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What We're Listening To

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Silver & gold

Stevens, Sufjan.

CD P STE1002

Silver & Gold, the 2012 follow-up to 2006's Songs for Christmas, offers up another five-EP set of schizophrenic seasonal cheer from one of indie pop's most prolific and maddeningly detail-oriented overachievers. Housed in an incredibly colorful box that yields volumes 6-10 of the series, they are presented in meticulously decorated, single cardboard sleeves that feel like part of a graphic design thesis, and are accompanied by an 80-page booklet filled with lyrics, chord charts, childhood photos, and personal and production liner notes peppered with rainbow headers, temporary tattoos that include a skeleton Santa, a Manga unicorn and an emo-Jesus, and a construct-it-yourself holiday ornament (comic book-style instructions are provided). Stevens provides plenty of traditional holiday cheer ("Joy to the World," "Angels We Have Heard on High," "Silent Night," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" (which clocks in at 40 seconds and is performed only on recorders), and his band of disparate merry makers, who include Aaron and Bryce Dessner (the National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), and assorted members of the Castanets and the Danielson Famile, among others, who help to keep things lively and spontaneous, resulting in an audio experience that's akin to pressing your ear against the door of a rehearsal room in a church basement, or watching a Wes Anderson movie while listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas. ~ James Christopher Monger

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


Simply Christmas

Odom, Jr, Leslie.

Leslie Odom Jr., the Tony Award winning star of Hamilton, follows up the release of his debut album with a holiday collection that includes My Favorite Things; Mary Did You Know; and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.

Also available to stream from Hoopla. https://www.hoopladigital.com/title/11765790

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


Angelica

Feriante, Andre

Speaking eloquently with the voice of the classical Spanish nylon string guitar, Italian-born, Seattle-based Andre Feriante combines elements of classical and flamenco, the lush melodies of Brazil, the rhythmic subtleties of Spain, and the tenderness of Italian romanticism to create the vibe of Angelica, appropriately subtitled An Invitation to Dream. Marking his debut on Passage Records, this silky, melodic, and highly atmospheric 16-song collection is an appropriate introductory showcase to Feriante's unique and spontaneous, highly improvisational style. Angelica offers an intimate look at the multifaceted approach the guitarist brings to his original compositions and performance techniques. Jonathan Widran

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


Kid A

Radiohead (Musical group)

CD MR RAD7753

As perhaps befitting an album that’s coolly, self-consciously alienating, Kid A takes time to unfold; multiple plays are necessary just to discern the music's form, to get a handle on quiet, drifting, minimally arranged songs with no hooks. This emphasis on texture, this reliance on elliptical songs, means that Kid A is easily the most successful electronica album from a rock band: it doesn't even sound like the work of a rock band, even if it does sound like Radiohead. Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Recommended by Brian

Book


Station to station

Bowie, David.

CD MR BOWIE

David Bowie takes the soul sound of Young Americans and adds a robotic twist with Station to Station. The album includes the tracks Golden Years; Wild is the Wind; and TVC15.

suggested by Brian

Book


Kaleidoscope heart

Bareilles, Sara.

CD MR BAR352

Opening with an airy a cappella title track, Kaleidoscope Heart takes greater sonic risks than Little Voice largely because Sara Bareilles can afford these left turns: she has a big pop hit underneath her belt, so she aims to buttress her artistic reputation. Bareilles hasn’t turned into Joanna Newsom overnight -- she remains steeped in the ‘70s, building her melodies around loping piano progressions, draping even her sprightlier moments in strings -- but there’s a greater variety of textures here along with stark melancholy undercurrents on her ballads, particularly the closing pair “Breathe Again” and “Blue Bird.” She executes this contemplation well, but her strength remains elongated melodies so well-crafted and memorable that they seem familiar upon first listen. Despite lushly detailed arrangements, Bareilles never pushes this distinctly commercial gift too hard, letting the songs flow easily, and this gentleness is almost as appealing as those classically constructed melodies, tunes so softly insistent they could conceivably appear on adult contemporary charts anytime from 1971 to 2010. Because Bareilles is so naturally commercial, it’s easy to dismiss these gifts, but her effortless music should not be taken for granted; it’s tough to write tunes that play this easy that wind up enduring, and Bareilles has now done that two albums in a row, which is pretty impressive. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway

Streisand, Barbra.

The legendary Barbra Streisand is joined by some of the biggest stars in Hollywood for a duets album featuring some of Broadway's greatest songs. Guests include Seth MacFarlane, Hugh Jackman, Jamie Foxx, and Melissa McCarthy.

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


Southbound

Doobie Brothers, composer, performer.

CD U DOOBIE

A throwback to the golden age of star-studded tributes, the Doobie Brothers' 2014 Southbound essentially follows the same playbook as the Beach Boys' 1996 album Stars and Stripes, Vol. 1: team up a classic rock band with a bunch of contemporary country stars to sing the hits everybody knows and loves. Where Stars and Stripes, Vol. 1 was an uneasy fit -- the Beach Boys are many things but a country band is not one of them -- Southbound feels smooth and natural, possibly because nobody involved dared to mess much with the original arrangements, a move that underscores how this is very much a record where singers are sitting in with the Doobies and not the other way around. Whenever there's a flash of modernization, it is minimal, as on the light decorative rhythmic loops and mandolin samples on "Listen to the Music," where Blake Shelton takes co-lead with Tom Johnston as Hunter Hayes lays down some beefy guitar. Johnston and Patrick Simmons dominate Southbound because their songs lend themselves better to country singers; they're either driving rockers or backwoods-inflected boogie, settings that are comfortable for neo-jam bands (Zac Brown Band, "Black Water"), swaggering cowboys (Toby Keith, "Long Train Runnin'" and Chris Young, "China Grove"), modern-day strummers (Jerrod Niemann, "South City Midnight Lady"), and arena country heroes (Brad Paisley, "Rockin' Down the Highway"). That said, the three Michael McDonald tunes -- "What a Fool Believes" (Sara Evans), "Takin' It to the Streets" (Love and Theft), "You Belong to Me" (Amanda Sudano Ramirez, featuring Vince Gill on guitar) -- all feel at home because this is a Doobie Brothers album, after all, and they've long ago found a way to reconcile the two sides of their musical personality. If there isn't much reinvention to be found on Southbound, that's fine: the record was meant as an open-hearted celebration of the Doobies' biggest hits and that's precisely what it delivers. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


In honor of Duke

Marcus Roberts Trio.

CD R MAR630

In Honor of Duke, a tribute to Duke Ellington lovingly performed by the Marcus Roberts Trio, displays two facets of Roberts' performing style. One is his unrepentant traditionalism. Roberts likes his jazz pure, and delving into Ellington's music provided a whole palette of bits to shine and rearrange without having to cross any musical boundaries. This album also shows off Roberts' technical virtuosity -- he is an expert arranger and an extremely gifted pianist, and he has surrounded himself with the kind of musicians who can make his interpretations communicate the delicacy and energy of the compositions they are based on. Roberts isn't really breaking any new ground here, but you may not care. The music is lush and the musicianship is precise, making for a very enjoyable album for Ellington fans and jazz fans in general. ~ Stacia Proefrock

suggested by Brian

Music CD


Traces of you

Shankar, Anoushka.

CD MI SHANKAR

For sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar's second offering for Deutsche Grammophon, she stays closer to home musically than she did on 2011's widely celebrated Traveller. Opener and first single "The Sun Won’t Set" is one of three tracks to feature the voice of half-sister Norah Jones, whose haunting, bluesy vocal is adorned only by Shankar's sitar, a classical guitar, and Ghatam (a percussion instrument). The title track evokes the loss and spirit of her father in an uplifting way. A sprightly, syncopated rhythm track undergirds Jones' drifting vocal as Shankar's sitar alternately drones and accents alongside a tabla, glockenspiel, and guitar. It is one of the set's standout tracks.Throughout Traces of You, Shankar allows her vulnerability as a human being -- even in the instrumentals -- to freely converse with her authority as a musician and composer. Sawhney is an empathic producer balancing the sides, allowing her wide-ranging and integrative musical ideas to take root and flower even as they express tenderness, sadness, grace, and gratitude. ~ Thom Jurek

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price

Nelson, Willie.

Willie Nelson pays tribute to one of his most legendary influences and longtime friends, Ray Price. The album includes twelve interpretations of songs that Price made famous.

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


This unruly mess I've made

Macklemore, 1983- composer, performer.

CD MH MACKLEM

Second studio album by hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

Suggested by Liz

Music CD


Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.

Rateliff, Nathaniel, composer, performer.

CD MR RATELIF

It's fitting that the self-titled album will bear the iconic logo of Stax Records, because at certain moments Rateliff seems to be channeling soul greats like Otis Redding and Sam & Dave. But as this gifted multi-instrumentalist honors the legacy of the legendary Memphis label, he's also setting out into audacious new territory.

Suggested by Liz

Music CD


Playing the angel

Depeche Mode (Musical group)

CD MR DEPECHE

The eleventh full-length album by Depeche Mode, featuring twelve songs, including "Suffer Well," "I Want It All," "Precious," and "Nothing's Impossible."

Suggested by Lindsey

Music CD


The Queen is dead

Smiths (Musical group)

CD MR SMI5426

The Queen Is Dead is the third studio album by the English rock band the Smiths. It was released on 16 June 1986 in the United Kingdom by Rough Trade Records and released in the United States on 23 June 1986 through Sire Records. It has sold consistently well ever since and has received unanimous critical acclaim, with NME listing it as the greatest album of all time in 2013, ranking above The Beatles and others alike.

Suggested by Lindsey

Music CD


Parklife

Blur (Musical group)

CD MR BLUR

Parklife is the third studio album by the English rock band Blur, released in April 1994 on Food Records. After disappointing sales for their previous album Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993), Parklife returned Blur to prominence in the UK, helped by its four hit singles: "Girls & Boys", "End of a Century", "Parklife" and "To the End". Certified four times platinum in the United Kingdom, in the year following its release the album came to define the emerging Britpop scene, along with the album Definitely Maybe by rivals Oasis. Britpop in turn would form the backbone of the broader Cool Britannia movement. Parklife therefore has attained a cultural significance above and beyond its considerable sales and critical acclaim, cementing its status as a landmark in British rock music. It has sold over five million copies worldwide.

Suggested by Lindsey

Music CD


Pirate radio motion picture soundtrack.

CD K PIR3630

Pirate Radio is the newest ensemble comedy from filmmaker Richard Curtis (screenwriter of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, and writer/director of Love Actually), spinning the irreverent yet fact-based comedic tale of a seafaring band of rogue rock and roll deejays whose “pirate radio” captivated and inspired 1960s Britain. Playing the music that rocked a nation and a decade, the group boldly and hilariously defies the government that tried to shut them down. This is the motion picture soundtrack, with selections principally originally released in the 1960s.

Suggested by Lindsey

Music CD


The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the spiders from Mars

Bowie, David, composer, performer.

CD MR BOWIE

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (often shortened to Ziggy Stardust) is the fifth studio album by English musician David Bowie. The album tells the story of Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a rock star who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. Bowie created Ziggy Stardust while in New York City promoting Hunky Dory and performed as him on a tour of the United Kingdom, Japan and North America. The album, and the character of Ziggy Stardust, was known for its glam rock influences and themes of sexual exploration and social commentary. These factors, coupled with the ambiguity surrounding Bowie's sexuality and fuelled by a ground-breaking performance of "Starman" on Top of the Pops, led to the album being met with controversy and since hailed as a seminal work.

Suggested by Lindsey

Music CD


Coming home

Bridges, Leon, composer, performer.

CD M BRIDGES

It's difficult to imagine a 1963 Columbia release from an artist whose look and sound echo 1911. In 2015, however, the thought of a young artist seemingly transported from a bygone era -- 52 years prior, to be exact -- requires no imagination whatsoever. Here's Leon Bridges. He was born in 1989. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist takes it back to the early '60s, slightly earlier than the majority of soul-rooted artists, including labelmates Raphael Saadiq, who have favored a vintage approach over a contemporary one. If he were a shouter, Bridges would likely come across as a caricature, but he works the deeply heartfelt but understated angle -- most of the songs are ballads, and only a couple work up a sweat -- without any sense of affectation. While each line is believable, "Lisa Sawyer" is all the way real, a sweet and languid biographical sketch of Bridges' mother. It's all a pleasing time warp without turbulence, one with songs built more to evoke the past than to last in one's memory. ~ Andy Kellman

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


In the lonely hour : drowning shadows edition

Smith, Sam, 1992- composer, performer.

CD M SMITH

Sam Smith offers up an expanded edition of his Grammy Award winning debut album. Along with all of the content from the deluxe edition, this version includes new music, covers, live performances, and collaborations.

Suggested by Brian

Music CD


Violin concerto: Romance ; Mazurek ; Humoresque

Dvořák, Antonín, 1841-1904.

eMusic hoopla

Even though Anne-Sophie Mutter recorded most of the great violin concertos early in her career, working closely with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic, she hadn't recorded the Violin Concerto in A minor of Antonín Dvorák. This 2013 recording with Manfred Honeck and the Berlin Philharmonic fills that gap in her legacy, and this is an exceptionally bright and passionate performance, well worth the wait. Mutter is impeccable in execution and warm in expression, especially in the infectious Finale, and her presence is quite vibrant, thanks to Deutsche Grammophon's expert microphone placement that separates the violin from the orchestra and puts it front and center in the mix. The rest of the program offers the Romance in F minor and the Mazurek in E minor, both played to the same high standards as the Concerto, and an encore with pianist Ayami Ikeba of the perennial favorite, the Humoresque in G flat major, which Mutter gives a charming lilt. This CD is a pure delight, and Mutter's fans should be sure to add it to their collections. - Blair Sanderson

Suggested by Brian

Book


Pride & prejudice: music from the motion picture

Marianelli, Dario.

eMusic hoopla

As stated in a producers' note, the intention of the creators of the 2005 theatrical film Pride & Prejudice was to have Marianelli compose music that conceivably could have been heard at the time the story is set, in the late 18th century. Thus, he has come up with a couple of dance cues ("Meryton Townhall," "Another Dance") that actually recall the dance music of the period, as well as a march ("The Militia Marches In") that a military band actually might have been expected to play at the time. But the main scoring, calling upon Beethoven's sonatas for its inspiration, finds Marianelli providing music for pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, sometimes accompanied by the English Chamber Orchestra, that has a strong Romantic flavor to accompany the familiar romantic plot. No doubt Stothart and Davis (among others) also did their homework in preparing their scores, but they may not have been as concerned as Marianelli with essentially impersonating an 18th century composer. - William Ruhlmann

Suggested by Brian

Book


What we saw from the cheap seats

Spektor, Regina.

eMusic hoopla

Regina Spektor's sixth outing, the predictably unpredictable What We Saw from the Cheap Seats, feels a little like a Wes Anderson movie. By now, you're either on board with the Russian-American's unique blend of East Village anti-folk and immaculately detailed thespian indie pop, or you've swapped her wares for the more accessible quirkiness of Fun. or the lunchroom loner art pop of St. Vincent. Like Anderson, Spektor is a gifted world builder, and one of Cheap Seats' greatest strengths is its prep school confidence.-James Christopher Monger

Suggested by Brian

Book


All the little lights

Passenger (Musical group : England)

eMusic hoopla

All the Little Lights, the third long-player from Mike Rosenberg, better known as the founder, vocalist, songwriter, and driving force behind English folk-rock outfit Passenger, continues in the vein of 2010's Flight of the Crow, offering up another evocative collection of heartfelt, largely acoustic, indie folk gems that invoke names like Coldplay, Van Morrison, Villagers, Mumford & Sons, and even Neil Young. - James Christopher Monger Recorded once again in Australia, All the Little Lights represents an evolution in both Rosenberg's songwriting and his overall sound, maintaining the emotional intimacy of his previous outings while introducing a bigger and bolder production style.- James Christopher Monger

Suggested by Brian

Book


For Emma, forever ago

Bon Iver (Musical group)

CD MA BON IVE

Justin Vernon began recording as Bon Iver following the breakup of DeYarmond Edison, an indie folk group similar in tone and manner to Iron & Wine, Little Wings and, to a certain extent, Bonnie "Prince" Billy. Pronounced 'bohn eevair', it is French for "good winter" which is spelled wrong deliberately. This debut CD is centered around Justin Vernon, who is the primary force behind Bon Iver, as he moved to a remote cabin in the woods of Northwestern Wisconsin at the onset of winter, alone for three months. From this solitary time emerged a bold, uninhibited new musical focus of all his personal trouble, lack of perspective, heartache, longing, love, loss, and guilt that had been stockpiled over the past six years into songs.

Suggested by Lindsey

Music CD


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