This Month's Picks

If I Should Go Before You (CD)

City and Colour
For his fifth album as City and Colour, Canadian artist Dallas Green updates his folk-rock sound with sophisticated pop touches. The atmospheric “Woman” opens the album on an epic note, as Green sings “my love is neverending” over airy synthesizers and guitars and drums that build from swells into crashes, suggest Bon Iver jamming with Radiohead’s guitar gear. The gentle, nighttime pulse of “Northern Blues” takes its cues from the best tunes by ’80s artists like Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel, a mature blues-pop song that’s easily listenable yet intriguing. The Morricone-tinged title track is a swooning ballad that ranks among his best, drawing inspiration from Jeff Buckley for a stirring showcase of Green’s romantic croon. And to keep things from feeling too sleepy, Green plugs in once and rocks out once in a while, as on the rollicking “Wasted Love,” without diverging too far from his signature sound to keep everything tied together nicely. It can be a bummer when a singer enters his “mature phase,” but Green does so in the best way possible on  If I Should Go Before You , classing up his music without losing the emotional pull that made him so appealing to begin with. More
Genre: Rock

The Best Of The Cutting Edge: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 (CD)

Bob Dylan
The long-running Bootleg Series of Bob Dylan demos and previously unreleased material returns to Dylan’s most acclaimed period for Vol. 12. From 1965-1966, Dylan released his most vaunted recordings in one of the most flawless album runs in history, including  Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited  and  Blonde On Blonde . His every move from this era could be mined for gold, and thankfully,  The Cutting Edge  is more than a historically curious work. These early takes on the songs that would become classics can be drastically different, such as a waltzing rendition of “Like a Rolling Stone” or a rollicking rip through “Visions of Johanna” that greatly contrasts to the placid original and are as fascinating as they are revelatory to listen to. The two-CD and three-LP sets are strong enough on their own accord that no Dylan fan should be without them, while a six-CD deluxe edition with a hardcover book gives Dylan completists more of what they love—fodder to argue over which version of “Desolation Row” or “She’s Your Lover Now” is the essential version. As with the other Bootleg Series releases, Dylan is one of a handful of artists for which this treatment isn’t overkill. Rather, it’s a fascinating glimpse into one of our greatest artist’s most fertile periods, a deep look into the masterpieces that would come to be. More
Genre: Rock

Amy [OST] (CD)

Amy Winehouse
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

Garden Of Delete (CD)

Oneohtrix Point Never
Daniel Lopatin’s second release on Warp as Oneohtrix Point Never is hell-bent on defying expectations. A song like “Ezra” begins with cut-up, recognizable motifs but becomes destroyed by diversions into heart-pounding 16-bit synth chases and vocal snippets emerging from its distorted folds. “I Bite Through It” engages in pop-rock structure yet mocks it at the same time, its sharp notes arranged neatly in sets of eight, which are broken up by a hard-hitting beat and more scenic portions, its tones varying without rhyme or reason across the song’s taut three minutes and 17 seconds. Similarly, the guttural vocals and laser-beam synths exploding out of “Sticky Drama” achieve EDM-style release even as its brutal middle portion feels insanity-inducing. But the need to step away now and then only proves the album’s power. Part of  Garden of Delete ’s strength is its ability to temper its dislocating sense of confusion with clear reference points that help the listener find their balance. The smoky, hollowed-out beginning of “Freaky Eyes” gives way to pipe organs, sudden swells and noises that skitter around like beetles, making it feel like a horror movie soundtrack collage. “Lift’s” disembodied vocal bits and layered piano runs feel alien but are lovely nonetheless. The more pronounced vocals on “Animals” make it easily noticeable, but it would be a standout regardless, its tones disintegrating beautifully while a pitch-shifted vocal comes in and out of static in a way not entirely different from Radiohead. Oneohtrix Point Never is an acquired taste that occasionally feels like it needs Cliff’s Notes to fully grasp. But it’s undoubtedly some of the most intelligent, forward-thinking music being made today. Those willing to take the plunge will be duly rewarded. More

It's A Holiday Soul Party (CD)

Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings come up with a winning set of originals and classic holiday tunes, all rendered in their impeccably performed and produced retro-funk-soul style. The band strikes all the right notes, from celebratory (a “White Christmas” rave-up is an easy standout) to wistful (“Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects” and “Please Come Home for Christmas” are especially touching). It hangs together beautifully as a set and would work perfectly as an upbeat backdrop to any holiday soiree. Pull out the martini glasses and get festive with Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings! More
Genre: Soul, Holiday

This Is War (CD)

Emily Kinney
The Walking Dead star Emily Kinney also makes adorable indie pop that makes Zooey Deschanel seem like a curmudgeon. She’s irresistible, whether singing about being sprung while walking around Echo Park Lake with her beloved (“Birthday Cake”) amid strings and xylophone, or the wrong side of love on the downtrodden country shuffle of “Crash and Burn.” This Is War is charming, for sure, but it’s also expertly made. Who says actors can’t also be singers? Kinney is living proof. More
Genre: Rock

Its Great To Be Alive! (CD)

Drive-By Truckers
Recorded over the course of three nights at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco, Drive-By Truckers’  It’s Great to Be Alive!  functions both as a 35-song document of the Southern rock band’s rollicking live shows and a greatest hits of sorts. From the Neil Young-ish riffs of “Lookout Mountain” to Replacements-inspired, punky numbers like “S**t Shots Count,” the Truckers’ vast catalog is well represented. The performances are raw, but the sound isn’t. It’s perhaps the best way to hear one of the best rock bands alive. More
Genre: Rock

I Am A Problem: Mind In Pieces (CD)

Wolf Eyes
Detroit noise masters Wolf Eyes only slightly tweak their sound on their latest, sweeping together their abstract noise collages into something approaching accessibility. While still plenty volatile and likely fear-inducing to the uninitiated, it’s music that could feasibly appeal to indie rock fans with artsier leanings, as the band now appears on Jack White's Third Man label. Climb up “Enemy Ladder” and get lost in their glorious chaos. More
Genre: Experimental

Liberman (CD)

Vanessa Carlton
When you hear the name Vanessa Carlton, you probably think of the rolling piano from the video to her ubiquitous early ’00s hit “A Thousand Miles.” Carlton’s career has taken interesting diversions since then, but she’s never done something like  Liberman . It’s spare, haunting pop of the highest order. Carlton’s buttery voice and adept piano playing are obviously well-trained, but she shows renewed restraint and skill of arrangement on songs like “Blue Piano,” which could give Lykke Li a run for her money with its acoustic strums, perfectly placed piano arpeggios, and minor-key melody. “Pour a drink, here, have another, ’cause this is gonna blow your mind,” she sings on the buoyant “Operator.” She ain’t kidding. More
Genre: Rock

We Love Disney (CD)

Various Artists
The third entry in the  We Love Disney  series recruits some of today's greatest pop singers to redo classic and contemporary songs from the Disney songbook. Gwen Stefani, Fall Out Boy, Ne-Yo, Kacey Musgraves and more record new gems to share with you and your kids. More
Genre: Rock, Kids