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Lights and Sounds (Capitol)

When Yellowcard frontman Ryan Key was writing the follow-up to 2003's platinum-selling major-label debut, Ocean Avenue, the Florida-born former punk rocker was struggling for inspiration. Although surrounded by a bevy of beautiful ladies in Los Angeles, Key found himself without a female muse. And so, refusing to let his single status hinder the creative process, he turned introspective and adopted the Hollywood Hills as his dearly beloved. Both seductive and demanding, the character of "Holly Wood" tempts and taunts Key and the rest of the 'Card throughout Lights and Sounds. From the opening orchestral chords of "Three Flights Up" to the slightly unexpected jazz romp "Two Weeks from Twenty," the band is definitely thinking outside of the emo box with this one. The album's highlight is perhaps the least 'Card-sounding song, "How I Go," which features guest vocals from the Dixie Chicks' Natalie Maines. Not too shabby for a bunch of Jacksonville boys who used to open up for No Use for a Name.

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More by Leslie Simon

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