With two weeks remaining before the entertainment industry’s end-of-year Christmas shutdown, Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox should dominate its competition, though Green Day hopes Tre! also delivers their three-album experiment from the arms of commercial failure. Elsewhere, Lifehouse’s Almeria and Boys Meets Girls’ Crazy World look to make waves from the relative shadows.
With Grammy nominations announced in advance of February’s big night we have time to break down the albums you must hear this year across the pop spectrum. Meanwhile, Hollywood held over some big releases for these last few shopping weeks, including Seth McFarlane’s Ted and The Bourne Legacy.
Tuesday New Releases in Music
Adrian Sherwood – Recovery Time (On-U Sound) – Vinyl
An English record producer best known for his work on albums by Depeche Mode, Sinéad O’Connor and Primal Scream, Sherwood’s latest EP twists his dub innovations through the lens of modern electronic club music.
Alternative TV – Love Lies Limp (Fire Records)
Big Boi – Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors (Def Jam)
Blue Sky Boys – Presenting the Blue Sky Boys (Arhoolie Records)
Boys Like Girls – Crazy World (Columbia)
Bruno Mars – Unorthodox Jukebox (Atlantic)
Hailing from the “go big or go home” modern school of pop R&B, Mars’ debut Doo Wops and Hooligans wildly varied in quality from track to track. This sophomore effort aims high for its unorthodox hooks, merging deep respect for classic R&B with Mars’ more prurient interests (hint: Prince). The pinnacle, “Locked Out of Heaven,” illustrates deft control over influences, while “Gorilla” satisfies itself with smug, albeit catchy, references to animalistic sex. Fans of ear-catching pop won’t want to miss this one.
Calvin Love – New Radar (Autumn Tone Records)
Circle City Band – Circle City Band (Luv N Haight)
Fairhorns – Doki Doki Run (Invada)
Flipron – Firework Shoes (101 Distribution)
Green Day – Tre! (Reprise)
Supposedly Green Day came to their senses after two consecutive concept albums turned them into this decade’s most pompous rockers (sorry, Bono.) Instead, they overindulged again, creating three albums when one would suffice. With the grunge of Uno! and the power pop of Dos! out of the way, Tre! stands as Green Day’s attempt at something epic. Instead they’d benefit from brutal editing. Your opinion of “Dirty Rotten Bastards” will determine your mileage for what Tre! delivers.
Howard Shore – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (WaterTower Music)
Lento – Anxiety Despair Languish (Denovali Records)
Les Misérables – The Original 1985 London Cast Recording (First Night/Red)
Lifehouse – Almeria (Geffen)
Without a hit to rival 2001’s “Hanging by a Moment,” Lifehouse spent the next decade releasing workmanlike albums every few years for their ardent followers, getting little traction nationally. Almeria, their sixth full-length, aims to change that, as “Between the Raindrops” builds an audience online. An inoffensive album, Almeria breaks no new ground, but does prove the band still has a few good songs left. That alone makes this one worth a listen.
The Game – Jesus Piece (Geffen)
The Racer – Passengers (MondoTunes)
Siobhan Fahey – The MGA Sessions (101 Distribution)
The Wonder Revolution – Firefly (Air House Records)
War – The World is a Ghetto: 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Xenon)
- – - – -
With the Grammy nominations announced and two months remaining for research before you make your predictions, here’s PJ Lifestyle’s primer of thirty albums worth hearing from the 2013 class.
Grammy Nominated Hits
- – - – -
The Black Keys – El Camino (Nonesuch)
Record of the Year, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song (“Lonely Boy”)
Album of the Year and Best Rock Album
Seven albums in, Dan Auerbach’s Black Keys found the recipe for success, ditching the slower, quieter tracks of Brothers to focus on “efficient rock-and-roll songs with minimal instrumentation.” El Camino lacks subtlety, but Auerbach lets the songs breathe, making them more widely accessible. From the Los Angeles Times: “Sometimes, a CD scratches an itch you didn’t even know you had, and El Camino is that record.”
Fun – Some Nights (Fueled By Ramen)
Mumford & Sons – Babel (Glass Note)
Gotye – Making Mirrors (Universal Republic)
Maroon 5 – Overexposed (A&M / Octone)
Jack White – Blunderbuss (Third Man / Columbia)
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls (ATO Records)
Best Rock Performance (“Hold On”)
Best New Artist
Boys & Girls, the full-length debut of this southern soul-rock quartet, introduces a band fully in control of its sound. Brittany Howard’s full-throated growl defines Alabama Shakes, proving the death of rock remains a premature prediction. That “Hold On” became a contemporary hit bodes well for the appetites of discerning listeners as we head toward the new year.
Muse – The Second Law (Warner Bros.)
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto (Capitol Records)
Tom Waits – Bad As Me (Anti)
M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute)
Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel (Epic)
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (Def Jam)
Record of the Year (“Thinkin’ Bout You”)
Album of the Year, Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best New Artist
Channel Orange stands out as this year’s clearest artistic breakthrough, utilizing an unconventional blend of electro-funk, pop, soul, jazz and funk to craft arrangements with free-form flow, defining modern R&B for today’s listeners. From Entertainment Weekly: “Ocean is less concerned with urban realism than with his own ’80s-noir fantasy … and his music captures that vibe perfectly, pulsing with electro-soul grooves [and] vintage jazz-funk.”
Drake – Take Care (Cash Money)
Nas – Life Is Good (Def Jam)
Eric Church – Chief (Capitol Records)
Eli Young Band – Life At Best (Republic)
The Avett Brothers – The Carpenter (Universal Republic)
The Lumineers – The Lumineers (Dualtone)
Best Americana Album and Best New Artist
Denver’s Lumineers arrived as this year’s answer to Mumford & Sons, riding the Americana-inspired pop wave while pushing “Ho Hey” to #5 on Billboard’s Hot 100. From the Austin Chronicle: “The general expansiveness … make[s] this young group’s eponymous debut uniquely American in all the best ways: gritty, determined, soaked in sweat and love and drive.”
Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream (Redwing Records LLC)
John Fullbright – From the Ground Up (Blue Dirt Records)
Dr. John – Locked Down (Nonesuch)
Ruthie Foster – Let It Burn (Blue Corn Music)
Joan Osborne – Bring It on Home (Saguaro Road Records)
Hunter Hayes – Hunter Hayes (Atlantic)
Best Country Solo Performance (“Wanted”)
Best Country Album and Best New Artist
Consider Hunter Hayes a welcome surprise. The 21-year-old country songwriter’s debut album spawned three legitimate hits this year, including “Storm Warning” and “Somebody’s Heartbreak.” This refreshing debut warrants a second look, highlighted by his warm, distinct vocals and descriptive writing.
Ed Sheeran – + (Plus) (Elektra)
Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials (Universal Republic)
Deadmau5 – > Album Title Goes Here < (Ultra Records)
Skrillex – Bangarang (Atlantic)
Marilyn Manson – Born Villain (Cooking Vinyl)
- – - – -
Seth MacFarlane’s Ted headlines this week’s new releases on DVD and Blu-Ray, competing against action thriller The Bourne Legacy and the latest Ice Age installment. Plus, before you see the latest Les Misérables update, watch Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Claire Danes in the 1998 non-musical adaptation, now available on Blu-Ray.
New Releases: DVD / Blu-Ray
- – - – -
Ted (DVD / Blu-Ray)
Starring Mark Wahlberg and a foul-mouthed stuffed bear, Seth MacFarlane’s raunchy yet loveable ode to childhood and friendship finally hits the small screen after blowing up in theaters this summer. Grab your “thunder buddy” and make this a new Yuletide viewing tradition.
Why Stop Now (DVD / Blu-Ray)
Futurama Volume 7 (DVD / Blu-Ray)
Girls: The Complete First Season (DVD / Blu-Ray)
The Bourne Legacy (DVD / Blu-Ray)
A new CIA operative must put together the pieces of a complicated government conspiracy while outsmarting those who wish him dead. Who needs Jason Bourne? With this film, The Avengers and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol under his belt, Jeremy Renner enters 2013 as a true action star.
Law & Order: Criminal Intent: Year Nine (DVD)
Dick Tracy (Blu-Ray)
The Joy Luck Club (Blu-Ray)
Ice Age: Continental Drift (DVD / Blu-Ray)
The fourth film in this franchise showcases a stretching, tired formula but kids won’t care. They just want to see Manny, Diego and Sid in a fresh series of adventure, something Continental Drift delivers with ease.
Heavy Weights (Blu-Ray)
Les Misérables (Blu-Ray)
Bill Cunningham’ New York (Blu-Ray)
Babes in Toyland (Blu-Ray)
- – - – -
For those still searching for the elusive “perfect holiday gift,” we salute you and hope to provide solutions for your shopping dilemmas. Whether you’re looking for kitchen accessories any budding home chef requires or the ultimate boombox for the annual office party, PJ Lifestyle has something for everyone.
Ultimate Holiday Gifts
Top Chef by Master Cutlery: 15-Piece Knife Set
Pack your knives for kitchen glory with this officially licensed Top Chef set, featuring cutlery the pros on Bravo’s flagship show utilize daily. Though this set includes a wide assortment of blades appropriate for any cooking occasion, the company makes smaller sets depending on your needs, including a 9-piece set and a basic 5-piece set suitable for any novice on your list. As an added bonus, if you get them before Christmas, Amazon has each set steeply discounted.
Skybar 3-Chamber Wine Preserving System
For the wine aficionado in the family, this trendsetting preservation system chills, serves and stores up to three 1-1/2 liter bottles in individually controlled chambers. Each chamber holds its own temperature, whether you chose one of the nine presets or choose to adjust settings manually. The Skybar 3 keeps each bottle’s temperature steady for up to 10 days, so no need to worry over freshness or wasted wine!
Jawbone Big Jambox Wireless Bluetooth Speaker
The Jawbone Big Jambox turns any phone, tablet or mobile device into a portable, hi-fi sound system, bringing boombox technology into the 21st century! With the speaker’s wireless construction, steam all your digital media through any Bluetooth device, with a battery that lasts 15 hours. Meanwhile, don’t expect tinny audio — built-in LiveAudio technology provides a 3D immersive experience, equivalent to hearing the music in a live setting. With the Jawbone Big Jambox, the party never has to end, and weighing less than five pounds, you’ll never need to travel without it!
Belkin @TV Plus – Mobile Television Anywhere
For those among us tempted to cut the cable cord, the Belkin @TV Plus deliers a perfect reason to wait. Connect the @TV Plus to your DVR, cable or satellite system, download the appropriate app on your mobile device and the box transmits to your router and the web, and your mobile device receives TV programming through a WiFi, 3G or 4G connection! Even use your smartphone or tablet as a remote — “Swipe Surf” allows you to scroll through TV channels or record a show at the touch of a button. You’re paying for the television signal already, but with the @TV Plus you can more fully enjoy the experience, wherever you go. Welcome to entertainment nirvana!
- – - – -
That’s all for this week’s edition of Tuesday New Releases! We’re open to your suggestions as we develop this column to best serve you. If you have suggestions for future coverage, or if you have a product you’d like featured or reviewed here, simply email Jonathan Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org.