Album Of The Year (Of The Week): Cage The Elephant's "Tell Me I'm Pretty"!

There is a well-traveled story about Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertugen telling the manager that the demo tape he'd just listened to wasn't a hit back in 1981.

"You wanna hear a hit?" Ertegun asked the manager and proceeded to play them Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight". When a young band plays me their music and asks my opinion, unless I hear a song that really blows my skirt up (it does happen), I usually respond "You wanna hear a hit?"

Then I play them Cage The Elephant's "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked". Not only does the song scream "hit", it already feels like one the minute you hear it. Yet there's a newness and clarity to it that belies its old-school R&B roots.

I would be quite happy if every song the band did sounded like a knock-off of "Wicked", but the band continually go out of their way to deny me this one wish. giving me instead one album after another that defies easy categorization. Each album seems a layer of shading laid over the top of the previous one, the next one on top of that, and so on until a truly mind-blowing picture begins to take shape.

CTE's fourth album sees them break from working with producer Jay Joyce in favor of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. To those not immediately swayed by the sounds of the Black Keys, consider this most tolerable Black Keys record.

The album's earthy tone sounds almost more Dan Lanois at times, which bodes well for Auerbach's growth as a producer, one surmises. As for the band's growth, that too seems to be on the rise as the band still finds ways to paint gloriously outside the lines and defy all expectations.

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