Noteworthy music releases: Gnarls Barkley and The Raconteurs

'The Odd Couple' of Gnarls Barkley deliver hummable hooks, which is more than can be said of the new album by The Raconteurs.

courtesy of stephen berkman

Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple (Downtown/Atlantic): Gnarls Barkley's new disc traffics in the same motley musicality as 2006's "St. Elsewhere" – a soul debut that managed to sound both distinctly modern, and unmistakably old. But on "The Odd Couple," Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse aren't so content to bask in the backbeat. Here's an album – a veritable Frankenstein's monster of influences – cobbled together out of soaring vocals and front-loaded with a symphony of hooks. It's pop-radio accessible; it's also distinctly more challenging than "St. Elsewhere." On "Run (I'm a Natural Disaster)," singer Cee-Lo barks out funk verses and R&B refrains, while Danger Mouse pipes in a vicious beat. Later, the duo drop into balladry (the looping, lilting, "Blind Mary"), and angst-rock (the fantastically funny "Whatever"). The achievement of "The Odd Couple" is to make it all sound so soft, so unhurried, so sublime.

– Matthew Shaer

The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely (Warner Bros.): I'm beginning to think that my compact disc of the new Raconteurs album has been coated with nonstick cooking spray because, after a dozen listens, I can't recall any of the tunes even though much of the record sounds good. But the songs just aren't there. One has to conclude that Jack White, also of The White Stripes, and songwriting partner Brendan Benson haven't delivered on the promise of their classic single, "Steady As She Goes." This second record is earthier – the guitar strings sound suitably rusty – with mandolin, fiddle, and mariachi horns amid the Marc Bolan-meets-Mick Jones riffs. But only the lilting piano and ELO harmonies of "You Don't Understand Me" come close to sticking. Stephen Humphries

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