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Quick Spins: Reviews of CDs by Jordin Sparks, Sugar Ray and Wye Oak

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Acoustic guitars, sentimentality and predictable, singalong choruses rule the day. Most of the songs barely even register; the supremely ridiculous "She's Got the (Woo-Hoo)" manages to stand out just because it has a bit of a pulse, thanks to the simplest of dance club beats. And come last call at Rehoboth next weekend, someone will probably shake along to it.

Sugar Ray performs July 31 at Rams Head Live in Baltimore.

-- David Malitz

DOWNLOAD THIS: "She's Got the (Woo-Hoo)"

THE KNOT

Wye Oak

Baltimore is known for its decidedly experimental local music scene, where songs are often secondary to bizarre bleeps and harsh noise. Couples as bands -- Matt and Kim, Mates of State, for example -- are often known for over-the-top energy that tends to enter the realm of grating. Baltimore couple band Wye Oak manages to avoid both of these fates and is much better off for it. On "The Knot," Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack have made an album of gorgeous dirges, creating a shimmering, folk-shoe-gaze hybrid that is hypnotic in its stateliness.

The highlights on "The Knot" come when Wasner and Stack combine their penchant for chilling atmospherics and intense dynamic shifts. "For Prayer" begins in a subdued manner, with Wasner gently purring over a softly strummed electric guitar before the song briefly explodes into the sort of mayhem that Neil Young and Crazy Horse made famous, before reeling itself back in again. The soft/loud dynamic is explored throughout "The Knot," but without ever becoming a formulaic crutch. Album centerpiece "Mary Is Mary" offers plenty of opportunities for a noise-soaked peak, but the band never fully indulges, opting instead for a few minor crests that give the song even more weight. "Tattoo" is built on a slowly galloping drumbeat and countless layers of sparkling guitars and vocals; the effect is positively uplifting. Wye Oak makes moving music that never announces itself as moving music. It's a rare feat, which only makes "The Knot" all the more impressive.

Wye Oak performs Tuesday at the Ottobar in Baltimore.

-- David Malitz

DOWNLOAD THESE: "Tattoo," "For Prayer," "Mary Is Mary"


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