As the missing link between the crowd-pleasing stadium rock of Coldplay and U2 and the glossy guitar pop of Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry, Swedish-American quintet Carolina Liar have become a staple of aspirational U.S. dramas (Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill) ever since their 2008 debut, Coming to Terms. Having teamed up with Max Martin yet again, alongside Shellback (Usher) and Tobias Karlsson (Kris Allen), their follow-up, Wild Blessed Freedom, is just as likely to end up soundtracking the fictional problems of good-looking middle-class teens. Indeed, with titles like "Beautiful People," "Daddy's Little Girl," and "King of Broken Hearts," their intentions couldn't be more clearly signposted. It's this slightly cynical approach that proves to be the album's downfall, as while the Edge-style guitar hooks, rousing melodies, and Chad Wolf's impassioned vocals on lead single "Drown" and opening track "Miss America" all help to provide perfectly serviceable examples of polished new wave pop, they all feel like they've emerged from some kind of factory production line designed to create the ultimate epic tearjerking anthem. The record only really begins to carve out its own identity when it stops pursuing such overt televisual ambitions, such as the gentle '70s soft rock of "I Don't Think So," the swooning Killers-esque synth pop of "Me and You," and the melancholic indie folk of "Feel Better Now." If they could have focused their efforts on this less bombastic sound rather than the contrived Snow Patrol-style balladry of "Never Let You Down" and the hopelessly dated punk-pop of closer "All That Comes Out of My Mouth," then Wild Blessed Freedom might not have turned out to be such a clichéd "pop/rock by numbers" affair.
AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien