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Albums: Jan. 31/Feb. 7, 2014

Reviews of the latest records from Young the Giant, Jennifer Nettles, and more

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Young the Giant, Mind Over Matter
For these excitable California alt-radio stars, an anthem about “screaming at the sky” has to kick off with an actual shriek, an acoustic bonfire jam is called, inevitably, “Firelight,” and the song “Eros” must (must it?) include the command “relax your lips.” Still, that last one is blippy, slinky fun — and on “Crystallized,” singer Sameer Gadhia’s bro sincerity and movie-villainish vocals make for liberating melodrama, even without the primal scream. B+Nick Catucci

Jennifer Nettles, That Girl
The Sugarland frontwoman’s debut solo album, produced by bearded superstar auteur Rick Rubin, has some sterling moments (the yearning opener “Falling” is a standout), but its mix of strumming guitars and ’70s grooves gives it a weirdly droopy vibe. Pairing Nettles’ rich, bright, soaring voice with Rubin’s spare style feels like serving a hot fudge sundae on a paper plate. B-Grady Smith

Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
As an exploration of frontwoman Laura Jane Grace’s much-noted recent gender transition (the singer was formerly Tom Gabel), the Florida punk outfit’s sixth album is powerful and remarkably honest. As a rock album, it’s just okay. Blues is rawer than the band’s last two excellent, arena-fied albums. Some hook sweetening would have made the socially conscious medicine here go down a little easier. BKyle Anderson

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