This Month's Picks

Unbreakable [w/free Sticker] (CD)

Janet Jackson
The queen is back! On her latest release, Janet Jackson has teamed up once again with Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, the production duo with whom she made some of her most celebrated works ( Control, Rhythm Nation 1814 ). While it’s tempting to call every new album by an established artist who hasn’t released a great album in a while a “comeback album,”  Unbreakable ’s the real deal. The first single “No Sleeep,” luxuriates in humid quiet storm vibes, while Janet sings about one of her favorite subjects (take a guess what that is), and a guest rap from J. Cole keeps things youthful. On the stunning title track, Jackson’s voice sounds immaculate, singing about commitment over a dazzling layers of whispery backup vocals and stuttering beats. If it sounds like Jackson’s settling in instead of trying in vain to keep up with the kids she’s inspired, that’s only partially true. Most of  Unbreakable  is classy and elegant in a way we haven’t heard since the brilliant  The Velvet Rope , while tracks like the minimalist bounce of “Burn It Up!” (featuring Missy Elliott) prove she’s still perfectly capable of coming out with a banging club track whenever she wants. Madonna, this is how aging gracefully as a pop star is done. More
Genre: Soul

Allas Sak (CD)

Swedish psych-rockers Dungen indulge in some proggy theatrics on their latest, upending dad rock clichés to make classic sounding rock ‘n’ roll cool and mysterious again in the process. More
Genre: Rock

Dodge & Burn (CD)

The Dead Weather
Alison Mosshart’s vocals tear down the heavens on the Zeppelin-esque new single “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” by The Dead Weather, the supergroup featuring Jack White on drums. That’s just the start of an album that doubles down on its members’ strengths and explores fertile new territory. Guitarist/organist Dean Fertita (QOTSA) and bassist Jack Lawrence (The Raconteurs) provide the dueling riffage that sends a track like “Buzzkill(er)” sailing deep into your skull. Mosshart and White wail through a skronky blues stomp on “Let Me Through,” while White raps his way through the sinister “Three Dollar Hat” and takes the lead on the noirish shuffle of “Rough Detective.” Lawrence’s sinister, fuzzed out bass helps set the state for the awesomely bleaked out “Mile Markers,” and Fertita’s organ pulse and serpentine guitar snarls on “Cop and Go” are nothing to mess with. With  Dodge & Burn , The Dead Weather remain the most badass arena fillers around, four killer musicians unleashed and doing their thing with abandon.  More
Genre: Rock

Music Complete (CD)

New Order
Against all odds, new-wave greats New Order have returned for a 10th studio album that lives up to the band’s formidable past. From the first notes of shimmering first single “Restless,” it’s clear we’re dealing with the classic New Order sound, as the band returns to the more electronic (and current, frankly) sound of their late-’80s and early-’90s work. The way “Singularity” builds from moody Joy Division-esque post-punk into danceable hi-NRG synths will have fans thanking the heavens for the return of original keyboardist Gillian Gilbert. “Plastic” introduces some retro house synths (but at this point, what is retro anyway, as this sound still gets floated around everywhere) and adds some gleefully silly lyrics (“It’s official, you’re fantastic” goes the refrain). “Tutti Frutti’s” glittering synths combine nicely with Bernard Sumner’s weary vocals in a style reminiscent of one of their greatest hits, “True Faith.” The track’s killer disco bassline more than proves Tom Chapman’s mettle (in the absence of original bassist Peter Hook), which continues into the housey “People on the High Line.” A few guest appearances add to the proceedings—Iggy Pop delivers a Tom Waits-ish spoken word over the coldwave beat of “Stray Dog,” and La Roux’s Elly Jackson adds vibrant backup vocals to several tracks. By focusing on consistency, the band doesn’t come off like it’s trying too hard on  Music Complete . Instead, the album exists perfectly within the band’s legendary catalog. More
Genre: Rock

b'lieve i'm goin down... (CD)

Kurt Vile
The crown prince of stonery folk-rock and onetime War on Drug returns after breakthrough album  Wakin On a Pretty Daze . Big-time production hasn’t dulled Vile’s touch one bit; it’s merely given his stellar songs their appropriate due, as he moves from chatty rockers like “Pretty Pimpin” to Western-tinged tunes like “I’m an Outlaw” and his bread and butter — cerebral, spacey folk songs like “That’s Life, tho (almost hate to say).” Vile’s willingness to switch it up a bit, on the ’70s art-pop-style “Wheelhouse,” for instance, makes for a more dynamic listen. And his surrealist wordplay comes throw more clearly than ever before, revealing evocative imagery within Vile’s Neil Young-ish ramblings — on “Pretty Pimin,” Vile doesn’t recognize his own reflection, singing, “I proceeded to brush some stranger’s teeth/But they were my teeth, and I was weightless/Just quivering like some leaf come in the window of a restroom.” Wherever Vile lands, we’re apt to follow. More
Genre: Rock

E.S.P. (CD)

Erick Sermon
Twenty-seven years in the game, the Green-Eyed Bandit hasn't let the punches come through. Nearly ten years since his last album,  E.S.P.  (short for Erick Sermon's Perception) is classic, pre-synthesized hip-hop straight from New York. Funky, brassy and borderline cheesy samples smoothly loop over old school flows that give this long-awaited album the smooth, vintage sheen that has been ignored since the days when Wu-Tang's Killa Beez ran the scene. To just give it that perfect veneer, the final touch is throwing in special guests like Redman, Method Man, Mary J. Blige and Too Short. If you're nostalgic for when New York was the prime scene of hip-hop,  E.S.P.  might convince you again that the east coast is the best coast. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Every Open Eye (CD)

Scottish trio Chvrches made electro-pop gems splattered with emotion on their beguiling debut. For album No. 2, they just get craftier, creating songs that sound like the soundtrack to your wildest dreams. “Never Ending Circles” opens the album on a note of big, open-armed camaraderie, the kind of drinking song or team anthem that’s nearly impossible to pull off. That sense of momentum carries through song after song. “Leave a Trace” finds frontwoman Lauren Mayberry’s vocals at their strongest — hers is the kind of voice that makes it impossible to feel lonely or sad when you’re listening to it. “Keep You On My Side” is a hi-NRG-inspired jam that calls to mind the best of Erasure or early Depeche Mode with its fluttering synths, but its hard-hitting beat updates the sound for the EDM generation.  Every Open Eye  doesn’t quite have a song that lands with the same power as “The Mother We Share” or “Gun,” but  The Bones of What You Believe  was an album of peaks and valleys, whereas this one is a steadier ride, coasting on the band’s increased confidence., Chvrches’ life-embracing pop music on  Every Open Eye  is something to cherish. More
Genre: Rock

Dogs On Acid (CD)

Dogs On Acid
Philly’s Dogs on Acid are emo revivalists with brains and chops, tearing through snaking rockers like “The Prick” with blistering riffs and earnest (but never cloying) vocals. More
Genre: Rock

Evermore: The Art Of Duality (CD)

The Underachievers
Coming from the Beast Coast collective that's previously given us Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$, The Underachievers are more psychedelic, spacey and druggy than their musical partners. Going into a totally opposite direction of P-funk nostalgia or tinny, ultra-produced beats, Evermore opts to use new age flourishes to create something more disorienting, stranger, and a lot more interesting. Split into two parts, Phase I is the yogi influence side, but Phase II is the dark layer underneath all the head-trip beats and a reminder that The Underachievers are still two guys who grew up in Flatbush. Under the tutelage of Flying Lotus, The Underachievers sophomore album is continuing to prove that 2015 is the year of spiritual black America in music along with Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly , D'Angelo's The Black Messiah , and Kamasi Washington's The Epic . More
Genre: Hip Hop

Gates Of Gold (CD)

Los Lobos
Los Lobos keep their East L.A. roquero flag flying on their 24th (!) release and first in five years. Gates of Gold recalls their 1992 masterpiece Kiko , with experimental, atmospheric pieces like "When We Were Free" among full-blown rockers like "Mis-Treater Boogie Blues." More
Genre: Rock