Bruce Springsteen

American Beauty

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Outtakes from an album that's essentially a collection of leftovers aren't necessarily an enticing prospect but Bruce Springsteen's American Beauty -- an exclusive EP released for Record Store Day 2014, just a few months after the High Hopes LP; it wound up available digitally after its vinyl debut -- doesn't exactly feel like an afterthought. Maybe that's due to High Hopes not quite feeling as cohesive as the average Springsteen album. A collection of older tracks, covers, and songs that didn't fit a concept, there was an appealing shagginess to High Hopes, and so is the case with American Beauty. Make no mistake, its four songs also have the highly buffed sheen so typical of latter-day Bruce -- he likes what the studio can do -- but underneath that gloss is a quartet of oddities. The title song is slightly over-produced, relying on insistent fist-pumping rhythms underscored by synths; "Mary Mary" is a sober yet sweet, intimate love song that slowly builds in intensity; "Hurry Up Sundown" is a ringing anthem grounded in '60s pop delivered with the bombast of the '80s, the kind of thing that keeps Little Steven's Underground Garage in business; "Hey Blue Eyes" is a mournful acoustic folk ballad, suitable for Devils & Dust. Only four songs but there's something to suit every kind of Springsteen fan, and it's an appropriate coda to a record that also pleased all his constituencies while satisfying none.