The Killers, ‘Wonderful, Wonderful’


Aidin Vaziri | With “Wonderful, Wonderful,” the Killers aim for reinvention and renewed relevance. The Las Vegas group’s fifth studio album — its first in five years — finds the band scaling back the Bruce Springsteen-scale pomposity that hampered 2012’s “Battle Born” and aiming for a dark pop vibe more in line with its breakthrough debut, 2004’s “Hot Fuss.” Sometimes it works. Songs like “The Man” and “Out of My Mind” are driven by sleek synthesizer melodies, while “Tyson vs. Douglas” swaggers forward on one of the band’s signature shout-along hooks. Sometimes, not so much. The actor Woody Harrelson reads Bible verses for the intro to “The Calling,” a Depeche Mode-lite stomper; while the closing ballad, “Have All the Songs Been Written,” finds singer Brandon Flowers contemplating life, “Send In the Clowns” style: “Has every ship gone sailing?/ Has every heart gone blue?”


Brandon Flowers, ‘The Desired Effect’


Aidin Vaziri | Brandon Flowers, the lead singer of the Killers, doesn’t use his solo albums to indulge a secret love of zouk or rumba. Instead, he just delves further into the glossy ’80s pop sounds that have always flowed through his band. His second full-length release, “The Desired Effect,” is significantly slicker than the Killers’ most recent work — and frankly better — conjuring the melodramatic synth-pop of bands such as Wang Chung, Pet Shop Boys (who make a cameo on the album) and Bronski Beat (who Flowers exquisitely samples on the elegiac “I Can Change”). With production assistance from Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, Charlie XCX), the tropical “Still Want You” takes its lyrical lead straight out of Simon Le Bon’s notebook (“Nuclear distress, I still want you”), while the shadowy “Lonely Town” finds Flowers, 33, wrapping his lithe voice around a Springsteen-caliber melody. It’s not bad. Not bad at all.