Haim Springs Surprise, Kings of Leon Boost Volume: CDs

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Source: Big Hassle PR/Polydor via Bloomberg

The cover of "Days Are Gone," the debut album by the three Californian sisters in Haim. The sisters, Este, from left, Danielle and Alana, grew up playing classic rock songs with their parents in a family band, called Rockinhaim.

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Source: Big Hassle PR/Polydor via Bloomberg

The cover of "Days Are Gone," the debut album by the three Californian sisters in Haim. The sisters, Este, from left, Danielle and Alana, grew up playing classic rock songs with their parents in a family band, called Rockinhaim. Close

The cover of "Days Are Gone," the debut album by the three Californian sisters in Haim. The sisters, Este, from left,... Read More

Source: Big Hassle PR/A&M via Bloomberg

Sting poses for "The Last Ship," the new album inspired by Sting's forthcoming play of the same name. The work draws upon his memories of growing up in the shadow of the Swan Hunters Shipyard in Wallsend, U.K. Close

Sting poses for "The Last Ship," the new album inspired by Sting's forthcoming play of the same name. The work draws... Read More

Photographer: Dan Winters/Big Hassle PR via Bloomberg

U.S. rock band the Kings of Leon. From left to right are bassist Jared Followill, vocalist and guitarist Caleb Followill, guitarist Matthew Followill, and drummer Nathan Followill. Close

U.S. rock band the Kings of Leon. From left to right are bassist Jared Followill, vocalist and guitarist Caleb... Read More

Source: Big Hassle PR/RCA Records via Bloomberg

The deluxe edition cover of "Mechanical Bull," the sixth studio album by the Kings of Leon. The band members intended to relax at their Nashville homes after a world tour and ended up recording songs such as the single "Supersoaker." Close

The deluxe edition cover of "Mechanical Bull," the sixth studio album by the Kings of Leon. The band members intended... Read More

Source: The Outside Organisation via Bloomberg

The cover of "The Next Day Extra" by David Bowie. The three-disc collector edition, out in November, includes five unheard tracks, two new remixes and a DVD. Close

The cover of "The Next Day Extra" by David Bowie. The three-disc collector edition, out in November, includes five... Read More

Haim’s debut album, released after months of hope and hype, isn’t quite what we expected.

“Days Are Gone” comes weighed down with baggage as one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year. The sort of thing that can both shift millions of copies and win Grammys.

It probably will. What we get is a classy, polished piece of pop -- with echoes of Phil Collins, the Bangles and Stevie Nicks. Mercifully it’s better than the Fleetwood Mac-lite tribute it once threatened to be.

Sadly, it’s also not the rough-hewn rock that Haim plays live. At Glastonbury, the band was all raw blues guitar, sexy singing, trashed drums, unhinged singing and enormous promise.

Some of the tracks have been around for months, and they come with sturdy hooks, overcoming the army of producers who almost overcook the project.

This is a very good start, with a greater record struggling to get out. Perhaps at some stage we will hear the rougher demos. In the meantime, Haim’s concerts are better displays of the group’s considerable potential. Rating: ****.

Sting’s first album of new material in a decade is one of his most ambitious.

“The Last Ship” features music that will be included in a play of the same name. The former Police singer remembers the shipyards of his youth, with guest appearances from northern English artists such as Jimmy Nail and Brian Johnson of AC/DC.

It may need a translation for U.S. audiences when the piece opens on Broadway next year. Still, it explores universal themes of family, poverty and homecoming. The music varies little from the sound that Sting has perfected in his solo career.

His name stirs mixed emotions. For some, the man is a cut above the usual rocker: an articulate, intelligent figure who would be a megastar even if he never made another thing. For others, he is unbearably smug and self-assured.

This collection is worth a fair listen. ****.

The Kings of Leon’s “Mechanical Bull” shows the southern rockers positioning even more as a stadium act. The leadoff single “Supersoaker” points the way to 42 minutes of bombast, pomp and pumped-up guitars. Rating: **.

David Bowie’s surprise comeback album of this year, now in the running for the Mercury Prize, appears as “The Next Day Extra” in November.

The three-disc set includes five new tracks, a DVD and a 10-minute version of “Love Is Lost,” remixed by James Murphy, fresh from production duties on the new Arcade Fire LP which will also feature Bowie on the title track “Reflektor.” Both CDs will have the sort of effortless cool that the Kings of Leon would die for. Based on what’s released so far, rating ****.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on the art market, Ryan Sutton on U.S. dining and Laurie Muchnick on books.

To contact the writer on the story: Mark Beech in London at mbeech@bloomberg.net or http://twitter.com/Mark_Beech.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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