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Hell On An Angel (CD)

Country artist Dillon Carmichael makes his debut with Hell On An Angel, an album that shows off his southern rock influences but still provides plenty of twang. The title track and “Dancin' Away with my Heart” feature rock n' roll guitar licks that complement Carmichael's deep voice. “It's Simple” on the other hand floats on plaintive steel guitar and “Might Be a Cowboy” is a straightforward outlaw country ode. Produced by Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell), the album revels in the earthy country style of Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings.

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Rockstone (CD)

With their sophomore LP Rockstone, Jr. Thomas & The Volcanos have created a throwback gem that sounds like it comes from the vaults, with the relevance and contemporary spirit of the modern era. Part of this timelessness is likely due to Tom McDowall's (aka Jr. Thomas) inspirations for the album. He has stated that Rockstone is more than a simple love letter to Jamaican roots music, it’s a love letter to family and friends, his wife, and his bandmates. That amount of tender care and devotion is evident in the album: the melodies never take a misstep, the lyrics are soulful and heartfelt, and the entire thing glistens like a jewel. It’s an album filled with gratitude and grace — not to mention some killer roots rock numbers.

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Una Noche Con Rubén Blades (CD)

Salsa legend Ruben Blades joined Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra in 2014 for a critically acclaimed series that crossed genres and blended swing standards with Blades' own Afro-Cuban numbers. Now the experience is available on CD, with highlights including the singer's “Pedro Navaja” and “El Cantante” as well as Cole Porter's “Begin the Beguine,” all arranged by the orchestra's bassist Carlos Henriques. On the single, “Ban Ban Quere,” the exciting combination of rhythms from these virtuoso players dances around Blades' flexible voice with an infectious live energy.

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Live From The Ryman (CD)

Most bands go on tour to promote their new albums. Then there are those whose albums almost function as a promotion for the majesty of their live act. When you have a backing band as talented as Jason Isbell’s, the latter approach makes sense. The 400 Unit have been the musical bedrock behind ex-Drive-By Trucker Jason Isbell for about a decade, and while their chops are surely evident on Isbell’s studio albums, they absolutely get their moment to shine on Live from the Ryman, a collection of 13 songs culled from the group’s six nights at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium last October. Particularly epic is the rendition of “Last of My Kind” from 2017’s The Nashville Sound, as what is a relatively straightforward acoustic ballad is transformed into a sprawling, country-rock anthem with a huge, gospel-tinged aura, no doubt aided in part from the audience audibly singing along. While listening to the 400 Unit rip it up on your headphones is no substitute for being there, Live from the Ryman will get you pretty darn close.

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Unfriended: Dark Web (BLU)

When a 20-something finds a cache of hidden files on his new laptop, he and his friends are unwittingly thrust into the depths of the dark web. They soon discover someone has been watching their every move and will go to unimaginable lengths to protect the dark web.

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Vital Idol: Revitalized (CD)

Over 30 years after the remix album Vital Idol was released, comes this compilation of brand-new remixes of Billy's classic hits and some lesser known gems features Moby, Crystal Method, Paul Oakenfold, RAC, Cray, and more.

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Look Now (CD)

At this point, Elvis Costello has truly done it all. Out of nearly any living musician, it would be understandable for him to rest on his laurels at this point, yet the dude never stops giving us more and more. With his album count already well into the thirties, Look Now finds new ways to tweak the sound that has unquestionably become his own, which is, at its heart, a blend of Bacharach-inspired pop classicism and good old fashioned rock ‘n roll. Taking the ornate and lavish orchestration of Imperial Bedroom as a starting point, Costello modifies this formula to feature a heavy '70s soul influence, from the subtle Shaft guitars that pop on “Unwanted Number” to the Philly sound strings that grace “Suspect My Tears.” There are backing vocals all over the place, easily the most on a Costello record since the R&B-loving Punch The Clock, and they provide an authentic texture to complement Costello’s nostalgia and are a perfect counterpoint to his nasally baritone. Look Now is the sound of a genius; endlessly, restlessly tinkering with the music he loves.

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Wasteland (CD)

Kevin Starrs aka Uncle Acid and his merry band of metal mayhem makers return for a killer fifth album of heavy stoner rock anthems. “I See Through You” tears a whole through its space-rock opening with a slick Bowie-ish riff and Starrs’ Ozzyriffic vocals. Thick slabs of monolithic distortion rain down like hail on the nearly nine-minute “No Return,” while the trim and sexy “Shockwave City” gets its kicks from lacing Beatlesesque melodies with riffs that snarl like motorbikes ripping through the desert in the dead of night. Though Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats don’t reinvent the proto-metal wheel here, they’re clearly running with the crown bestowed to them from touring with Black Sabbath and taking the sound to its logical extreme without losing their lo-fi cool. All hail Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, gleeful harbingers of doom!

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MassEducation (CD)

Masseduction was a logical evolution of Annie Clark’s sound from orchestrally minded indie hopeful to full-fledged second coming of Prince. But, great as that album is, perhaps some fans were longing for Clark’s early days before the latex-wearing guitar virtuoso became her persona du jour. MassEducation takes us back to Clark’s roots with stripped-down renditions of Masseduction’s synth-funk jams. “Savior” stands stark naked with staccato piano taking the place of drum-machine beats and Clark’s voice going from vamp to vulnerable with ease. Masseduction’s already lovely “Slow Disco” become the stunning “Slow Slow Disco,” allowing us to focus on Clark’s remarkable, theatrical voice and subtly heartrending lyrics. At times, MassEducation reminds us of Tori Amos’ heyday, placing Clark’s taste for the bizarre among traditional instrumentation makes for not only a striking juxtaposition, but a reminder of just how great a singer and performer she is without the extra dressing—after all, she got her big break singing backup for rock choir The Polyphonic Spree. With MassEducation, St. Vincent adds yet another layer to what has easily become one of the most exciting careers and discographies in modern pop music.

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Drogas Wave (CD)

Lupe Fiasco’s seventh LP, DROGAS Wave, comes out swinging. It’s lengthy, clocking in at twenty-four tracks — fortunately there’s no filler on here. Lupe imagine a narrative, an alternate reality in which the slaves who died on the brutal passages overseas are reborn as underwater creatures called LongChains who guide the ocean waves, helping others to freedom. Similarly, on “Jonylah Forever” Lupe reimagines the too brief life of Jonylah Watkins, the infant killed by gunfire in Chicago, and what she would’ve done, how she would’ve made a difference in her community if she lived. Tribute is also paid to drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi on “Alan Forever.” While it may sound dark, there’s a buoyancy to Lupe’s lyrics and a wondrous dreaminess to the melodies. The experience of listening to the full album, one track after another, is a thing of heartbreaking, hope-filled beauty.

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