Campbell: Tuned In: Sean Kingston, 2020Soundsystem, Ten Out of Tenn

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Sean Kingston’s ‘Tomorrow’ is worse than yesterday

“TOMORROW,” Sean Kingston (Epic)

Although Sean Kingston’s “Tomorrow” features would-be romance and comedy, if it were a movie, it would be a tragedy.

The charismatic, 19-year-old Jamaican-American singer is a nonentity on this vapid follow-up to his 2007 self-titled debut.

Whereas “Sean Kingston” was a random, filler-loaded introduction to the singer, “Tomorrow” is worse, a lazy exercise in formula that rarely tries to showcase any of the personality Kingston displayed on his 2007 breakout single “Beautiful Girls.”

Sure, there’s manufactured excitement on the new club cut “Fire Burning,” with the singer exclaiming at the onset, “Somebody call 9-1-1! Shorty fire burning on the dance floor!” But Kingston could be anybody.

Literally. His voice is so heavily modulated, on a near-nonstop basis, that he doesn’t even sound human. Instead, the heavy processing makes his vocals sound like a shrill, electronic whine.

Besides the heated “Fire Burning,” “Tomorrow’s” paltry highlights are the reggae diversion “Island Queen,” boosted by harmonic backing vocals, and the clomping/stomping rhythms of “War” and “My Girlfriend.”

Otherwise, there’s an assortment of clunky, blaring ballads — “Magical,” “Twist Ya Around,” “Wrap U Around Me” and “Over” — plus a wasted duet with Wyclef Jean (“Ice Cream Girl”) and an ill-advised collaboration with pop-rock band Good Charlotte (“Shoulda Let U Go”) that works out badly for everyone involved.

And lyrically, “Tomorrow” establishes the singer as simplistic a pop figure as Soulja Boy is a rapper.

After Kingston’s humble 2007 debut, “Tomorrow” proves to be a disheartening backward step.

Rating (five possible): 2

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2020Soundsystem sings softly, carries a big kick

“FALLING,” 2020Soundsystem (2020Vision)

Crooners have a trick in which they’ll do their belting over the subtlest of arrangements, maybe nothing more than a soft piano, to exaggerate the drama in their vocal delivery.

2020Soundsystem takes the opposite approach on “Falling.”

The electronic-dance quartet, which used guest vocalists on its 2006 debut “No Order,” puts one of its own at the microphone for the new release. And Fernando Pulichino’s singing is almost distractingly low-key. Yet although his voice is weak, he dishes it out in such deadpan fashion that it yields an effective result, his gentle input awash in the aggressive music of his band.

On the track “Everytime,” for instance, Pulichino is swept into the staticky ebb and flow of a genius rhythm generated by bubbling electro, hard-slapping beat and a little funk. Meanwhile, his subtle tones on the churning “Broken” are symbolic of a lost soul wandering through a primitive, nocturnal netherworld, and somehow his tentative vocals fold into the mounting tension of “Satellite” and actually fuel the momentum.

But too much shouldn’t be made of the vocals on “Falling,” which opens with a real siren, not the singing kind. Vocals aren’t an important factor on an “Ocean” that’s vast on the surface and swirling underneath or the hyper-urgent-fluttering “Bisco” or the hard-driving “Psycho” paced by unearthly plunges.

With penultimate track “Closure,” 2020Soundsystem achieves a cinematic aura suitable for a film’s closing credits, the emotion of the song derived more from the grandiose electric riffs than from the echoing vocal refrain.

However, those vocals serve an intriguing supporting role that ultimately makes the compelling “Falling” all the better.

Rating: 4

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Ten Out of Tenn collective crushes cliches

“TOT VOLUME 3,” Ten Out of Tenn (Ready Set)

Ten Out of Tenn is an ever-changing collaborative group of Tennessee-based indie artists who are technically singer-songwriters. But don’t mistake them as a gang of acoustic-guitar-toting stereotypes.

The current lineup, featuring eight new additions plus bandleader K.S. Rhoads and founding member Trent Dabbs, is as eclectic as artistic collectives out of Los Angeles or New York. And many of the performers originally hail from far beyond Tennessee — Chicago, Pennsylvania, even Australia.

Each member has one track on “TOT Volume 3,” and any preconceptions listeners might bring to the release are blown away from the pounding, electronic-tinged opener by Kyle Andrews, a life-affirming “Sushi” that proves a shock to the singer/songwriter system.

Later, Andrew Belle brings to mind Montreal’s vibrant indie-pop scene with a graceful, string-laden “Static Waves” featuring guest vocals by TOT alumna Katie Herzig; Rhoads experiments with a modified soul/hip-hop sound on the bass-heavy “Could This Be Love”; Dabbs offers an adult pop/rock “Your Side Now”; and Madi Diaz contributes a hefty-to-the-point-of-lumbering “Let’s Go.” Yet Nashville-native Mikky Ekko might be the biggest cliche-buster of all, his “It’s Only You” swarming in electronica as he dives into a dreamlike study on obsession.

Also, Knoxville-native Ashley Monroe, who has the most distinctly Southern accent in the group, sets her sweetly straightforward “Has Anybody Ever Told You” on a stately piano foundation, while Joy Williams offers a stylish counterpart in “Charmed Life.”

The release fizzles at the end with Sarah Siskind’s uneven warble bringing down “Falling Stars” and Jedd Hughes’ “I Only Ever Tried” closing out the collection with an anonymous hum. However, by that point the members of TOT have already proven themselves a diverse and entertaining lot.

Rating: 3-1/2

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