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Album Cover“For all its starkness, on Room these players not only support one another, they create space for reconsideration and expansion. Cline takes Lage further out onto the improvisational ledge than he’s ever been before, while Lage draws Cline toward a sense of lyricism and restraint he hasn’t employed in many years. Room betrays no hesitation, displays no false moves, offers no space for safety. And that’s just how this duo likes it. It is abundant in its offer of pleasure for fans of guitar jazz and it may even hold wider appeal for those who are drawn to in-the-moment musical creation.” -allmusic.com

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Mogwai: Rave Tapes

Album Cover“As impressive as Rave Tapes’ rockers are, the album’s heart lies in subtler tracks like ‘Heard About You Last Night,’ a dreamy prelude that makes the most of the delicacy Mogwai has excelled at since their early days. Similarly, the quietly anthemic ‘Blues Hour’ and vocoder-driven ‘The Lord Is Out of Control’ hark back to the muted beauty of Mr. Beast and Come On Die Young’s implosive minimalism. Rave Tapes takes a while to hit its stride, but it delivers plenty of moments to keep fans intrigued once it does.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“Joe Henry has always had a knack for excellent wordplay and knows how to find great sounds and conjure great performances in the studio, but Invisible Hour is most impressive in how spare it is; there is almost nothing here that doesn’t help set the mood or move the songs forward, and in this elegant approach, Henry finds something remarkable. Invisible Hour is a beautiful, haunting collection of songs that only Joe Henry could create, and whether you’re familiar with his work of not, you’re likely to find something that will impress you on this album.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“Though her two previous recordings were noteworthy as showcases for her soloing and compositions, it is with Crash Trio — Chilean bassist Pablo Menares and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela (both are also composers) — that she shines brightest. Save for readings of Harry Warren’s ‘You’re My Everything’ and a tenor solo on Monk’s ‘Ask Me Now,’ the entire program was written by the trio’s various members. Aldana possesses a big, earthy, edgy tone deeply influenced by Sonny Rollins, but her phrasing is her own.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“The reading of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Going Home’ recalls the half-spoken/half-sung delivery (with Brian Eno on backing vocals no less) and places the singer in the place of the subject’s muse, observing him without pity or condemnation. Hoagy Carmichael’s ‘I Get Along Without You Very Well’ is reinterpreted through the Weimar Republic’s cabaret musical vocabulary, too: She’s backed by chamber strings, piano, a harp played like a bouzouki, and bass. Faithfull’s not only comfortable in this setting (20th Century Blues/Weill: The Seven Deadly Sins, etc), she’s an authority in interpreting it. The intimate yet dramatic sadness in this reading completes a series of bridge constructions from the eras in Faithfull’s musical past to her present. Thus, Give My Love to London is as complete a portrait of the artist — at least from the late ’70s on — as we’ve ever had. In total, it reveals no abatement in her creative renaissance.” -allmusic.com

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Tinashe: Aquarius

Album Cover” Compared to Christina Aguilera, another mentioned inspiration, Tinashe’s voice is almost always quiet and soft, yet her ability is considerable, and she packs a wide variety of approaches. Another indicator of potential here is that she is listed first as the co-writer of all but one of the songs.” -allmusic

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Album Cover“From its beefy arena rock arrangements to its preponderance of power ballads, this is an album constructed from remnants of the golden age of the diamond album, a cross-demographical blockbuster that’s now a bit of accidental narrowcasting. This is for audiences who wish they made country records like they used to — not when Hank, Willie, or Waylon were on the radio, but when arena country meant something to millions, a rallying cry from metro centers to strip malls across the land.” -allmusic.com

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Stromae: Racine Carree

Album Cover“At first look, Stromae’s pumping Euro-disco with a dash of hip-hop and world music may seem fairly indistinguishable from offerings by many others artists on the Continent. As incongruous as it sounds, what sets Stromae apart from his peers are actually his lyrics — something that you do not hear too often (read: never) when discussing dance-oriented entertainers. Indeed, many would be bewildered upon hearing that Belgian and French critics were quick to point out Jacques Brel as a major influence, a statement that could only sound positively ludicrous or downright heretical to non-Francophone ears. And yet, both Stromae’s diction and his scathing attack on prejudice and small-mindedness (updated to an urban, racially mixed society plagued with issues of identity, rather than the petite bourgeoisie) establish a clear link to the legendary songwriter, even if Stromae is more humorous than cruel and more compassionate than misanthropic.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“As soon as Benjamin Booker’s eponymous 2014 debut kicks in with a skittish guitar run and a primal garage beat, it’s clear the guitarist — a native of Tampa Bay who spent time in New Orleans before heading back to Florida — is unapologetic for the debt he owes to Jack White. Like the Black Keys and Gary Clark, Jr. before him, Booker revels in gnarly guitar skronk, pushing the all-natural fuzz to the forefront — lessons perhaps learned from Jack White, but Booker distinguishes himself from the pack by adding a bit of swing and boogie to the raw roar.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“The Bakersfield tunes are the purest country music Cracker have released to date, with a rich dose of twangy soul that doesn’t negate the frequent seriousness of the lyrics as Lowery’s high-attitude vocals blend with Matt ‘Pistol’ Stoessel’s pedal steel and Luke Moeller’s fiddle. And the rock tunes sound sharp and muscular, with guitarist Johnny Hickman, bassist Davey Faragher, and drummer Michael Urbano bringing lots of spark and plenty of color to the proceedings. Brian Wilson may have invented the rock & roll ideal of California, but David Lowery is doing more than his share to chronicle the way life is lived in his adopted home state in the 21st century, and Berkeley to Bakersfield is one of Cracker’s most ambitious and satisfying sets in quite some time, as good as anything they’ve given us since Kerosene Hat in 1993.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“Four albums in, Colbie Caillat decided it was time for a cool change. The singer/songwriter remains quintessentially Southern Californian — her spirit is sunny, her melodies breezy — but she no longer dresses her songs in beachwear. She’s ditched the peasant skirts for stylish black dresses; she’s no longer strumming an acoustic guitar; she’s singing over densely arranged electronic tracks, some produced by Max Martin and some produced by Babyface, neither known for having much patience with neo-hippie surfer girls. If Caillat were less of a pro, this makeover would come across as forced and awkward, but she’s savvy enough to make the transition feel natural.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“…Billy doesn’t really throw himself into autobiography here, preferring to merely write from the perspective of an old punk rocker on the verge of senior citizenship. Frankly, that’s enough to give Kings & Queen of the Underground character if not quite a kick. Idol may be posturing — that’s what he does for a living, after all — but he’s relaxed here, certainly more so than he was on 2005′s hard-edged Devil’s Playground, having fun playing with his past while trying on some new fashions.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“Even though this album offers a handful of pieces for cello and piano, which Weilerstein and pianist Anna Polonsky play with charm and sentiment, listeners will pay the most attention to the concerto, which is the program’s raison d’être. Weilerstein’s highly personal and intensely Romantic style of playing is well-suited to this concerto, which is big on emotion and poignant lyricism, and her long lines and rapt expression effectively carry the piece.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover“…this is a collection of real Mozart obscurities. And, perhaps surprisingly, Villazón brings them to life. He has performed these works frequently in recital, and it shows: throughout, he has a relaxed way of getting into character. Sample Con ossequio, con rispetto, from Piccinni’s L’astratto, ovvero il giocator fortunato, for an example of suppressed sarcasm that most singers would just leave alone. Deutsche Grammophon contributes clear sound from none other than Abbey Road studios, and the result is an album that should find a place in large Mozart collections and those of Villazón fans as well.” -allmusic.com

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She & Him: Classics

Album Cover“While the release of another standards album doesn’t always elicit cries of celebration, some artists are perfectly suited to such a task. Taking a romp around their own bailiwick is a breeze for pop classicists like She & Him, who offer up this platter of elegantly conceived cover songs that resembles the very source material that probably inspired their first three albums of original fare. The warm, vintage pop, jazz, and country that Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward have always seemed so smitten with comes to life on Classics.” -allmusic.com

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Neil Young: Storytone

Album Cover“…Storytone is fairly messy — which is quite an achievement for an album recorded in large part live in front of a full orchestra. Young does indeed croon over those strings, often rhapsodizing about the powers of new love or pleading to save the Earth, although he sometimes gets restless and rolls out a swinging big band. This means Storytone sometimes plays like a hybrid of Harvest at its most florid and the bloozy swagger of This Note’s for You — a curious combination that doesn’t seem quite as extreme on the album’s second disc, which houses nothing but solo renditions of the record’s ten tunes, but the very fact that there’s a reverse image of the album strengthens the impression that Young isn’t much in the mood to keep things simple.” -allmusic.com

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“While much of Springtime Carnivore waAlbum Coverlks in a Twilight Zone between indie pop and clever appropriations of the past, Morgan does manage to reveal a personality of her own over the course of these 14 tracks, and she comes off as clever, confident, and a sure hand with a tune on this set, while her voice suggests a meeting between Dusty Springfield and Kate Bush (if her voice has less range than the former, she’s thankfully less melodramatic than the latter). A smart and resourceful exercise in pop that works on several levels, Springtime Carnivore is an impressive calling card from an artist who clearly has interesting things up her sleeve.” -allmusic.com

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Album Cover “…for the most part, this has every one of Joel’s heavy-hitters, and his craftsmanship, both as a songsmith and record maker, has never shone brighter. The biggest fault is that there is a notable drop-off in quality after 1986′s The Bridge (which ends midway through disc two), but even so, this is as good a distillation of Joel’s talents imaginable.” -allmusic.com

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Birdy: Fire Within

Album Cover“While the songs on Fire Within display vocal maturity beyond her young years, Birdy’s lyrics don’t stray far from the same emotions as every other 17-year-old — love, broken hearts, confusion — and this honesty feels natural and sincere without becoming cliché. With a flurry of teen internet sensations — singers such as Gabrielle Aplin and Lauren Aquilina have both made dents in the U.K. charts — Birdy’s second release is a testament to her confidence in her own songwriting talent, and of course, to the fragility and intensity of her pure, unblemished vocals.” -allmusic.com

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Hozier: Hozier

Album Cover“The album’s best tracks, like the warm, laid-back ‘Someone New’ and the grandiose shuffling of ‘From Eden’ are all front loaded in the first half, while side two feels a bit weighed down with a few too many slow, contemplative pieces. When you’re dealing with the kind of spells Hozier is casting, it’s always best to leave them wanting more. Still, the dirge blues of ‘It Will Come Back,’ with its dirty fiddle and electric guitar pairing, manages to rattle the church pews enough to help anchor the back half.” -allmusic.com

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