Echoes of girl groups, electro, the Beatles, funk, punk-pop, Motown and anything else that Ms. Shoniwa can top with her sassy quaver.
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The Noisettes defied expectations of what an indie band should sound like on their debut, What's the Time Mr. Wolf?, feeling equally at home with funk and folk, garage rock and gospel, and punk and pop, depending on their quick-shifting moods. They also defy expectations on Wild Young Hearts, a collection of songs that's a lot more polished and cohesive, and a little less distinctive, than what came before. Their newfound focus is immediately apparent on the one-two punch of "Sometimes," a pretty acoustic jazz-pop number that plays like a more straightforward take on What's the Time Mr. Wolf?'s "Count of Monte Christo," and "Don't Upset the Rhythm"'s unabashed disco-pop, which is all sleek guitars, strings, and sizzling hi-hats. While both of these songs are a lot more conventional than anything on the Noisettes' debut, they're also so well done that it's hard to complain too much that they lack the boldness of the band's earlier work, especially when Shingai Shoniwa's voice sounds great on almost any style of music. Elsewhere, it's clear they've been taking notes on their pop competition, and they borrow from the best: the title track's giddy, witty bounce recalls Lily Allen as much as it does a classic '60s pop tune updated with a few power chords; "24 Hours" nods to Santigold's shiny new wave revival; and "Never Forget You"'s soulful strut echoes Amy Winehouse. These flattering imitations aren't as much of a problem as the pleasant but surprisingly tame songs that make up most of Wild Young Hearts' second half. While "Saturday Night" rocks out a bit, it's much cleaner and sleeker than the spitfire energy the band brandished on What's the Time Mr. Wolf?; likewise, the torchy folk-jazz of "Atticus" is nice, but less striking than when it stood in contrast to the band's rougher edges. As well crafted as the album is, it never quite lunges out of speakers and headphones in the way that the Noisettes have shown they can do. Wild Young Hearts isn't exactly disappointing, but it is a lot safer than it should be. [This edition includes the bonus track "So Complicated."]