This Month's Picks

All American Made (CD)

Margo Price
All American Made is all killer and no filler. With her rich voice, brilliant melodies, and raw lyrics, Margo Price announces herself as the latest in a long lineage of hard-hitting female country singers. Listen to this album and you’ll see: Ms. Price may not be surrounded by legend (yet) in the way her predecessors have been, but she sure does seem to carry around that undefinable “it” that marks an artist as a future classic. All American Made is a rich tapestry of life in hardscrabble modern America. More
Genre: Country

Colors (CD)

Beck
Much has been made of Beck’s Grammy win for Album of the Year with 2014’s Morning Phase , his downcast collection of folk-rock slow burners and spiritual successor to Sea Change . Yes, it can be agreed upon that the award seemed ludicrously overdue for one of the most creative and influential forces in all of pop music from the '90s onward. But did that album truly merit the distinction, over Beyonce no less? Did Kanye West have a point after all? Do you even care about the Grammys?   Beck is nothing if not consistently (re)inventive, and true to chameleonic form, abandons both the style and substance of that wildly successful album completely. You won’t find any ruminative folk dirges or melancholy Americana here. With a sound that matches its title, Colors is a collection largely made up of upbeat, party-minded pop music, produced with a 21st century sheen that would easily slot any of these tunes between radio favorites such as Maroon 5 or Foals. Even the song titles reflect Beck’s unselfconscious sense of jubilance: “Up All Night,” “I’m So Free,” and, quite simply, “Wow.” Yet this isn’t some spur of the moment sugar rush by the 47-year old songwriter. Colors has been gestating for quite some time now, with sessions beginning as far back as 2013; lead-off single “Dreams” was released in June of 2015, just a few months removed from that would-be contentious Grammy win.   “Dreams” serves as the album’s clearest sense of purpose, with sharp electric guitar stabs, a propulsive dance beat, and an almost millennial whoop-y wordless refrain. Beck glides between his natural register and capable falsetto over an unabashedly crowd-pleasing melody, yet at five minutes long, incorporates plenty of sonic quirks and studio wizardry into the mix. The neon dance floor-ready exuberance hinted at here is increased on “Up All Night,” elsewhere the Beatles-by-Britpop bounce of “Dear Life” is contrasted to the downright goofiness of “Wow,” which melds nonsensical slack-rap to sunny Coachella-rock choruses, and functions as the most audacious Beck song since “Hell Yes.” Colors is a complete left turn from Morning Light , sounding a little like previous releases while simultaneously sounding like nothing he’s ever put out before. In short, it’s the most Beck-like Beck album you could expect. More
Genre: Rock

Thrum (CD)

Joe Henry
Joe Henry’s gift for sparse, lovely American-tinged songs is front-and-center on his latest, Thrum . The songs are languidly paced, rooted in another slower time, where bluesmen rambled country roads and made deals with the devil to become artistic greats. This is the lineage from which Henry seemingly descends. Yet, there’s a complexity to his songs, both lyrically and melodically, that gives his work real staying power. Thrum is a quietly lovely gut punch. More
Genre: Rock

Queens Of The Breakers (CD)

The Barr Brothers
Sibling duo The Barr Brothers set a richly atmospheric tone on their third LP, Queen of the Breakers . These well-constructed folk songs venture into indie, Americana, and southern rock territory, each track building off the previous one. It’s perfect road trip music, suited to restless souls and wandering hearts. This is the sort of album that slowly worms its way into to your heart and stays on your record player for months. More
Genre: Folk

Pinewood Smile (CD)

The Darkness
The Darkness create a type of hard rock we desperately need. Instead of the garage scene that takes their aesthetic and sound from the world of beat-up, proto-punk 45s found in discount bins, The Darkness are the mixed-up and unholy spiritual successors to both Cheap Trick and Iron Maiden with songs that are poppier and catchier while splitting your head in two. Their fifth album, Pinewood Smile , might be their most polished album yet with pitch-perfect production by Grammy-winning producer Adrian Busby, but they still don't sacrifice any of their fiery energy. To have an album this bold and loud in 2017, as music has gotten calmer and softer, feels like a reaction to the current state of pop itself. Lead singer Justin Hawkins even says that the album was made deliberately chaotic and wild, otherwise "the last bastion of cultural sensibility will fall and our airwaves will be polluted by meaningless pop purveyed by arseholes and morons." Though "All The Pretty Girls" has the elements of a classic, there's something beautifully reckless and ear-shattering that adds a dimension of insanity to the track. At its core, the song is pure power pop, like what your parents could've listened to, but in today's musical landscape it feels like a middle-finger to the establishment. Justin Hawkins screeches into a mic so powerfully, especially during the chorus, that it would even give Bruce Dickinson's legendary howl a run for its money. "Solid Gold" feels more like '70s AM Gold than rock from today, which is probably due to the addition of Rufus Taylor, son of Queen's Rod Taylor, who bangs on the drums like he's in a Foghat cover band. But it feels like an authentic callback to the '70s, not some weirdo novelty act. The Darkness is the real deal that makes rock feel like ROCK, down to the banging electric guitar solos and riffs to pound beer to. Drop this on your turntable, spark one up, and get in for the ride this album is going to take you on. More
Genre: Rock

Undivided Heart & Soul (CD)

JD McPherson
On his third album, JD McPherson switches gears a bit from the throwback, R&B-infused '50s rock that defined his previous two releases. The production quality on Undivided Heart & Soul has evolved from purposefully retro to decidedly modern. Unlike earlier albums, you won’t mistake this upon first listen for a genuine artifact from the golden age of rock & soul. Though McPherson’s playing is largely the same, the crisp production places this album fully in the 21st century; a bluesy, airtight production akin to something Mark Ronson might help craft. The songs themselves incorporate a bit of this modern influence: “Lucky Penny” brings to mind current bearers of the blues-rock torch such as The Black Keys or Cage The Elephant. “Hunting For Sugar” takes what might be a Smokey Robinson ballad and introduces it to neo-soul, with spacey reverb galore and percussion that seems to emulate a sampled break beat. No, JD McPherson doesn’t live in the past, but his music is adept at embodying what makes those old soul records so compelling. On Undivided Heart & Soul , those records get a hi-fi sonic makeover. More
Genre: Rockabilly

Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights (CD)

The White Buffalo
White Buffalo returns with Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights , a slow and sad but ultimately intriguing new LP. Lead single “The Observatory” hits all the right notes, opening with a simple strummed guitar melody and frontman Jake Smith’s timeless, deeply-timbered voice, his lyrics exploring themes of common ground and disconnection. The album treads similar territory, delving into topics of relationships, loss, and transcendence. It’s a strong, evocative record and a wonderful showcase for Smith’s incredible voice that seems to leap off the LP and into the room. More
Genre: Rock

As You Please (CD)

Citizen
Citizen’s As You Please is a welcome throwback to the golden era of emo and alt-rock. Missing the aggression, melancholy, and dark melodies of the best of the genre? Sick of upbeat poppy choruses that sound tailor-made for the Hot Topic webstore? This album is for you. Forceful, intense, but extremely enjoyable, As You Please hits that sweet spot between nostalgia and innovation. More
Genre: Rock

Take Me Apart (CD)

Kelela
On Take Me Apart , Kelela proves once again that she’s at the forefront of new, dark, and dreamy R&B. The album is lush, heady, and captivating. In short, it’s got that unique Kelela stamp. Although it’s her show, the songstress has also assembled a dream team for this one; some of the songs are co-written by The xx’s Romy Madley Croft and production duties are split between Arca, Kingdom, Jam City, Bok Bok, and Ariel Rechtshaid. Filled with deep grooves and an alluring atmosphere, Take Me Apart will be in heavy rotation. More
Genre: Soul

Cult of Chucky (BLU)

Another video-only installment of the “Chucky” franchise, Cult of Chucky follows 2013’s Curse of Chucky and returns the series to a more straightforward horror premise, rather than the comedy-horror of the franchise’s middle-era films. Cult of Chucky gives the series a sick psychological twist as it finds the characters of the previous film in an insane asylum trapped with a Chucky doll, plus Jennifer Tilly is back as Tiffany, bride of Chucky! More