Little Big Town, "Pain Killer" (Capitol Nashville)
How do the four vocalists of Little Big Town respond to the platinum success of the group's most rewarded album, 2012's "Tornado?" Certainly not by playing it safe.
On their sixth album, "Pain Killer," Little Big Town — Karen Fairchild, Kimberly Schlapman, Phillip Sweet and Jimi Westbrook — experiment endlessly with harmonies, arrangements, loops and sound effects. The whistles, odd beats and unconventional guitar work that woozily circle through the first single, "Day Drinking," only hint at the shenanigans the singers and their producer Jay Joyce cram into these 13 new songs.
Most of it is for the sake of fun — you can hear how gleeful the group is as they test outlandish ideas on such songs as "Quit Breaking Up With Me," ''Good People," the Lorde-like "Things You Don't Think About" and the title song. But they also show off the beauty of their blended voices on the hushed "Silver and Gold" and the stunning "Live Forever," written by the group with Jeremy Spillman and Ryan Tyndell.
The Grammy-winning band only stumbles on "Faster Gun," with its awkward cowboy similes. The rest of the album keeps raising the bar: Little Big Town, from early on, never followed country music formulas. With "Pain Killer," their boldness continues to pay off.