Nov 2017

From A Room: Volume 2 (CD)

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.

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Songs Of Experience (CD)

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.

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Utopia (CD)

Bjork’s latest, Utopia, is the logical follow-up to her previous work on Vulnicura, another collaboration with producer Arca. This ethereal, abstract, intriguing album was written to (not surprisingly) explore the concept of utopias, but also to process the current political, environmental, and personal challenges the singer was facing. There’s an airiness to the album’s heady, otherworldly tracks, an interesting effect conjured up by the incorporation of a 12-piece Icelandic flute section into the melodies. Utopia is Bjork at her best: boundary-pushing, challenging, and emotionally connected.

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Native Invader (CD)

Tori Amos is in fine form on Native Invader, a cohesive, darkly dreamy vision of our current political and environmental turmoil. Passionate, lush, and alive, this collection of songs is both urgent and reassuring. Amos’ voice seems to whisper in the listener’s ear, “I know what you’re feeling. I understand.” The world may be a frightening place, Native Invader seems to say, but there’s beauty in the darkness, if you can find it, and hope, if you keep fighting.

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Lovely Creatures: The Best Of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (1984-2014)  (LP)

Lovely Creatures does the seemingly impossible: distilling Nick Cave’s three-decades-long solo career into a representative, moving “best of” collection. Covering territory from the early ‘80s to 2013’s Push the Sky Away, the collection showcases Cave’s constant evolution as an artist and proves exactly why he is a legend. What’s great about Lovely Creatures is that it works for longtime die-hard fans as well as those who may be looking for an introduction to his oeuvre. Depending on which version you pick up, not only will you find the expected excellent songwriting, but also some very cool bonus material in the form of a hardcover book filled with essays and personal photos, plus a DVD with live performances, interviews, and rare footage. A fitting tribute to one of the most pioneering, distinctive artists of our time.

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Low In High School (CD)

A seemingly endless well of droll creativity and romantic melodies, Morrissey’s latest is another resounding success. Low in High School sees Moz experimenting with song structure and lyrical themes, but his velveteen voice and lively wit give the LP the sound of a future classic. Dreamy and sometimes melancholy, it’s albums like this that remind us why we keep coming back for more from this Salford lad. Each listen reveals another fascinating yarn, another relatable sentiment.

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Radio Silence (CD)

Radio Silence has to be one of Talib Kweli’s finest efforts in recent memory. Smart, uplifting, and seriously groovy, it’s the perfect combination of Kweli’s lyrical prowess and radio-friendly indie rap. Of course, there are some serious power players on this latest release (Rick Ross, for one, appears on the single “Heads Up Eyes Open”), which adds to the fun but never dims Kweli’s shine. He’s a national treasure and this album does an excellent job of showcasing the way he uses insightful lyrics and catchy melodies to pack a punch.

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Soul Of A Woman (CD)

Sharon Jones' final album is lush, vibrant, and very alive — a lasting monument to the singer and her amazing career. Flying high on classic soul and powerful gospel vibes, Soul of a Woman practically bursts with hope, joy, and love. Destined to be a classic, this album shows us exactly how much we’ve lost with the passing of the incredible Ms. Jones. She truly was the real deal and this album proves it.

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Blade Runner 2049 [OST] (CD)

Ambient and crystalline, Hans Zimmer’s score for Blade Runner 2049 is a worthy mirror for this thoughtful, breathtaking film. The music is precise, evocative, and truly spectacular. This transportive soundtrack features electronic soundscapes and the occasional Sinatra and Elvis numbers — it’s a fitting and disconcerting followup to Vangelis’ legendary score for the first film. Cool as ice, devastating, and a total joy for listeners.

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The Iceberg (CD)

Washington, D.C. based rapper Oddisee has been prolifically releasing material since 2008, and The Iceberg marks his 11th album in that span. Explicitly political and topical, Oddisee shies away from any frivolous hip-hop clichés to rail against heavy topics like racism, sexism, and hypocrisy in this ultra-contentious day and age. This is the ugly reflection of 2017 America, with Oddisee more than happy to hold the mirror. An accomplished producer as well, Oddisee crafts a sound that seamlessly combines programmed beats with live band instrumentation, creating a dynamic atmosphere that brings a sense of buoyancy to the often weighty subject matter at hand. Forget the tired “conscious rap” tag; The Iceberg is the sound of a gifted MC simply telling it like it is.

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