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CD review: Cage the Elephant's Tell Me I'm Pretty 

RCA; Release date: Dec. 18, 2015

On first listen to the fourth studio album from Kentucky alt-rockers Cage the Elephant, something sounds a bit different. There are retro undertones, simplified rhythms and a bit of fuzz overlying the mix. So, I can't say I was surprised one bit to read that The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach was the producer — his fingerprints are all over this thing. But is that necessarily bad?

Let's pretend I didn't know Auerbach had any involvement — whether you see that as a positive or negative characteristic of an album these days. The album shows Cage the Elephant's continued ability to improve its sound and not just rehash the "same old, same old" for album after album.

In its early days, Cage the Elephant was known for raucous live shows, energetic songs and anthemic choruses. These days, it sounds like singer Matthew Shultz is far more interested in dancing and showing off his soulful side. His vocals display more range and sensitivity. There's far less screaming here. The lyrics have more maturity and the band sounds more cohesive musically.

Shit, not everyone can go on partying year after year, right? And while it sounds like Cage the Elephant has slowed down in some ways, it also sounds like they're buckling down with their eyes on longevity instead of trying to take a hard and fast road to the top that typically comes crashing down.

Tell Me I'm Pretty sounds like Cage the Elephant took plenty of time in crafting its songs this time around, and it pays off with some of the band's finest work to date. Plenty of artists have sophomore slumps and throwaway records, but when introducing someone to Cage, I'd suggest giving all four studio albums a listen.

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