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Album review: OneRepublic's 'Waking Up'

November 16, 2009 |  6:00 pm
Oner_240- A muscular, Timbaland-shaped shadow loomed over the unlikely success of OneRepublic's debut album "Dreaming Out Loud." His inescapable remix of the band's single, "Apologize," vaulted the group to multi-platinum sales and took frontman Ryan Tedder into the upper ranks of songwriting pens-for-hire in pop for Leona Lewis, Rihanna, Beyoncé and many others.

Much of that record and Tedder's outside writing were a weak broth of dorm-room-canoodling ballads and R&B with very little rhythm or blues. Fortunately, on OneRepublic's second album "Waking Up," they've internalized a lot of the things that made Timbaland such a compelling producer -- that good sounds are paramount, songs should move in odd directions and many different ideas can constitute a hook.

That's not to say "Waking Up" sounds anything like Aaliyah or Missy Elliott. But the filtered dubstep drum loops and the Afro-pop marimba of "Missing Persons 1 & 2" have a real playfulness missing from the ceaseless Cinemascope of Tedder's older efforts. "Marchin' On" takes a backing vocal hook and writes a whole song around it, earning the bigness of its flags-and-fighting imagery. Even the overreaching piano musings like "All This Time" have a solo-McCartney goofy sweetness about them.

The band needs to stop mistaking the cello as an inherently "meaningful" instrument -- it's too often deployed for maximum syrupiness. But Timbaland should be proud; OneRepublic is using his old tricks even better than he is lately.

-- August Brown

"Waking Up"
Mosley Music/Interscope
Three stars (Out of four)