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Family Force 5 –

“Dance or Die”

(EMI/Tooth and Nail) **1/2

Family Force 5 is part of Christian Music Day at Carowinds at 3 p.m. Saturday. With Skillet, Casting Crowns and Leeland. $37.99-$47.99.

Imagine an '80s teen sci-fi movie scored by a mash-up of Limp Bizkit and New Order and you'll get an idea of Family Force 5's wacky inventions.

The group, which has a boy-band past, spins Head Automatica-style electronic-rock. “Dance or Die” attempts to capture the spiky energy of the band's live shows, and at least half of the songs – most notably “Get Your Back Off the Wall” – are designed to get listeners on the dance floor. Even “How in the World,” a song about girls, sticks with the sci-fi concept (“I've searched through all the universe/My heart crash-landed on the Earth”).

The lyrics are pretty ridiculous, but it's all in fun. And even though FF5 is a Christian band, only “D-I-E-4-Y-O-U” could be easily interpreted as a worship song. Yet there's still no mention of God in it, allowing the Atlanta act to appeal to fans of secular music.

Grace Potter

and the Nocturnals – “This is Somewhere”

(Hollywood Records) ***1/2

The Vermont band plays Visulite Theater at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 16. $15. 704-358-9298.

Listening to Grace Potter's third album is like hearing Patty Griffin or Joan Osborne for the first time (with shades of Indigo Girls, Aimee Mann and Sheryl Crow).

“This Is Somewhere” grabs you in a way that 2006's “Nothing But the Water” didn't. The opener, “Ah Mary,” may be the best “Mary” song since Victoria Williams' “Crazy Mary.”

Throughout, Potter sings with a direct assuredness that's sometimes rare in Americana. She can sing prettily (especially on “You May See Me”), but she never loses her infectious energy or plays up her vulnerability.

Backed by a band that matches her energy, Potter straddles pop-rock, roots, bluesy vocals, and '70s rock (Linda Ronstadt comes to mind during “Love Some Time”) – revealing one of the freshest and strongest new voices in Americana.