Carly Rae Jepsen

Kiss

Rarely is a pop cycle so concentrated. Impossibly friendly sugar shot "Call Me Maybe" slowly wins over even the pop-phobic, because the awkward sentiment is too universal. It ascends uncontrollably to this year's "Beat It" or "Losing My Religion" status. Needing only to prove that unfailing bubbliness isn't a one-hit jinx, Kiss never strays from major-key four on the floor, with lyrics so remarkably banal they attract two unfortunate collaborators, Justin Bieber and Owl City. But the sheer constancy quickly becomes its own wonder; with only two songs that pass as ballads, the Owl City duet a surprise highlight, and several classics ("Hurt So Good," "More Than a Memory") you'd swear are ripped off, this is the fluff pinnacle Wilson Phillips didn't have the humility to make.

-- Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer

The Killers

Battle Born

If Liza Minnelli and David Bowie ever procreated during their artistic '70s peak, the dream pairing's handsome offspring would have been vocalist Brandon Flowers. The merrily trilling, thrillingly dramatic singer and his Vegas-based band of renown have spent their platinum-plated career approximating glam rock's razor-sharp theatrics and Broadway's schmaltziness.

Four years away from Killers (blame solo projects) hasn't blunted the band's flashy brio or keen sense of epic songwriting. Together with grand-scale producers Brendan O'Brien, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite, the Killers sound as if they never left the Vegas strip's desert heat. There's a sweltering quality to the roaring, soaring "Runaways," an overheated rock-out filled with Flowers' perpetual-motion emotionalism. No mere amphitheater could contain the flashy stadium-pop grandeur of "A Matter of Time" or "Miss Atomic Bomb."

Still, for all of the Killers' brazen flamboyance, there's a humble, star-spangled quality to Battle Born's most poignant moments that goes against its champagne grain. Derived perhaps from his Americana-laced 2010 solo album, Flamingo, Flowers' "Heart of a Girl" (cowritten with Lanois) and the gentle "From Here on Out" take the Killers on a wistful musical ride through cow country for a sound more Oklahoma than it is Guys and Dolls.

-- A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer