This Month's Picks

I Like Fun (CD)

They Might Be Giants
I Like Fun? After 30-some odd years together, is that the sentiment TMBG’s hyper-literate brain trust has boiled down to? Is it a goof or another children’s album? The two Johns are the consummate professionals - the songwriter’s songwriters, as much mischievous sonic and lyrical tinkerers as they are masters of the craft. It doesn’t take long for those irreverent tendencies to show up, approximately 3 seconds in fact, as John Flansburg compares the loudness of a drum to a big rock that crushes you on opening track “Let’s Get This Over With.” From there we get the daydreaming thoughts of a murdered spouse over tango piano, a power-pop rumination on the indescribable, and a track that postulates a race of lake monsters that come up for air to vote on Election Day. “That’s my fun,” to hear the title track tell it. Agreed. More
Genre: Rock

Wrong Creatures (CD)

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club might be the most aptly-named group of the past couple decades, since those four words kind of evoke their whole deal. Since their 2001 debut, BRMC’s formula has been largely un-freaked with, and it’s a sturdy, un-freakable one at that. Jesus & Mary Chain noise over a T-Rex stomp, featuring the Velvet Underground’s brittle tenderness in their softer moments and the ‘Stones particularly stoned version of the blues in their boogie. Wrong Creatures , the eighth album by the rock ‘n roll lifers, turns the volume down a bit on a slower, more meditative collection of narcotized ballads. Yet while the result is an album that leans more towards Chris Isaak than J. Spacemen, this remains a BRMC album through and through. So if you’re still wondering what to expect, just reread the band’s name again. More
Genre: Rock

Victoria & Abdul (BLU)

Victoria & Abdul tells the story of Queen Victoria's friendship with her Indian attendant Abdul Karim, a relationship considered so scandalous by her family that they attempted to wipe it from history after her death. Judi Dench is in her element here and sparkles as the feisty queen. More

Home Again (BLU)

Home Again is a feel-good romcom about a newly separated wealthy woman who takes in three aspiring filmmakers, sparking romantic complications. Director Hallie Meyers-Shyer comes from romcom royalty and makes good use of it here; her parents Nancy Meyers and Charles Shyers are responsible for such hits as It’s Complicated , Something’s Gotta Give , and Father of the Bride . More

Asking Alexandria (CD)

Asking Alexandria
British metalcore band Asking Alexandria's self-titled release boasts the return of original singer Danny Worsnop after his 2015 departure. It's a well-produced sonic blast of aggressive and multi-layered guitars and synths with mature, self-assured lyrics. The songs move from infectious to gritty to crushing hard rock, with synth-heavy "Empire" emerging as a reflective, melodic standout. More
Genre: Rock

What Makes You Country (CD)

Luke Bryan
Don’t say Luke Bryan ain’t country enough. Yeah, there’s a legitimate hip-hop beat on the R&B-inspired hit single “Light Up.” Yes, his subject matter may venture beyond the topic of drinking and women every now and again. But whatever you do, don’t say Luke Bryan ain’t country enough, because he’s got words for you, buster, courtesy of the title track. “I got my dirt road cred when I was twelve, on a no cab trailer hauling them bales.” Darn right. Now here’s a thought we can all get behind: “It might not have been you, but I can’t judge, just be proud of what makes you country.” There’s room for everyone on What Makes You Country . Even you city slickers can dig that. More
Genre: Country

The Tragically Hip: Long Time Running (DVD)

It's hard not to get heavy when discussing this documentary due to the untimely passing of lead singer Gord Downie. This last hurrah to one of Canada's greatest rock bands of all time has taken on an increasingly somber tone since his death in October. But as a testament to the band's unique style and passionate fanbase, Long Time Running is a hell of a high note to end it on. The documentary takes you through Tragically Hip's Man Machine Poem tour that was announced following Downie's sudden brain cancer diagnosis. Though that sad element does linger throughout the documentary, the film is more of a celebration of their relationships and creative fellowship during the 30+ years they've been around. But don't let this scare you away if you are new to the band and know nothing about them. The documentary functions on so many levels, exploring all the different facets of working together and their creative output while also being a pretty solid primer on the band's history. Even if you're not necessarily interested in their music, it's a powerful cinematic document of a particular and specific end to an era. How could you not be moved by the gripping moments where Downie and the band discuss the possible future for the band after his passing? This does not take into account the concert footage that is some of the most exciting and documented live band footage since the heyday of the '70s rock doc. Seeing Downie openly condemn Justin Trudeau's treatment of Canada's native people on stage during "Grace, Too" is a perfectly delivered political diatribe at the end of this epic track. Long Time Running is a living testament to one of the greats of contemporary rock while never wallowing in its all pity and sadness. It's a celebratory farewell that captures life better than most films do. More

From A Room: Volume 2 (CD)

Chris Stapleton
A songwriter in the outlaw country tradition, Chris Stapleton’s From A Room: Volume 2 serves up rootsy, atmospheric Americana that stands in stark contrast to the over-polished country pop dominating the airwaves. The album is a fine showcase for Stapleton’s many gifts; alternating between laid-back, down-home jams and slightly ominous forays into the Southern Gothic, each track is a world unto itself. Stapleton clearly knows what he’s doing: his ability to weave country soul and Appalachian folk into his work adds an extra level of sonic intrigue and an infusion of heart. This smart, authentic, and evocative album is one of the year’s best. More
Genre: Country

Songs Of Experience (CD)

U2
On Songs Of Experience , U2 channels the power of music to heal political divisions and find hope in the struggle. It’s a strong, cohesive album with Bono delivering his message with impassioned sincerity while stadium-ready riffs ring throughout the air. Basically, it’s classic U2 sounding more timely than ever. This earnest, adroit album will have listeners believing love, music, and compassion can change the world, too. More
Genre: Rock

Ella At Zardi's (CD)

Ella Fitzgerald
Here’s a secret: old, never-before released live recordings don’t come around every day. Especially not of old jazz legends in their prime. In 2017, when blown-out cell phone footage of any Ed Sheeran concert known to man is readily available online, this point might get lost a bit. So when a rare concert of Ella Fitzgerald performing at the short-lived Hollywood nightclub Zardi’s Jazzland in 1956 surfaces, you better bet you’ve got something special on your hands. Ella at Zardi’s presents this context entirely: there’s crowd noise, back and forth between audience and performer, clicking cocktails, and all the assorted ambiance of a dusky jazz nightclub to be found in this mix. But, most of all, it’s Ella herself. From the moment she begins to sing until the moment she stops, she owns all the air in the room. Norman Granz, founder of Verve records, makes the opening introduction to the Zardi’s congregation: “This is for real, for me she’s the greatest there is – Miss Ella Fitzgerald!” Can you really argue with that? More
Genre: Jazz