New Found Glory, "New Found Glory"; Various, "Songcatcher,"; Gretchen Peters, "Gretchen Peters" 

Now Hear This

New Found Glory, "New Found Glory" (MCA/Drive-Thru Records) — Back in my day we would have to walk miles in waist-deep snow, with only bags wrapped around our feet, just to get to school each morning. In those days of yore there was also just one pop punk band called The Descendents and one was all we needed. Today, pop-punk groups are a dime a dozen. Hell, I didn't even have a dime back then to spend on a new and innovative NOFX record much less two bits to spend on another group of jokers playing a cheap imitation of melodic punk. Such is the case with the latest stale release from New Found Glory. Nothing is fresh about NFG's newest album except the ache on their faces. The front-cover graphics may have induced some nostalgia in me, but musically the band flogs a dead horse throughout the effort. I will say that New Found Glory would probably be good live, and their songs could even become the soundtrack for many a high school romance. That's if their overdone formula hasn't worn out its welcome by then. I know there are a lot of upstarts out there who might think this is "da bomb," but it takes more than just a year of immersion in punk music and culture to discern whether or not an album will stand the test of time. This is not one of those albums. — Angelo DeFranzo

Various, "Songcatcher," (Vanguard) — This 16-cut traditional folk project is the soundtrack for the movie of the same name. It's a bit mournful in mood but it contains some of the prettiest singing from some of the best female vocalists on today's scene. The movie tells the story of a woman's discovery of the roots of American music in early 20th century Appalachia so this set includes arrangements of songs such as "Barbara Allen" and "The Cuckoo Bird." A group of popular and well-respected women songbirds were chosen by the producers to work their vocal magic on the well-worn tunes for this soundtrack and there are stellar moments throughout. A few of the highlights include Rosanne Cash's "Fair and Tender Ladies," Patty Loveless' "Sounds of Loneliness" and Maria McKee's "Wayfarin' Stranger." Dolly Parton and Emmy Rossum duet on "When Love Is New" and Julie Miller pours soul into "All My Years." This is not lighthearted fare, but as a collection of early American music and a vehicle for beautiful voices "Songcatcher" is a powerful work that keeps the integrity of the music foremost. — Ames Arnold

Gretchen Peters, "Gretchen Peters" (Purple Crayon) — Peters is one of those musical folks who does it all. She often writes hit songs for others, but on this eponymous effort she tackles 11 of her own songs, herself. She also co-produced the CD and contributed electric and acoustic guitars, electric sitar, keyboards, mandolin and six-string bass. Although she has a pleasing and tuneful voice, the album somehow falls flat. That's not to say that fans of '90s female Nashville vocalists won't like it. Full of single-minded search for freedom and answers, these songs capture youthful uncertainties that are readily understood. Peters pushes all the right buttons. The whole formula works, but only if your idea of a good tune is Nashville's version of commercially viable insight and mainstream poetic detail. There are lots of pretty melodies awash in pretty arrangements and Peters knows her trade. But at the end of the ride these songs have the right sentiment but a paint-by-the numbers heart. — A.A.

Burning Airlines "Identikit" (Desoto Records) —On Burning Airlines' second full-length album the post-punk rockers from Washington, D.C. have reinforced their own musical identity. The band, which lifted its name from a Brian Eno song, became the new gig of Jawbox guitarist J. Robbins and his former Government Issue bandmate Pete Moffett after Jawbox folded in 1997. Bassist Mike Harbin joined after fellow Jawbox veteran Bill Barbot left the band. After finishing "Identikit" this year, the band became a quartet when it added veteran guitarist and keyboardist Ben Pape. The 15-song "Identikit" surpasses the energy found on the band's 1999 debut, "Mission: Control!" The album flies from light to dark in a discordant and somewhat structured fashion. The lyrics are catchy and in pure Robbins fashion are open for interpretation. The guitar lines found on "Outside the Aviary," "A Song With No Words," "A Lexicon" are melodic, mysterious and poppy. The rhythm section is fresh drum and bass throughout. The heavier moments on the album, like the bouncy "Deluxe War Baby" and the straight-up rock of "Paper Crowns" provide the best moments of the album. During times of tired formulaic rock songs from Limp Bizkit and Blink-182, we should be glad to have a band that still puts an ounce of thought into its albums. — Jacob Parcell

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