The second solo outing from Brandon Flowers makes you wonder what life would have been like for him had he never achieved smash success as frontman for the Killers. As Flowers told the BBC in an interview piece that ran this week, much of the subject matter on The Desired Effect deals with the pressures men face in order to provide for their families -- an issue Flowers admits he doesn't have to worry about but nevertheless insists that he's "not far removed from people who do."

Flowers' new material certainly benefits from being observed through the lens of everyday struggles, and he is wise to continue mining the workaday perspective of his own experience prior to fame and fortune. (Flowers also told the BBC that his highest pre-Killers ambition was to work his way up to being a valet in Las Vegas, where he grew up.)

On the flipside, The Desired Effect also sees Flowers diving unabashedly into pop. By employing guest musicians such as Bruce Hornsby and Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys, it's clear that Flowers isn't clinging to any of the hard-edged pretenses that come with identifying as a quote-unquote "rock musician." He and producer Ariel Rechtshaid (Vampire Weekend, HAIM, Charli XCX) allowed The Desired Effect to settle into a comfortable '80s nostalgia groove. (Even the typeface on the album cover looks like a throwback.)

Still, Flowers doesn't just settle for mimicking sounds from Hornsby and Tennant's glory days. Instead, he deftly balances commercial appeal with both his own substance as a songwriter and the depth of the characters he brings to life.

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