PharrellG I R L/Columbia Records/Back Lot Music

On the heels of two monster hits where he was the co-star - the Daft Punk jaunty funk jam "Get Lucky" and the much vilified yet utterly catchy "Blurred Lines" with Robin Thicke - Pharrell is taking the lead with the relentless "Happy," which appears on the "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack and was nominated for best original song at Sunday's Oscars (it lost to "Let It Go" from "Frozen"). The cheerful tune is also on his second studio album, "G I R L," released, perhaps coincidentally, the day after the Academy Award winners were announced.

The 10-track set is an ode to the female form and spirit, peppered with sexy vibes and brash come-ons. A definite change from his raspier, more alternative first album, which wasn't particularly successful, "G I R L" proves Pharrell, who is a member of N.E.R.D. and the hit-making Neptunes, is a true, and exceptional, frontman.

Cynics will dismiss the album as a shameless attempt to derail the accusations of misogyny leveled at "Blurred Lines."

After all, Pharrell is cheeky and sexy, and his lyrics sometimes blur the lines between playful seduction and outright possession.

"Ain't no sense in you roaming around, if I can't have you nobody can," he says in "Hunter," but maybe that's his way of saying he can't help it if the ladies find him attractive and he reciprocates.

After all, this is the entire ethos of the album: love in its purest form, love at the first frisson, love settled on a cloud, love of the flesh.

The record's tempo matches the upbeat "Happy," and it deploys killer hooks. The sound is eclectic, ranging from dramatic violins in the Daft Punk-assisted "Gust of Wind" to Motown disco beats in "Hunter" and tribal drums in "Lost Queen." Persistent echoes of Michael Jackson-style sound lurk on the album, from the sultry "Gush" to the deliciously head-bopping "Marilyn Monroe" to the Justin Timberlake-featured "Brand New."

A definite homage to women is the female empowerment ballad "Know Who You Are," where Pharrell sings with piano queen Alicia Keys. He croons on the mellow reggae tune, "I know who you are and I know what you're feeling." No doubt about where he stands on gender equality there.

By Cristina Jaleru, Associated Press

PhantogramVoices/Republic Records

The so-called "sophomore slump" is something most artists aim to avoid but somehow manage to hit with precision.

Not so with Phantogram. The New York-based duo, whose songs blend deep and defined throbbing foundations with swirling but dirgelike grooves that float and careen around in a whirl of melody, has safely hopped over that trap with "Voices," its new 11-track album. It's the follow-up to the electronic rock act's 2009 debut, "Eyelid Movies," and the new album comes after Phantogram's well-received collaborations with Big Boi of Outkast.

There's no slumping on "Voices" to be found anywhere except for the heavy-handed lyrics and layer upon layer of heavy tones that wrap listeners in a mummy's bandages of longing and regret as is experienced on "Never Going Home."

But it's not all melancholy. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter have found an equilibrium that pulls the very best of each other's talents to the forefront and blends it for songs that have a stunning heft.

This isn't music for jubilant parties. This is music for listening, parsing for meaning, for introspection and for making bold declarations that, as the song "Howling at the Moon" proclaims: "Let the shooting stars, let the crashing cars, let the future pass, wasn't made to last."

Phantogram has crafted an epochal album, a generational capstone that will reside in the playlists for a generation to come and returned to in times of heady joy and nostalgic reminiscence, too.

By Matt Moore, Associated Press