If the title of Brandon Flowers’s second solo album refers to eliciting a positive response, than the Killers’ frontman’s confidence was well-placed. “The Desired Effect” absolutely brims with pop-rock goodness, spanning several styles that are tied together by the singer’s gifts for combining an instantly memorable tune, clever turns of phrase, ace instrumentation, and his airy yet powerful voice. From stem to stern — and with respect to his day job — it kills.
Recorded with producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Haim, Vampire Weekend) and featuring contributions from many talented friends — including Bruce Hornsby, Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, and drummers Kenny Aronoff, Joey Waronker, and the Killers’ Ronnie Vannucci — the 10-track collection skips from percolating rockers to winsome balladry, and shimmering synth pop to soaring arena anthems. (The deluxe edition includes two bonus tracks, the funky, fiery title song and an alternate take of “Between You and Me.”
The album kicks off with what sounds like a recounting of Flowers’s own blessings on “Dreams Come True.” In his patented U2-meets-Springsteen style, Flowers sings of being teased by the promises and visions of the highway as seen from the back of a limo, and of falling in love after the requisite kissing of frogs. A female backing vocalist provides sweet harmony as he cautions against holding one’s breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop as life passes you by.
The aptly urgent “Can’t Deny My Love” summons a giddy ’80s vibe, one that Flowers takes a step further on the Bronski Beat-sampling, Annie Lennox-channeling, Tennant-assisting “I Can Change,” where he beseeches a lover by crooning the dangerously magical words of the title.
Those aforementioned female vocals — some provided by the Dirty Projectors’ Angel Deradoorian – return to complement vague reggae accents in the cheeky “Still Want You” — in which our narrator insists that come nuclear threat or climate change or rising crime, nothing will deter his desire — and inject fiery soul into “Never Get You Right.”
That last song is one high among many, as Flowers observes of someone who he’s been watching that “they’ll turn you into something whether you are it or not,” over a going-down-easy clap track that gives way to a funky clatter and insistent synth string flourishes.
The other predicted effect of the album? A desire to play it repeatedly. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Never Get You Right”
Brandon Flowers plays the House of Blues on Aug. 3.