Personnel: David Cook (guitar, programming); Andy Skib (vocals, guitar, programming); Nick Gibson, Jennie Skib (vocals); Nick Adams (drums); Chris Reardon (programming).
Audio Mixer: Greg Strizek.
Recording information: Locust King; Quad Studios; Red Rabbit Studios; Safehouse East; The Moose Lodge.
Photographer: Rob Thacker.
Resurfacing with Digital Vein on an independent label after departing from RCA in 2012, American Idol Season Seven winner David Cook doesn't seize this new beginning as an opportunity to redefine his music. As it turns out, when left to his own devices, Cook is very happy to continue to make bombastic arena rock, favoring anthems that play to the rafters and power ballads designed for daylight hours. Crossover is where his heart lies, so he crafts Digital Vein -- which largely consists of new numbers, although it revives the 2013 single "Laying Me Low," and reinterprets Chris Isaak's sexy standard "Wicked Game," so it feels slightly chillier -- to be the kind of record that sounds equally at home over the loudspeaker in an outdoor mall, the waiting office of your local PCP or bumper music on the CW. Cook is hardly selling out. If anything, the fact that he channels such mainstream aspirations into a self-released record proves there's no cynicism in this enterprise: he believes in this stuff. That earnestness carries Digital Vein through patches of generic bluster -- usually arriving in the ballads, but not always ("Kiss & Tell" sounds like sweetened Filter, for better or worse) -- and if it's unlikely Cook could bring this brand of mid-2000s mainstream rock into the Top 40 in 2015, he at least delivers an album that satisfies. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine