TUESDAY NEW RELEASES: Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire Set to Ignite the Post-Thanksgiving Lull
Tuesday New Releases in Music
A few big albums remain unreleased in the run-up to Christmas, but this week the industry still recovers from its post-Black Friday hangover. So Alicia Keys offers the only major-label new release of note this week, with Girl on Fire set for a strong debut. Dig a little deeper and you'll find a wealth of great music coming out this week, including an exceptional survey of Charlie Christian’s contributions to the development of bebop and jazz. Plus: Rage Against the Machine receives a 20th anniversary reissue, and the Winter Sounds prove you don’t need a huge budget to craft solid pop hooks.
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Don’t call her prolific, as Alicia Keys releases just her fifth studio album in the last twelve years, her first since 2009’s The Element of Freedom. It's worth the wait, however, as early reviews have praised Keys for taking things back to basics, focusing on intimate moments and what Uncut calls her “technical brilliance.” The strongest of those intimate moments, “Not Even The King,” serves as a highlight of what Girl on Fire offers.
Big Dipper - Big Dipper Crashes on the Platinum Planet (Almost Ready Records)
Blood of the Sun - Burning on the Wings of Desire (Listenable Records)
Breathless - Green to Blue (Shellshock)
Charlie Christian - The Genius of the Electric Guitar (Sony Legacy)
Fans of jazz and bebop already know the music of Charlie Christian, but fans of anything modern involving the electric guitar should care as well. This four disc collection brings that music into stunning clarity, focusing on Christian’s pioneering work with the instrument while a member of the Benny Goodman Sextet from 1939-41, along with a disc of rarities from his time in Goodman’s orchestra and the Metronome All-Stars.
Daniel Higgs - Say God (Thrill Jockey) - Vinyl
Fort Shame - Double Wide (Redeye Label)
Great Big Sea - XX (Great Big Sea)
Jefferson Starship - Tales from the Mothership (United States Distribution)
Jerry Cole - Surf Age (Sundazed Music Inc)
Flash back to the era of classic surf-pop via this reissue from Jerry Cole and His Spacemen. Surf Age attempted to merge surf music with the wider sphere of 60s pop, more carefully focusing Cole’s mile-a-minute recording process. Incredibly rare until this long-awaited CD release, enjoy the perfect holiday time capsule. Highlights include the title track and “One Color Blues.”
John Zorn - The Concealed (Tzadik)
Junkie XL - Synthesized (Nettwerk)
Lone Wolf - The Lovers (It Never Rains)
Mike Cooper - Life and Death in Paradise (Entertainment One)
Myriad 3 - Tell (Alma Records)
My favorite discovery of the year by far, this Canadian jazz trio builds on the collective nature of improvisation, crafting a nuanced debut you won’t want to miss. The album’s highlights include “But Still and Yet” and the band’s peerless interplay on “Disturbing Inspiration,” which will haunt you, guaranteed.
Nektar - A Spoonful of Time (Cleopatra)
Outasight - Nights Like These (Warner Bros.)
Piatcions - Senseless > Sense (I Blame The Parents Records)
Sonny Burgess - Live at Sun Studios (Cleopatra) - Vinyl
The Winter Sounds - Runner (New Grenada Records)
Serving up a hybrid of Arcade Fire, Mumford and Sons and Snow Patrol, New Orleans’ the Winter Sounds craft shiny pop nuggets which stand strong on repeat listens. Highlights include “The Sun Also Rises” (video below) and “Run from the Wicked”. Also worth noting: the band funded the album entirely through $9,000 in fan contributions, proving pop this good doesn’t require a major-label budget.
Therion - Les Fleurs Du Mal (End of the Light)
Wild Billy Childish & the Spartan Dreggs - Coastal Command (Damaged Goods)
Wu-Block - Wu-Block (Entertainment One)
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With a new year looming and Christmas just around the corner, now’s the time to look back at albums already out in 2012 which may have slipped from your radar. Any of these, including the latest from Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews and David Crowder Band, would make perfect stocking-stuffers for the music fan in your world.
Popular Hits of 2012
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Gotye - Making Mirrors (Universal Republic)
The success of “Somebody That I Used to Know” overshadows the rest of this album, which continues to meld the best of eighties-era album-pop with modern flourishes. Phil Collins wishes he still had an album like Making Mirrors in him.
Bruce Springsteen - Wrecking Ball (Columbia)
Norah Jones - Little Broken Hearts (Blue Note)
Carrie Underwood - Blown Away (Sony Nashville)
Jason Mraz - Love is a Four Letter Word (Atlantic)
Fun. - Some Nights (Fueled By Ramen)
The band’s sophomore album blends stadium-sized alternative-pop with elements of hip-hop through the band’s collaboration with producer Jeff Bhasker, who worked on Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The stylistic mash-up resulted in the year’s biggest pop surprises, including “We Are Young” and “Some Nights" (video below).
Train - California 37 (Columbia)
Tim McGraw - Emotional Traffic (Curb Records)
Carolina Chocolate Drops - Leaving Eden (Nonesuch)
Counting Crows - Underwater Sunshine (Collective Sounds)
The band’s eighth studio album features Matthews’ strongest songwriting since Before These Crowded Streets. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, of AllMusic, writes: “there is no real attempt to broaden their audience, nor is there the self-conscious stretching that marked some of Matthews' 2000s albums.” Highlights: “Gaucho” and “Drunken Soldier”
Shinedown - Amaryllis (Atlantic)
Lionel Ritchie - Tuskeegee (Mercury Nashville)
Flobots - The Circle in the Square (Shanachie)
David Crowder Band - Give Us Rest (Six Step Records)
Waco, Texas’s best-kept secret, David Crowder crafts innovative modern worship consistently album by album. This year’s Give Us Rest showcases his band’s sound across two full-length LPs, merging traditional worship with boundary-pushing forays into electronic-tinged pop. Check out “After All (Holy)” and “Oh Great God, Give Us Rest” to hear Crowder at his best.
Matchbox Twenty - North (Atlantic)
ZZ Top - La Futura (Universal Republic)
The Killers - Battle Born (Island)
The Wallflowers - Glad All Over (Columbia)
Moses Luster - Stands Alone (Dark Heart Recordings)
This independent release creates what I’d call “apocalyptic folk,” a series of twisted takes on runaway fundamentalism melded to ear-catching melodies steeped in both folk and pop traditions. Add a vocalist who owes as much to Tom Waits as Johnny Cash, and it’s hard to miss the mark.
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Among DVD releases this week, David Milch runs out of Luck while the Men in Black continue to fight alien invaders and the Prohibition-era looms large in Lawless. Plus: Whitney Houston’s final film, Sparkle, hits home video after disappearing in theaters.
New Releases: DVD / Blu-Ray
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For those who can’t get enough Boardwalk Empire, this update of the historical novel The Wettest County in the World puts prohibition-era Moonshine Wars into crisp “Copperhead Road”-esque focus. The film features strong performances from Shia LeBeouf and Tom Hardy, who stand tall as part of an ensemble cast.
Hot in Cleveland: Season Three (DVD)
Will Smith goes back in time to save Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K from assassination, giving Josh Brolin all the room he needs to steal the show from both MiB veterans. The highest-grossing film in the series, another sequel seems all but assured.
This now-cancelled series deserves a second look as an example of ensemble character study filtered through the world of horse-racing. Luck features Dustin Hoffman’s best acting in years, alongside what Linda Steel of the New York Post dubbed “writing so spot-on it’s poetic,” in the best show of 2012 you won’t get to see in 2013. See one of Luck's beautifully-shot horse-races in the video below.
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This week we focus on two of the year’s best box-set reissues, from the Who and Johnny Cash, along with the best ear-buds on the market to aid in your listening enjoyment. Plus: an HD 3D computer monitor capable of anchoring your home theater system!
PJ Lifestyle: Ultimate Holiday Gifts
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If you needed more proof that Johnny Cash’s musical output stands tall even among his peers, this box set confirms the depth of his contributions. These 63 CDs, including 35 never before released on CD, cover all 59 albums recorded for Columbia between 1959 and 1985, plus four discs of non-album singles and guest contributions by Cash on others’ albums. There’s no more essential holiday gift out there for both the long-time Cash fan and those who only recently began walking the line.
Fresh on the heels of the Beatles’ Stereo Vinyl set, Who fans can now celebrate this limited pressing which highlights every studio album from My Generation through 2006’s Endless Wire. With all artwork carefully restored (including Tommy’s 6-panel fold-out and 12-page full-color booklet) and the sound re-mastered by long-time Who engineer John Astley on heavyweight vinyl, this clearly stands as the only Who collection you’ll ever need -- don’t get fooled by imitations! And while you’re at it, get a copy of Pete Townshend’s biography Who I Am, which details the creation of these classic albums from the songwriter’s perspective.
For those who prefer earbuds but want high quality sound without sacrificing comfort, the Westone 4R outstrips the competition. From the creators of inner-ear studio monitors for working musicians, these lightweight phones fit carefully inside the ear to seal in the sound, without letting outside distractions interfere, so you won’t need to listen at high volumes and damage your hearing. That alone should be worth the purchase price!
Who says your computer monitor can’t also serve as a perfectly functional HD television or 3D gaming theater? Samsung’s latest monitor certainly ups the ante, at 27 inches, providing a memorable experience whether you’re looking for a superior gaming experience or simply want to watch movies in crisp 3D. Plug your computer, Blu-Ray player, cable box or game console into the S27A950D for ultimate compatibility. It even comes with a kit with 3D glasses and 3D gaming software. With a monitor like this, you’ll never have trouble procrastinating again!
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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 [email protected]