David Usher, Strange Birds

With over a decade's worth of experience under his belt, David Usher is pretty comfortable with the little niche he's created for himself. So if you're already tired of Usher's squeaky-clean mix of modern rock, electronic swirls, and over-the-top guitar flourishes, then it's pretty safe to say that you won't dig his fifth solo-outing Strange Birds. That being said, Strange Birds is far from a bad pop record. Unlike 2005's sluggish, If God Had Curves, Birds is full of enticing pop hooks, ingenious mixing techniques, and captures the vibe of Usher's exceptional live performances. All this is helped by Usher and co. playing several New York City club dates during the recording process, which in turn, helped shape the record's sense of urgency and focus. Opening with first single "The Music," Usher treads familiar musical territory with club-orientated beats, bits and pieces of electronica, and epic sing-along choruses. "Ugly is Beautiful" is another example of this, but enhanced with subtle acoustic strums, chimes, and a back beat so heavy that its bound to get you moving. The rest of the record follows along those lines and as a consequence ends up melding together, a problem Usher has had since 2003's Hallucinations. Still, what makes Strange Birds enjoyable is that it encompasses all that was great about his past four releases and jam packs it into one fulfilling record. (Maple Music)

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