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New recordings: Low Cut Connie, The Mountain Goats, Harry Styles [The Philadelphia Inquirer :: BC-MUS-ALBUMS:PH]

Low Cut Connie

"Dirty Pictures (part 1)"

(Contender (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK))

Since the band's 2010 debut, pianist Adam Weiner has been the focal point for Low Cut Connie, the Philadelphia band of merry barroom marauders whose fourth album was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis. How could he not be? This is an unabashed ham of a piano-pounding showman - the Jewish Jerry Lee Lewis - as liable to be seen standing on top of the beat-up piano he's named Shondra as he is playing it. But Weiner used to share songwriting duties with Dan Finnemore, a talented guitarist and drummer from Birmingham, England, who gave the group a two-fisted attack. Starting here, Weiner shoulders the load alone - though guitarist James Everhart does chip in with one song, the more-than-respectable rocker "Am I Wrong." The good news is the piano man proves more than up to the task as he demands Dionysian transcendence ("Touch my body, touch my soul") on the opening "Revolution Rock n Roll," and the rhythm section rumbles as songs of misadventure like "Montreal" and "Angela" don't let feelings of inadequacy get in the way of a banging good time. Of course, the cover of Prince's "Controversy" couldn't possibly measure up to the original, but Weiner turns its call for emotional honesty into both a heartfelt tribute and personal statement.

_Dan DeLuca

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The Mountain Goats

"Goths"

(Merge (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)1/2)

John Darnielle has been a master of sharply observed character studies since he started releasing Mountain Goats cassettes in the early '90s. He examined a dysfunctional couple on 2002's "Tallahassee," dealt with his own troubled childhood on 2005's "The Sunset Tree," and used tarot cards as a catalyst for 2010's "All Eternals Deck." After focusing on the rather hermetic world of professional wrestling for 2015's "Beat the Champ" (and on his novel-writing for the recent "Universal Harvester"), Darnielle turns his empathetic eye to another subculture: black-clad goths and the rise and fall of the '80s bands they loved.

Aside from the dramatic "Rain in Soho," bolstered by a 16-voice choir, and the New Order-like coda to "Shelved," the sound is far from goth: Darnielle eschews his usual guitars for a gentle Fender Rhodes, and new member Matt Douglas sweetens the spacious arrangements with woodwinds. In touching yet humorous songs that name-drop Gene Loves Jezebel, the Sisters of Mercy, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Darnielle ruminates on the longings of fans and the vagaries of fame.

_Steve Klinge

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Harry Styles

"Harry Styles"

(Erskine/Columbia (ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)(ASTERISK)1/2)

Harry Styles isn't the first One Direction member to go solo - Zayn Malik and Louis Tomlinson both went the dance-music route in varying degrees of darkness and light - but he is the 1D most screaming fans really wanted to hear. Charming and unassuming in a long-hair, shaggy-dog fashion, Harry is - in Beatles' speak - a Paul, the cute one. Now shorn of his locks and his quintet, Styles finds his expressive voice and confidence-questioning lyrics amid the tones of softly spun acoustic guitars and hammily epic glam anthems.

When Styles rocks hard on "Only Angel" and "Kiwi," he carelessly whispers the witty words of a cheap detective - all "cigarettes and hard liquor mixed with a bit of intellect." Those tracks are good, but Styles is a gentler creature whose subtly dramatic vocals seem more at ease on acoustic overdrive: the sweepingly Bowie-ish "Sign of the Times," the lovesick (and nearly C&W) "Two Ghosts," the funky, chic folksy soul of "Woman," where young, cocky Harry asks topically, "Should we just search romantic comedies on Netflix and see what we can find?" Best of all, there's the lustrous multiple harmonies (all his) and homey slice-of-life outlook of "From the Dining Table" where domesticity and maturity rule.

_A.D. Amorosi

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FOR SALE FRIDAY

Lil Yachty, "Teenage Emotions"; New Order, "NOMC15"; Shakira, "El Dorado"; The Unthanks, "The Songs and Poems of Molly Drake"

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