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album cover“Here, Giddens expands upon the neo-string band of the Carolina Chocolate Drops by crafting an abbreviated and fluid history of 20th century roots music — along with the older forms that informed it — concentrating on songs either written or popularized by female musicians. As a torchbearer, not a revivalist, Giddins isn’t concerned with replicating either the sound or feel of the past, so she comfortably slips a subdued hip-hop drum loop into ‘Black Is the Color,’ a standard here credited to Nina Simone, and blurs country and soul boundaries on Patsy Cline’s ‘She’s Got You.'” -allmusic.com

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album cover“With stellar collaborators including Margaret Glaspy, Tim O’Brien and his sister Mollie, and Bruce Molsky, Stone revisits the people and places that (Alan) Lomax and his field recorder encountered, from Kentucky to Scotland to the Dutch Antilles, from Lead Belly to Robert Graves to Growling Tiger. They emerge with treatments that variously incorporate modern stringband and newgrass, fiddle-band and old-time playing, hand-clapped singing and gospel harmonizing, and, when Glaspy’s breathy sibilance is leading the way, a captivating, hushed, and resonating sound. What results is a marvelous expression of Stone’s collaboratory distillation of the folk process.” -Stuart Munro/TheBostonGlobe.com

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album cover“While they (Lightning Bolt) stick closer to the traditionally heavy, sometimes ham-fisted hard rock compositions they began investigating almost a decade earlier on Hypermagic Mountain, the songs ring especially weird and unstoppable in their new clarity. Album closer ‘Snow White (& the 7 Dwarves Fans)’ brings all of Fantasy Empire’s best elements together, with manipulated vocal loops, dynamic riffing, and unhinged near-free drumming exploding in a metered, hypnotic assault that never loses power for any of its more than 11-minute running time.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“Break Stuff is modern jazz on the bleeding edge, a music that not only asks musical questions but answers them, and it does so accessibly and immediately, no matter the form or concept it chooses to express. This trio aims at an interior center, finds it, and pushes out, projecting Iyer & Co.’s discoveries.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“As always, she’s (Carlile) grounded in Americana, often straying into a burnished folky melancholy but finding space for urgent country stomps and such full-throttle rock & roll as ‘Blood Muscle Skin & Bone,’ whose hook places it in a netherworld between arena rock and power pop. None of the stylistic shifts amount to showboating: it feels as if Carlile is following her fascinations wherever they lead. She takes a few detours, including indulging in a bit of big-footed stomp on ‘The Things I Regret’ and the fingerpicked electric guitars of ‘Heroes and Songs,’ every one of which keeps The Firewatcher’s Daughter from being as cohesive as 2012’s Bear Creek, but that laissez-faire sprawl is often more appealing than its predecessor’s tidiness: this is music that’s lived in and deeply felt, so it resonates long after the album finishes.” -allmusic.com

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Bettye LaVette: Worthy

album cover“Worthy is another impressive release from an outstanding singer, and if it follows the pattern of some of her recent albums, nothing here sounds rote; this is the sound of an artist doing what she does best, and she is far more than worthy of this great music.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“While Dengue Fever could almost have qualified as a novelty act when they first started out (Los Angeles hipsters playing decades-old Cambodian pop tunes? Talk about high concept!), they’ve matured into a richly satisfying band, blending several different cultures and styles into an indie rock melting pot, and 2015’s The Deepest Lake, their sixth studio album, is another striking and pleasurable example of East meeting West. Though the exotica accents and semi-psychedelic drift of their earlier work are still clearly visible on The Deepest Lake (most notably on the lovely ‘Golden Flute’), African percussive accents and hip-hop elements play a larger role in this music, while ‘Rom Say Sok’ is steeped in American R&B, ‘Cardboard Castles’ lays distorted guitars and graceful guitars over quietly churning percussion, and ‘Still Waters Run Deep’ sounds like the main theme of a spy movie set in Phnom Penh with its punchy horns and dramatic twists and turns.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“Irony abounds in the title of Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, the ninth album by the Scottish collective Belle & Sebastian. It goes unstated that the record was released in an atmosphere not quite synonymous with peace, but the group unquestionably want to dance, spending nearly half of this lengthy record grooving to a neo-disco beat. To approximate the pulse of a mirror ball, Belle & Sebastian hired Ben H Allen, a producer best known for his work with the modern psychedelic troupes Animal Collective and Washed Out, a decided shift away from the exquisitely sculpted miniatures that populated B&S’ two records with Tony Hoffer, particularly Write About Love.” -allmusic.com

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“The trick is, he [Isaac Brock] now has thalbum covere skill of a consummate craftsman, so the raggedness here comes across as deliberate, probably because the moments that are less consciously quirky — i.e., the bulk of the album — are so skillfully constructed. So, Strangers to Ourselves is an album where the trees matter more than the forest: song for song, it demonstrates the exacting nature of Brock but put it all together, it sprawls.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“As a tribute, The Earls of Leicester is nearly flawless, and this may encourage some younger bluegrass fans to dig into the Flatt & Scruggs catalog, but as far as having a mind and a character of its own, these sessions leave a certain amount to be desired.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“As it somewhat deemphasizes Walker’s way with big hooks — the very thing that made him an in-demand session man — Afraid of Ghosts isn’t as immediate as some of his other records, but it will suit the needs of anybody craving a record that sounds like Ryan Adams used to make them back in the day.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“There are plenty of startling moments full of guts and gristle in Lady Lamb’s dense lyrics, and then there are the moments when she wanders. The fingerpicked ‘Sunday Shoes’ stretches out between the shoegaze-inflected ‘Heretic’ and ‘Spat Out Spit’, injecting a weird bubble of space into the album’s flow. The rousing coda on ‘Penny Licks’ almost feels like an Arcade Fire climax, even though it only arrives in the seventh song. Like Ripely Pine, After clocks in at a solid hour—and it’s an hour you’ll feel, because while After boasts a stacked lineup of well-crafted songs, it’s a choppy ride to make it through them all.” -pitchfork.com

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album cover“Issued by RCA three weeks prior to the 57th Annual Grammy Awards telecast, 2015 Grammy Nominees, like yearly releases before it, emphasizes the ‘big four’ categories. Since four of the nominees for Record of the Year (namely ‘Chandelier,’ ‘Stay with Me,’ ‘Shake It Off,’ and ‘All About That Bass’ — were also up for Song of the Year, there was plenty of room to accommodate those two categories. Each one of the Album of the Year nominees is represented, although three Best New Artist nominees (HAIM, Brandy Clark, Bastille) were left off. This is an adequate, stylistically varied time capsule of 2014’s most popular music that, for serious Grammy viewers, has more value as a collector’s item.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“The New Basement Tapes recorded Lost on the River in a real studio fully aware there was an audience awaiting their output, an attitude that’s the polar opposite of the ramshackle joshing around of the original Basement Tapes. Thankfully, nobody involved with Lost on the River contrives to replicate either the sound or feel of the 1967 sessions, even if the artists consciously pick up the strands of country, folk, and soul dangling on the originals. Wisely, the songwriters steer their given lyrics toward their own wheelhouses, which means this contains a little of the woolliness of a collective but Burnett sands off the rough edges, tying this all together.” -allmusic.com

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Tuxedo: Tuxedo

album cover“Unsurprisingly to anyone who’s heard Hawthorne’s note-perfect take on ’60s soul, the duo proves to be masterful at re-creating the feel of the moment in the early ’80s when disco began to die out and was replaced by the funkier sounds of boogie and electric funk. The duo conjures up visceral memories of the finest artists of the era, from Atlantic Starr to Zapp, treating the source material with care and making sure to never make jokes or come off even a little bit ironic. From the drum machines to the synth settings, everything is just right.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“Carrie & Lowell is the most harrowingly personal work Stevens has offered us to date; it also ranks with his most skillfully crafted albums despite its spartan approach, and it’s a sometimes difficult but profoundly moving work. Stevens has offered us some fine albums in the past, but he’s never made anything quite like Carrie & Lowell.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“Then Came the Morning reveals so much growth it’s hard to believe this is only the Lone Bellow’s second album. This trio pulls off a chosen weave of hybrid roots sounds with seeming ease, passion, and verve. No one else performing Americana or crossover country music attempts anything like it, leaving the trio in its own class.” -allmusic.com

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album cover“Terraplane is the most relaxed and least fussed-over album Earle has made in quite some time, and frankly, he sounds like he’s having a ball on these sessions; with rare exceptions, this isn’t music that ponders the dark night of the soul, but semi-acoustic roadhouse boogie that rocks with a steady roll and gives Earle a chance to crow like a rooster as he ponders broken hearts, long lonesome highways, battles with the forces of destiny, and the enduring appeal of women in go-go boots.” -allmusic.com

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Andrew Norman: Play

album cover“‘Play,’ which the Boston Modern Orchestra Project commissioned from the fast-rising composer Andrew Norman in 2013, is being talked about as the most important long orchestral work of the 21st century. That kind of hype can often be misleading, but in this case it’s quite likely accurate. The 45-minute, three-movement work, which encompasses various meanings of play — some lighthearted, some sinister — begins in an almost spastic fit of energy; musical ideas ricochet off one another furiously, almost too quickly. But embedded in the chaos are two scales: one ascending, the other descending. Their interaction and gradual transformation create the piece’s overarching structure as the music progresses through three ‘levels,’ though it never loses its reckless feel.”
-David Weininger/TheBostonGlobe.com

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Ne-Yo: Non-fiction

album cover“Patched together and sprawling even in standard form — it’s the television edit compared to the director’s cut deluxe edition — Non-Fiction nonetheless contains more standouts than any Ne-Yo album since Because of You. There’s some frivolous content, such as the fireside acoustic number ‘Story Time’ and rote EDM squib ‘Who’s Taking You Home.’ Beyond that, there’s a lot of imaginative and high-quality modern R&B, like ‘She Knows,’ ‘She Said I’m Hood Though,’ and ‘One More,’ all tough but finely crafted slow jams.” -allmusic.com

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