This Month's Picks

Heaven Adores You [OST] (CD)

Elliott Smith
The soundtrack to the 2014 documentary about the life and music of indie rock singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. In addition to having at least one song from each of his albums, the track listing contains over a dozen previously unreleased songs, spanning the length of his career. More
Genre: Rock, Soundtracks

Jaco Pastorius: Jaco The Film (DVD)

There’s not a whole lot of new information in this documentary, but it’s peerless for the way it sets the scene of South Florida and Jaco Pastorius’s early environment, where he cultivated his unique outlook and sound. Priceless home movie footage and interviews with the principals in his life shed a lot of light on his development. More

Detroit's Son (CD)

Guilty Simpson
Personally my favorite hip hop album this year. Every single person that I’ve played this for freaks out and buys it immediately. You should do the same. I’m a sucker for a gritty baritone. Throw some tense yet hypnotic beats in and I’m good for days. This is a no brainier. More
Genre: Hip Hop

The Doc 2 / 2.5 [Collector's Edition] (CD)

The Game
With Dr. Dre back at the production helm and Game sounding more energized than he has in years, The Documentary 2 indeed lives up to the first volume, which was a West Coast rap classic. With killer guest spots from Drake and Kendrick Lamar, Game sails on some throwback vibes while rapping circles around his young followers. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Blood Rage (BLU)

What do you get if you combine Thanksgiving, Louise Lasser, killer ‘80s synths, and some truly gruesome special effects? Blood Rage , of course! Shot in 1983, Blood Rage is a gloriously gruesome slice of ‘80s slasher heaven now lovingly restored for its first ever official home video release. More

Are You Serious (CD)

Andrew Bird
After four years since his last release, it’s a pleasure to dive back into Andrew Bird’s odd, wonderful little world on Are You Serious . Bird remains both a tinkerer and a perfectionist, moving readily between the stuttering, horn-laden soul “Capsized” and shuffling chamber-folk of “Roma Fade.” He even indulges in a little classic rock worship on the Who-ish “Valleys of the Young.” Yet Bird is at his best crafting intricate pop songs that you have to hold close to understand. He knows how to draw you in, with a playful melody on a song like “Puma.” Then he keeps you interested with brainy acoustic ditties about the science of love (“Chemical Switches”). Are You Serious sets itself apart from prior releases with a high-profile collaboration — the perfectly disjointed breakup duet “Left Handed Kisses,” with Fiona Apple. But those looking for his trademark piercingly beautiful whistle are rewarded on “Saint Preservus,” on which he lets loose over Spanish guitars and a medieval melody. Bird’s music may be an acquired taste for some, but once you’re on board, his music is immensely rewarding to those who listen closely, never more so than on Are You Serious. More
Genre: Rock

Changes (CD)

Charles Bradley
Soul master Charles Bradley’s third album for Daptone is a knockout. Beginning with a genuine interlude of “God Bless America,” the album positions Bradley as someone who has gone though career and personal difficulty and come out on top, sounding upbeat and grateful to be alive and working. On “Good to Be Back Home,” Bradley flips things to explore the dual nature of home and what that means, singing of being back in the land where he was born, “sometimes it hurt so bad, sometimes, so good,” before unleashing a howl that better expresses the notion than any words could. That passion runs through the heartfelt and extremely affecting love songs like “Nobody But You.” Throughout, the Menahan Street Band’s expertly played and recorded horns and jazz grooves deliver the ideal backdrop, while there’s some experimentation beyond classic soul on tracks like “Ain’t Gonna Give It Up,” its moog and bass-drum-heavy groove reminiscent of krautrockers like Can. And if you don’t get goosebumps during Bradley’s cover of Black Sabbath ballad “Changes,” check your pulse. A playful flexibility within the carefully cultivated classic soul sound Bradley and many Daptone artists work within proves to be incredibly fruitful here. It’s Bradley’s best release yet from his second wind, as Bradley remains an expert at getting to the heart of soul music. More
Genre: Soul

Everything You've Come To Expect (CD)

The Last Shadow Puppets
It's rare when an album sounds like the musicians aren't just working, but having fun blasting rock, drinking, and making tracks that pound hard. Everything You've Come To Expect rides on that vibe so perfectly as it almost teeters into chaos. The supergroup features Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, Miles Kane of The Rascals, James Ford of Simian Mobile Disco, and Zach Dawes of Mini Mansions, who all bring a love for '60s rock to create the type of pop album no one makes anymore. Taking a bit of inspiration from Love's seminal Forever Changes , Last Shadow Puppets blend dark, moody rock tracks with beautiful, yet strange orchestral parts that give them more depth and a gut punch of emotion. "Bad Habits" bursts with unpredictable energy and a bass line right out of a Jah Wobble track, but before it starts to derail, the latin horns and messy swirl of looney lyrics get the cocky attitude of the band perfectly. The title track channels Brian Wilson at his most poetic with a pulsating organ riff, bonker lyrics that ooze with acid alliteration, and hazy strings that can float away at any second. It's like the second-coming of the paisley dressed rock that channels the spaciness of "I Am The Walrus" and the louder angst of The Doors into a gooey mix. It's a real trip. More
Genre: Rock

Show Me Your Fangs (CD)

Matt Nathanson
American folk-rocker Matt Nathanson puts out some serious summer vibes on his latest release. On songs like “Giants,” he unleashes upbeat, island guitars, horns and a huge chorus. On this sonically varied release, he sneaks in a song like “Adrenaline,” a sexy nighttime synth jam about longing, while “Headphones” is a song about feeling invincible when you’re listening to music — it helps that the song is immaculately produced, with a headphone-worthy hip hop beat. Nathanson imbues his songs with depth, as well, pairing a song like “Giants” with dark lyrics, singing, “I don’t want to see the wires in the circus anymore … I got a head full of sharp knives.” But for the most part, it’s all about good times. “Gold in the Summertime” a feel-good soul-pop jam that’s perfect for its titular season, its lyrics about “Prince on the radio” while “the city streets glow” practically unrolling the window for you. Summer may be over, but Show Me Your Fangs should keep things popping all year long. More
Genre: Rock

Amy [OST] (CD)

Amy Winehouse, Antonio Pinto
The critically acclaimed documentary  Amy  showed in heartbreaking detail the rise and tragic downfall of Amy Winehouse, who was easily one of the most talented vocalists of her generation. To satiate fans who sadly will never see a third Amy Winehouse album, the Amy soundtrack corrals various live and rare tracks by Winehouse along with Antonio Pinto’s moving score. With another artist, this could feel gratuitous or like grasping at straws, but not so here. Winehouse’s variations on her songs often reveal new shades. A downtempo version of  Back to Black ’s “Unholy War” supersedes the original, its morose intensity better fitting the lyrics’ torch-song devotion. Triumphant live versions of “Rehab” and “Love Is a Losing Game” show an artist at the height of her powers. “Like Smoke” is the single that could have been, and its demo version is a nice window into the song’s development before adding Nas’ rap. Though nothing could fill the place in fans’ hearts where Amy once was, the  Amy  soundtrack is a worthy keepsake and companion to the superb documentary. More
Genre: Rock, Soundtracks