Nick Carter / Jordan Knight

Nick & Knight

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Boy band icons separated by a generation but united by nostalgia, Nick Carter and Jordan Knight first worked together professionally when Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block teamed for a 2011 tour. A few years later, following individual reunion albums by both groups, Carter and Knight teamed for their own project, the somewhat punningly titled 2014 album Nick & Knight. The title's allusion to the television network Nick at Nite suggests there's a bit of nostalgia to this pairing and sonically this album does throw back to the past -- not the 2000s or the '90s, the eras when these pop stars shone brightest, but rather the '80s, specifically the analog synth-driven post-disco of Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. Of course, this was a touchstone for another 2010s record by a former boy idol, namely Justin Timberlake's 2013 opus The 20/20 Experience, but where that two-part album emphasized elongated, elliptical structures, Nick & Knight is bright, crisp, and concise, proudly a pop album and not psychdelicized neo-soul. This is to the record's benefit. Apart from the ballads, which are too in sway to the canny chill of Ryan Tedder, this is happily chipper music, celebrating its winks toward the past without indulging in unrepentant nostalgia. Trading leads and harmonizing so easily they often seem seamless, Carter and Knight ride easy throughout this record: they're not working too hard, but they are invested, choosing (and sometimes writing) age-appropriate songs that nevertheless skirt stuffiness. At its best, Nick & Knight provides some giddy fun -- the opening stretch of "One More Time," "Nobody Better," "Switch," and "Drive My Car" is particularly breezy, knowing neo-disco that doesn't skimp on the hooks -- and at its worst, it merely coasts on an agreeable style that is often more alluring than respective new millennial reunions from either BSB or NKOTB. A nice surprise, then.

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