This Month's Picks

Smith/Kotzen (CD)

Smith/Kotzen
Two guitar heroes, Iron Maiden's Adrian Smith and Richie Kotzen (Poison, Mr. Big), have teamed up for a new project. Smith/Kotzen blends classic rock, blues and '90s alternative - especially since Kotzen's vocals sometimes sound like Chris Cornell's - with melodic hooks and guitar solos. The two artists trade off vocals as effectively as they jam together on guitar. "Taking My Chances" and "Scars" are solid grunge-inspired tracks, but "Running" doubles down on the subtle catchiness of the former and adds an anthemic '80s vibe. Elsewhere "Solar Fire," featuring Iron Maiden's Nicko McBrain on drums, digs into '70s rock and "Glory Road" revels in the blues. More
Genre: Rock

Shore [Crystal Clear Vinyl] (LP)

Fleet Foxes
Fleet Foxes' new album offers gentle indie rock with soaring melodies like "Can I Believe You," as well as quiet folk tunes like "Wading in Waist-High Water." Overall, the arrangements on Shore are intricate and cinematic. "Jara" is rhythmic and engaging with a lovely, jangling energy; "Featherweight" offers a darker melody and steady strumming. Then there is the dynamic, epic track "Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman," which calls to mind Illinois -era Sufjan Stevens. More
Genre: Rock

Songs From The Bardo (CD)

Jesse Paris Smith, Laurie Anderson, Tenzin Choegyal
The initial seed of Songs From The Bardo was planted a decade ago, when Tibetan singer/multi-instrumentalist Tenzin Choegyal and composer/activist Jesse Paris Smith (daughter of Patti) met at a fundraiser to benefit the preservation of Tibetan culture. Along the way performance artist icon Laurie Anderson was added to the fold, and the result is the mesmerizing Bardo , an 80 minute presentation of text from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead . The work is meant to "draw the listener into the present moment and provide a framework for inner exploration," and works beautifully on multiple levels, transformative both musically and mentally while incorporating a rich verbal and instrumental heritage into a contemporary and accessible setting. More
Genre: Rock

All The Good Times (CD)

David Rawlings, Gillian Welch
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings deliver a set of impeccable covers to comfort everyone in lockdown, covering traditional folk tunes as well as songs by Bob Dylan, Norman Blake and John Prine. The duo's harmonies are the star here, but Rawlings does justice to Dylan with his reedy voice in the lead on "Señor" and "Abandoned Love." "Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss" is an enjoyable classic gem, while Prine's "Hello In There" is elegantly melancholy. Then there's Johnny Cash's "Jackson" to shake things up a bit.More
Genre: Country

Changes (CD)

Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber's fifth studio album is a star-studded set that is an unabashed love letter to his wife. The smoothly sweet "Intentions" featuring Quavo will make fans swoon with its gentle, upbeat melody. "Holy ft. Chance The Rapper" is even more uplifting and guileless in its expressions of love, riding along on a catchy beat. A move away from the electronic sounds of 2015's Purpose , Changes is a warm set of songs certain to be heard at more than a few weddings this year. More
Genre: Rock

Free Nationals (CD)

Free Nationals
Anderson .Paak's live band Free Nationals has emerged from the background with both a self-titled debut album and a band documentary, Indigenous To The Funk . The album, which features guests like the late Mac Miller, Kali Uchis, T.I. and Anderson .Paak himself, shows off the group's retro R&B and soul chops. "Time," with Uchis and Miller, is a smooth, bouncy tune with some nicely placed horns near the end. Another impressive track is "On Sight" which brings out the heavy groove and disco-funk, enhanced by Kadhja Bonet's airy vocal reminiscent of Donna Summer. More
Genre: Rock

Becoming (Music from the Netflix Original Documentary) [Score] (CD)

Kamasi Washington
Kamasi Washington's soundtrack to Becoming , the Michelle Obama Netflix documentary, is just what you might expect from the talented saxophonist and the subject matter: classy and uplifting smooth jazz. The title track is soulful with a little retro swing and "The Rhythm Changes" is lightly funky, like the theme song for a smart '70s TV series. "Provocation" stands out for its ominous, dramatic chords and flurrying swells, but the highlights here might be "Southside V.1" and "V.2." The related tracks will put a smile on your face with their feelgood optimism. Remember "Hope"? More
Genre: Jazz, Soundtracks

It Is What It Is (CD)

Thundercat
Thundercat’s It Is What It Is is the type of funky, genre-smashing excursion that transforms each listening experience into a bright, summer day. “This album is about love, loss, life, and the ups and downs that come with that,” says Thundercat and sure enough, over the course of the album’s runtime, you’ve got upbeat moments of delight and you’ve got introspective, soulful passages. Because life is funny, so is Thundercat, with the songs benefiting from unexpected moments of humor in the midst of sultry turns and bouncy melodies. Produced by Flying Lotus and Thundercat, the album also features special appearances by Ty Dolla $ign, Childish Gambino, Lil B, Kamasi Washington, Steve Lacy, Steve Arrington, BADBADNOTGOOD, Louis Cole, and Zack Fox. More

Chilombo (CD)

Jhené Aiko
Jhené Aiko's third studio album Chilombo ranges from soul-searching sweetness to slinky R&B to down-and-dirty swaggering, all of which works with her hushed, sensual voice. There are plenty of '90s throwback R&B vibes here with updated production. "Born Tired" is a gently uplifting track with a lovely melody and "None of Your Concern" is reminiscent of something by Toni Braxton or her contemporaries, but with less melodrama. Then there's the highly explicit -- but sweetly sung -- "P*$$Y FAIRY," which features a video full of Aaliyah-style dancing. More
Genre: Soul

Skeletons (CD)

Brothers Osborne
Country rock duo Brothers Osborne have released their third studio album, Skeletons , named after the bluesy, boot-stomping single. That track and the lively "Dead Man's Curve" show the band leaning more heavily on the rock side this time, highlighting TJ Osborne's deep voice and John Osborne's strong lead guitar. But there is pop-country here too, co-written by genre veterans, like the Shania Twain-ready "All The Good Ones Are," and the feel-good, straight-to-the-radio tune, "I'm Not For Everyone." More
Genre: Country