• Midnights

    Midnights

    Swift, Taylor

    Taylor Swift's new studio album is available everywhere on October 21. It's a collection of music written in the middle of the night, a journey through terrors and sweet dreams. The floors we pace and the demons we face, the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout Taylor Swift's life. (syndetics)

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  • Only the Strong Survive: Covers. Vol. 1

    Only the Strong Survive: Covers. Vol. 1

    Springsteen, Bruce

    A collection of soul music gems that celebrate the legendary songbooks of Gamble and Huff, Motown, Stax, and many more. Features vocals from Springsteen and instrumentation primarily from his longtime producer Ron Aniello. The album also features guest vocals from Sam Moore. (syndetics)

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  • Cool It Down

    Cool It Down

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Musical group)

    Yeah Yeah Yeahs only make music when they have something to say. Nearly a decade separated Cool It Down and Mosquito, during which time Karen O made two solo albums including 2019's Lux Prima. She and Brian Chase and Nick Zinner were so established in their individual work (Chase remained a fixture on the experimental jazz scene; Zinner toured with, recorded, and produced artists ranging from the Rentals to Amen Dunes to Phoebe Bridgers) that a reunion seemed uncertain. Luckily for fans, they did get back together, and their fifth album once again switches gears from the one before it. Cool It Down owes less to Mosquito's rock revivalism than it does to Lux Prima's lush sonics and, maybe more importantly, its viewpoint. The light touch and generosity of spirit within O's songwriting made itself known as early as Fever to Tell's "Maps," but she refined it with her solo work and reintroduces it to the band with transporting results, balancing the experience of age and the wonder of youth in songs that teeter between reflection and elation. The band bookends Cool It Down with songs about children's perspectives. O has always written tenderly about and for children, and "Spitting Off the Edge of the World," a radiant yet heartbroken meditation on the ecologically broken world left to the next generation featuring Perfume Genius, and "Mars," inspired by a sweetly imaginative moment with her son, are no exception. By contrast, the gorgeous, big-hearted pop of "Different Today" possesses the wisdom to acknowledge the past, accept the present, and look forward to the future even as the world "goes spinnin' out of control." Over the years, O has also become a more accomplished and varied vocalist, and she brings more colors to her Cool It Down performances than on Yeah Yeah Yeahs' previous albums or even Lux Prima. "Burning" is a driving showcase for all her skills; as the song builds into a soulful inferno, her wails and whispers are forces of nature, and her comparisons to meteors and the river Styx are completely apt. "Fleez," the record's brightly funky midpoint, pairs spoken-word verses that hark back to the early gem "Art Star" with a groove that's tautly danceable even if the band doesn't break a sweat. Songs such as this and "Wolf," a piece of shimmering electro-pop seduction where squiggly synths echo O's vibrato, borrow some of It's Blitz!'s chrome-plated sleekness and commanding beats and showcase Dave Sitek's production. Sitek often felt like Yeah Yeah Yeahs' unofficial fourth member, and his chemistry with them remains strong on tracks like the lushly layered "Blacktop." For a band who seemed so impulsive at the outset, Yeah Yeah Yeahs' reflection and deliberation has been a surprising strength that's only grown with time. They may never lose all their restlessness -- nor should they -- but it's undeniable that Cool It Down is one of their most consistent albums. ~ Heather Phares (syndetics)

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  • Revolver

    Revolver

    Beatles

    From "Taxman" to "Tomorrow Never Knows," this Beatles album has been newly mixed by producer Giles Martin and Sam Okell, and sourced directly from the original four-track master tapes with audio brought forth in stunning clarity with the help of cutting-edge technology developed by the award-winning sound team at Peter Jackson's WingNut Films Productions Ltd. (syndetics)

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  • Weather Alive

    Weather Alive

    Orton, Beth

    After drifting away from her pioneering fusion of trip-hop and folk with diversions into jazz-tinged, acoustic alt-folk, Beth Orton's sixth solo album, 2016's Kidsticks, found her broadly re-embracing electronics. Six years later, Weather Alive nestles into a comparatively hushed, atmospheric blend of acoustic and electronic timbres that's meticulous and nebulous at once. The album finds her joined by a skilled group of backers, including core players Tom Herbert (bass) and Tom Skinner (drums), with help from, among others, synth player Francine Perry, vibraphonist Sam Beste, saxophonist Alabaster DePlume, and Shahzad Ismaily, who move between guitar, Moog, harmonica, and additional bass and percussion. It was self-produced at her home studio, with Orton's unusually brittle vocal performances accompanied by a "cheap, crappy" upright piano in her garden shed. She begins with an absorbing, seven-minute title track that introduces the singer's weary rasp against a backdrop mix of sustain and improvised interjection by duo bass, synthesizer, near and distant saxophone, close-up piano, hand drums, vibraphone, and more. Her first words, "In the morning/All is dawning/In the stillness of the day," evoke a low-lit scene that's eventually populated by the root of a tree, steps down to water, shadows that breathe, and weather "so beautiful outside/It almost makes me wanna cry." Instrumentation expands to include drum kit, percussive noise effects, and plenty of shimmer by the time lyrics arrive at "The love, the love we're giving/Gonna bring us back into being." It ends with a spaceship-like whir that is mirrored at the beginning of the more-skittering second track, "Friday Night." Weather Alive's misty atmospheres part somewhat one-third and two-thirds of the way through for the livelier "Fractals," which actually establishes a bass groove, and the spare "Lonely," which features one of the more expressive vocal performances of Orton's career. The rest of the album, including its over-seven-minute closer ("Unwritten"), maintains an immersive quality that's as haunting as Orton's rough-hewn vocals, song titles like "Haunted Satellite" and "Arms Around a Memory," and lyrics such as "It's just that I was getting unwritten." ~ Marcy Donelson (syndetics)

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  • Doggerel

    Doggerel

    Pixies (Musical group)

    The first time Pixies took a hiatus and Black Francis wrote a bunch of songs on his own, it led to the launch of his solo career as Frank Black. Three decades later, when a burst of writing resulted in over 40 songs -- including material earmarked for a retro-Americana solo album with Bobby Bare, Jr. -- he brought them to the band and producer Tom Dalgety to get first pick. Though Pixies will probably never perform in Stetsons, Doggerel reflects an acceptance that their music doesn't have to conform to expectations. Leaning into the earthy influences of country and folk may not be an expected move for the band, but it feels surprisingly natural. As a solo artist, Francis explored roots and country elements with great success on Honeycomb and Fast Man Raider Man (which included Bare Jr. among its players). There's also plenty of shared musical DNA between those genres and the 1950s and '60s pop that colors "Haunted House," a tale of the spirits and memories happily spending their afterlives in an English manor. This feeling of supernatural commitment continues on the title track, which was inspired by folk songs about settlers who couldn't leave their town no matter how often they tried. Folk is an underappreciated building block of Pixies' music (this is the band that namechecked Hüsker Dü and Peter, Paul and Mary in that famous want ad, after all) and one that shines on the equally pretty and ominous "Thunder and Lightning." Though comparisons to Pixies' earlier albums are inevitable, Doggerel feels more post-Beneath the Eyrie than a callback to their '80s and '90s work. That album marked the first time the band seemed truly comfortable since re-forming, with a confidence that allowed them to pull off some fancier tricks that they embellish on here. On the spacey surf-punk stomp of "Nomatterday," tempo shifts are the new loud-quiet-loud; on "Dregs of the Wine," the group pairs conversational lyrics with the Who's windmill riffs and a typically great solo from Joey Santiago (Santiago wrote the music to "Dregs" and co-wrote the words to another song, "Pagan Man"). Eyrie also added a slower burn to Pixies' repertoire that they make the most of on Doggerel. Slowing down enhances "Vault of Heaven"'s interstellar spaghetti Western drama, while the galloping, biblically minded breakup song "You're Such a Sadducee" heightens its poignancy by letting the fundamental disagreement of its coda ("I'm turning around/You're burning it down") ring out infinitely. Even with some of the edges smoothed off, Pixies are still as idiosyncratic as ever, but where "Get Simulated"'s musings on the digital afterlife might have been punctuated more emphatically before, they now slither into listeners' ears. Doggerel pushes the boundaries of what a Pixies album can be, but not aggressively -- quite the opposite, in fact. The peaks may not be quite as high as they were on Beneath the Eyrie, but it's still a lot of fun to hear the band's reinvention. ~ Heather Phares (syndetics)

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  • Asphalt Meadows

    Asphalt Meadows

    Death Cab for Cutie (Musical group)

    Indie rock icons Death Cab for Cutie are back with their highly anticipated album. Many of the songs were crafted during the early part of the pandemic, with the band finding creative ways to create new music while being apart. (syndetics)

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  • Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen

    Here It Is: A Tribute to Leonard Cohen

    Producer Larry Klein pays tribute to his dear friend Leonard Cohen with an album that presents stunning new renditions of the legendary singer-songwriter's compositions performed by an extraordinary lineup of vocalists: Norah Jones, Peter Gabriel, Gregory Porter, Sarah McLachlan, James Taylor, Iggy Pop, and Mavis Staples. The album's 12 tracks offer a broad range of Cohen's songs drawn from his 1967 debut Songs of Leonard Cohen through his final album, You Want It Darker, released just days before his death in 2016. The set covers some of his best-known classics (Hallelujah; Suzanne") and less familiar deep cuts. (syndetics)

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  • Palomino

    Palomino

    First Aid Kit (Musical group)

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  • Fossora

    Fossora

    Björk

    Though the search for connection has been the crux of Björk's music since the beginning, she was resolutely alone on Vulnicura and Utopia. After the traumatic isolation of the former album and the healing solitude of the latter, on Fossora she's ready to reach out again. Named for a Latin word meaning "digger," Björk's tenth album is one of her best blends of the conceptual and the personal. Initially inspired by clarinets, gabba techno (her favorite to play at home during the COVID-19 global pandemic lockdown), and the communal nature of fungal networks, it grew to embrace her new love, her children leaving home, and her mother's 2018 death. Björk weaves these huge emotional milestones together into earthy, organic illustrations of the many kinds of love and how they're expressed. On Fossora, love isn't always soft: the album opener "Atopos" shows Björk has come down from Utopia's clouds with an impatient thud. "Our differences are irrelevant," she insists over jabbing beats, prodding clarinets, and an army of backing vocals before concluding, "Hope is a muscle/that allows us to connect." There's a maternal quality to her no-nonsense tone that ties in perfectly with Fossora's later expressions of being a daughter saying goodbye to her mother and a mother saying goodbye to her daughter. "Sorrowful Soil," the somber choral piece that serves as a eulogy for Björk’s mother, environmental activist Hildur Rúna, is striking, but still doesn't fully prepare listeners for "Ancestress." The equivalent of Vulnicura's centerpiece "Black Lake," it captures Rúna's legacy and passing in beautifully wrenching detail, from the traits she shared with Björk ("she invents words and adds syllables") to the form left behind ("let go of a cold palm"). Just as stunning is the misty-eyed finale "Her Mother's House," where Björk sends her daughter Isadora out into the world with the benediction "The more I love you/The better you will survive/The more freedom I give you." Romantic love inspires several of Fossora's other highlights, whether it's the Homogenic-like fusion of digital, emotional, and physical intimacy of "Ovule," the verdant sensuality of the serpentwithfeet collaboration "Fungal City," or "Freefall," a celebration of "the shape of the love we created" dotted with pizzicato strings that light up the track like tiny bioluminescent mushrooms. Like Vulnicura, the album has its challenging moments -- particularly "Victimhood," a subterranean crawl through the muck of self-pity -- but they make the transition from loss and grieving to love and hope on "Allow" and the title track all the sweeter. Whether Björk presents a magical world on Fossora or just reminds listeners of the magic within everyday life and relationships, it's more proof that she can still forge a remarkable connection with her audience. On this soul-nourishing tour de force, her one-of-a-kind mix of innovation and emotion is as inspiring as it's ever been over her decades-long career. ~ Heather Phares (syndetics) (12/2/2022 5:04:18 AM)

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