Kenny Chesney -- Just Who I Am: Poets & Pirates (BNA) Kenny Chesney has released five chart-topping albums in as many years while emphasizing the virtues of easy living and idealized nostalgia. Sturdy and recognizable as it is, Chesney's voice is a blunt instrument, and he bulls through "Never Wanted Nothing More" atop a shimmering pedal steel guitar. His uncomplicated approach serves the straightforward yearning that spills from "Wife and Kids," but the 39-year-old Tennessean's songs are cookie-cutter affairs that range from the harmless schmaltzy call to live life fully in "Don't Blink" to the laughably overdone lament of an exotic dancer's plight in "Dancin' for the Groceries."
Hot Hot Heat --Happiness Ltd. (Sire) Vancouver, British Columbia's Hot Hot Heat has flirted with glossy radio-rock since its watershed Make Up the Breakdown in 2003, but only now has the band embraced it with open arms. Lush and expansive, this newest album opens with the sweeping U2-worthy title track couching the band's usual jittery new wave. The leadoff single "Let Me In" is huge, matching Steve Bays' pleading yelp with hefty drum rolls and slick strings that telegraph Hot Hot Heat's new grown-up phase. If Hot Hot Heat try a little too hard here, they still pile on infectious charm and solid songwriting until resistance seems futile.