Phillip Phillips takes a giant leap forward on his sophomore album, "Behind the Light" (19/Interscope).

Phillips hasn't abandoned the formula that landed him the smash hit "Home" and made him "American Idol's" biggest success since Carrie Underwood. His updating of Dave Matthews-like musicianship and rock crooning combined with Mumford & Sons' driving, thump-oriented folk is as winning as ever.

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The first single, "Raging Fire," shows how he's mastered that combination, as do a string of radio-friendly anthems such as "Midnight Sun" and "Alive Again Me." But it's the bluesier, more experimental numbers such as "Thicket" and "Trigger" where "Behind the Light" really starts to shine.


"Behind the Light"


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BOTTOM LINE Leaving his "American Idol" past behind.