as a record done at a "glacial pace." It was worth the wait.
The 12 songs on "Ultramarine" recall the sincere clarity of the band's self-titled 1989 debut and 1991's "Cerulean" with songs that soar with grace, blend cascading guitars and rich keyboards with lyrics that manage to evoke sentimentality, optimism and an appropriate romantic longing without being cloying or grating.
It's akin to returning to the alternative, college-scene era of the late 1980s but with a definite and knowing contemporary streak. This evidenced by "Sad Night, Where is Morning?" which brims with melodic guitars, measured percussion and passion-infused singing from Schelzel declaring "my thoughts today, oh how they want to stray."
Luminous new album from Phosphorescent
Chris Talbott, AP Music Writer
Phosphorescent, "Muchacho" (Dead Oceans)
Matthew Houck's quest for a few moments of simplicity has led to his most complex album yet, a lush take on easygoing country flavored with a light ocean breeze.
"Muchacho" crystallized as Phosphorescent's only permanent member retreated to Mexico on a weeklong spur-of-the-moment trip to check out following a difficult period in his life. He returned to Brooklyn, N.Y., with the beating heart of his most accomplished album yet, full of sprawling arrangements with horns and keys and electronic adornments.
Yet Houck never loses his deft touch for the personal moment, like when he narrates a rough patch for the listener before warbling, "I'll fix myself up, come and be with you" over a dreamy organ line on "Muchacho's Tune." He heads in the opposite direction as he patiently layers on the textures in "The Quotidian Beasts" until he's got something that soars right on past the seven-minute mark.
There are little wonders all over "Muchacho," an album that hopefully will take Houck to a wider audience as popular musical tastes begin to turn his way.
Anthrax covers 1970s rock on new EP
Wayne Parry, Associated Press
Anthrax "Anthems" (MRI/Megaforce)
There's a revelation on Anthrax's "Anthems" EP: Rush's music is annoying, no matter who plays it.
The speed metal kings, driven by drummer Charlie Benante's infatuation with early Neil Peart, chose Rush's "Anthem" as the inspiration for their eight-track EP in which they cover classic 1970s rock bands that influenced them. Suffice it to say the jarring stop-and-start timing and riffing of a Rush song doesn't work with the heaviest of heavy metal bands, either.
But the rest of this all-too-short disc is like hard-rock comfort food, hewing closely to the originals, with some special Anthrax sauce on the side. Best is a cover of Cheap Trick's "Big Eyes," which blends the band's melody with Anthrax's harder edge.
"Smokin'" is a cover of the classic Boston ode to inhalables, and "Jailbreak" puts a fine point on the Thin Lizzy classic.
Singer Joey Belladonna shows his vocal versatility here. On "TNT," the AC/DC anthem, he sounds just like Bon Scott; when he covers Cheap Trick, you'd swear it was Robin Zander singing. He even nails Steve Perry in covering Journey's "Keep on Runnin.'"
"Crawl" and a remix of it are the two original new tracks on the disc, which lend a little more texture to the trademark Anthrax crunch.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.