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Sam Phillips, ‘Push Any Button’

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Sam Phillips is the ultimate Mensa Society/singer-songwriter cult figure. She jumps around genres like a Bowie-esque chameleon, but this new effort is a staunch improvement from some of her musical wanderlust. She says this “represents the dream of the record I would have made had I been recording in the ’60s and early ’70s.” Her vision is realized. The irrepressibly positive “When I’m Alone” has a driving Everly Brothers feel with the Section Quartet adding strings reminiscent of Phil Spector. “You Know I Won’t,” has a Beatlesesque pop sound with la-la-la harmonies and a twangy, George Harrison-like guitar. And “Pretty Time Bomb” has doo-wop harmonies underscored by a vintage drum kit played by Jay Bellerose, who was on the Alison Krauss/Robert Plant tour. Phillips sings with a convincing passion, though her poetic lyrics do bog down at times (pray tell, what does “stereo realist/ disconnected exposure meter” mean?). But that’s more than offset by pithy, emotion-rich lyrics elsewhere, as in “Speaking of Pictures,” where she asks: “Are you with me so far?” Yes, we are, and we like it. (Out Tuesday)

Essential “When I’m Alone”

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