Playlist
King Kong Vol. 1
Bob Schneider
Montgomery
Year: 2015

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King Kong Vol. 1
Bob Schneider
King Kong
Year: 2015

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King Kong Vol. 1
Bob Schneider
The Fools
Year: 2015

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King Kong Vol. 1
Bob Schneider
Magic Wand
Year: 2015

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King Kong Vol. 1
Bob Schneider
The Fools
Year: 2015

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Tape Head
King's X
Ocean
Year: 1998

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A Cappella
Todd Rundgren
Blue Orpheus
Year: 1985

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Chris Whitley's Rocket House marks another shift for the man whose debut, Living with the Law, was a burst of Tom Petty-esque roots-rock. Since then, Whitley's oeuvre has become an increasingly eclectic--some would say unfocused--collection, one that reached its nadir with the grunge-flavored Din of Ecstasy in 1995. But in recent years, Whitley's been trusting his instincts, taking a more somber, minimalist road most poignantly captured on the Billy Martin-Chris Wood (of Medeski Martin & Wood fame) collaboration, Perfect Day. Whitley's House, however, is in another time and place entirely. Filled with whispering effects and looped guitars, dense songs, and an accessible, modern-rock slant, it's the work of a mature, smart songsmith who's discovered how to get the most out of his poet's eye for the human condition, while going for broke in embracing musical possibilities. Kicking off with "To Joy (Revolution of the Innocents)," the sea change is immediately obvious, as a strange little warble gives way to a burst of serpentine electronics and a sly chorus Dave Matthews could be proud of (indeed, the record is released on Matthews's label, ATO Records). Have a listen to the wide-open pop on songs like "Say Goodbye," and "Vertical Desert," the latter finding Whitley's rootsy voice singing over a subdued mechanical beat and fat washes of keyboard. Despite the record's occasional overreach, it's worth it to hear Whitley flex his creative muscles and come up with something so immediate, hovering on the edge of experimental while remaining absolutely, overtly listenable. --Matthew Cooke
Rocket House
Chris Whitley
Serve You
Year: 2001

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Live at Martyrs'
Chris Whitley
Serve You
Year: 2000

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Actor
St. Vincent
The Sequel
Year: 2009

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There's a comfortable sense of the familiar to James Taylor's first collection of new songs since 1997's Grammy winner Hourglass; such is the curse of being a decades-spanning cultural icon. But, as on his best work, there's also an almost stealthy sense of musical restlessness that seeps into Taylor's songs here, as he colors some with deft jazz and international influences. The reunion with producer Russ Titelman (they last collaborated on 1976's In the Pocket) seems to have gratifyingly inspired as much gentle reassessment as retrenchment. Longtime Titelman compatriot Ry Cooder guests on the title track, a song whose autumnal comforts fit the Taylor canon and other album tracks like "September Grass," "Baby Buffalo," "My Traveling Star," and "On the Fourth of July" (the story of Taylor's romantic meeting with current wife Kim) like an old slipper. However, "Belfast to Boston" cries for peace in Ireland and elsewhere with some surprising Gaelic flourishes, while "Whenever You're Ready" throws some Brazilian rhythms and jazzy horns into the mix, and Dave Grusin's slick orchestral arrangement turns "Mean Old Man" into an elegant cabaret surprise. A little more of this musical adventure amidst the familiar romantic ballads and paeans to the comfort of home and family--including a gorgeously spare cover of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"--certainly wouldn't hurt. --Jerry McCulley
October Road
James Taylor
September Grass
Year: 2002

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new life dreaming
Steve Roach
perfect dream
Year: 2005

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Wide Angles
Michael Brecker
Scylla
Year: 2003

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Fountains of Wayne's second album is somewhat of a new thing under the sun: Pet Sounds for '90s Jersey high schoolers. Main-men Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood litter these songs with cultural references (Pink Floyd laser shows, tattoos, Puff Daddy, lavender Lexuses, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me"), but their "Valley of Malls" is saturated with as much bittersweetness as that of Adam Sandler's wedding singer. The pop-savvy Schlesinger--who also puts in time as a member of Ivy and wrote That Thing You Do!'s title song--is wiseacre enough to dub a touching ELO tribute "Prom Theme," but when the album ends with one of the kids falling for "The Senator's Daughter," it feels as openhearted as when Brian Wilson puzzled over why he just wasn't made for these times. --Rickey Wright
Utopia Parkway
Fountains of Wayne
The Senator's Daughter
Year: 1999

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The 12 tracks on One All proffer a more organic, rougher-hewn take on Neil Finn's solid classicism. While Crowded House's populist folk-pop tugged as many purse-strings as it did hearts, Finn's solo career has been characterized by nothing more strident than the soft shuffle of gentle understatement--as if the antipodean troubadour feared his former muse would be insulted by any attempts to out-pop the relentlessly tuneful House. Not that this follow-up to 1998's patchy solo debut, Try Whistling This, is in any way underwhelming. The swirling effects and treated guitars of "Rest of the Day Off" hint more at latter-day Split Enz and even, occasionally, Oasis, than Crowded House. Unfortunately, there is also a sense that the addition of such sonic accoutrements may be little more than a ham-fisted attempt to add techno-savvy flesh to basic, traditional bones--with "Hole in the Ice" and "Secret God" imbued with dubious guitar solos and irritatingly superfluous backing vocals (courtesy, bizarrely enough, of former Prince demoiselles Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman) that merely serve to detract from the music's warm-hearted core. Nevertheless, Finn's long-running lyrical concerns--love, loyalty, and, predominantly, self-doubt--have never been expressed more adroitly. --Sarah Dempster
One All
Neil Finn
Wherever You Are
Year: 2002

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Imaginary Kingdom
Tim Finn
Still The Song
Year: 2007

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This solo recording is a fitting coda for Keith Jarrett's more restrained, less prolific output in the 1990s. The fitful vamps and long, ruminative improvisations that made Jarrett a solo piano star in the '70s are here either stillborn or tightly tethered to classic melodies from the likes of Gershwin and Ellington, yet there is not the slightest hint of repression. Instead, Jarrett sprinkles notes and brings the familiar strains of "I Loves You, Porgy" and "Someone to Watch over Me" to bloom with a dynamic but resonantly earth-toned vibrancy. Rarely has the pianist kept his music so simple and free of pageantry. Audible moans and shenanigans with the piano's sustain pedal are held to a minimum, and even brawny, sing-along stuff like "Shenandoah" and "My Wild Irish Rose" never lapse into sloppy sentimentality--indeed, Jarrett's two-handed caress of the latter song is so delicately self assured, the tune seems to play itself. Among the 10 tracks, only "I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good" finds the pianist stretching into busy (but still crisp) extended passages. Yes, there are moments when Melody's shimmering standards exude the glazed predictability of cocktail music in a hotel lobby. But those are far outnumbered by the cherished occasions when Jarrett's romanticism rings true. --Britt Robson
The Melody At Night, With You
Keith Jarrett
Don't Ever Leave Me
Year: 1999

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Time Is Fiction
Edison Glass
Our Bodies Sing
Year: 2007

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The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect
Todd Rundgren
Don't Hurt Yourself
Year: 1982

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The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Genesis
In The Cage (New Stereo Mix)
Year: 2008

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Amy Winehouse's second album, Back to Black, is one of the finest soul albums, British or otherwise, to come out for years. Frank, her first album, was a sparse and stripped-down affair; Back to Black, meanwhile, is neither of these things. This time around, she's taken her inspiration from some of the classic 1960's girl groups like the Supremes and the Shangri-Las, a sound particularly suited to her textured vocal delivery, while adding a contemporary songwriting sensibility. With the help of producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi, "Rehab" becomes a gospel-tinged stomp, while the title track (and album highlight) is a heartbreaking musical tribute to Phil Spector, with it's echoey bass drum, rhythmic piano, chimes, saxophone and close harmonies. Best of all, though, is the fact that Back to Black bucks the current trend in R&B by being unabashedly grown-up in both style and content. Winehouse's lyrics deal with relationships from a grown-up perspective, and are honest, direct and, often, complicated: on "You Know I'm No Good", she's unapologetic about her unfaithfulness. But she can also be witty, as on "Me & Mrs Jones" when she berates a boyfriend with "You made me miss the Slick Rick gig". Back to Black is a refreshingly mature soul album, the best of its kind for years. --Ted Kord
Back to Black
Amy Winehouse
Just Friends
Year: 2007

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Black Sea
XTC
Smokeless Zone (2001 Digital Remaster)
Year: 2002

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Wake
Dead Can Dance
The Host Of Seraphim
Year: 2003

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XTC's frothy, Beatle-esque concept album about birth, death, and the passing of the seasons is hardly soft-headed: its melodic inventiveness and lush orchestrations supports bitterness ("That's Really Super, Supergirl"), displacement ("The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul"), and agnostic tirade ("Dear God") as often as it does the pleasures of sun and shower. The greatest achievement of XTC's post-Drums and Wires career, Skylarking is a must-have for the first days of spring. This deluxe, remastered version of the album contains a bonus track, "Mermaid Smiled." --Rickey Wright
Skylarking
XTC
Earn Enough For Us
Year: 1986

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Nick Laird-Clowes's penchant for writing odes to tragic icons like Nick Drake and Edie Sedgwick paid off with the success of 1985's "Life in a Northern Town," a sleeper hit that brought the group's commercially stillborn debut album back to life. Dedicated to Drake, the lead track sets the tone for the British trio's dreamy set of sensitive baroque-pop excursions. On tracks like the pastoral "One Dream," Kate St. John's arsenal of classical instruments adds color to Laird-Clowes's folk-rock strummings, while Gilbert Gabriel's keyboards give an '80s sheen to the '60s sentiments of "Love Parade." Dream Academy even lured Pink Floyd's David Gilmour into the production booth, ensuring the group its own little niche in art-rock history. --Bill Forman
The Dream Academy
The Dream Academy
Life In a Northern Town
Year: 1985

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Here Comes The Reign Again: The Second British Invasion
The Nines
Life's What You Make It
Year: 2014

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This is a dream pairing: Pat Metheny, the Baby Boomer guitar god whose musical palette embraces everything from Ornette Coleman to contemporary jazz, teams with pianist Brad Mehldau, the brooding Gen X prince of the piano on the verge of becoming himself. After admiring each other for years, they're now on the same label, and this dynamic duel extends their mutual admiration into a very personal and simpatico release that recalls the intimacy of that 1960s Jim Hall/Bill Evans masterpiece, Undercurrent. Save for Mehldau's bandmates drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier forming a quartet on the bop-mazed "Ring of Life" and the Afro-Caribbean cadences of "Say the Brother's Name," it's two for the road on the rest of the recording. When you hear selections like "Unrequited," "Ahmid-6," and "Make Peace," you know that this CD is only the start of something big from these two artists. --Eugene Holley, Jr.
Metheny Mehldau
Brad Mehldau & Pat Metheny
Summer Day
Year: 2006

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2013 two CD release from the British guitarist, songwriter, producer and former Dire Straits leader. Privateering is Knopfler's first double album, each song an original. They cover a wide range of locations and characters from both sides of the Atlantic and move through a number of genres which include several new Blues originals. The album is a soulful and heartfelt collection masterfully performed by a group of world class players. In addition to what has become Knopfler's long-time band, hand-picked guest aces include Kim Wilson (harp) of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Tim O'Brien (mandolin), singer Ruth Moody of The Wailin' Jennys, Paul Franklin (pedal steel) and Scotland's Phil Cunningham (accordion). Twenty new titles were recorded at the artist's British Grove Studios in London with the following players: Richard Bennett (guitar), Jim Cox (piano) Guy Fletcher (keyboards), John McCusker (fiddle), Mike McGoldrick (whistle and flute), Glenn Worf (bass) and Ian Thomas (drums). Knopfler was assisted by co-producers Guy Fletcher and Chuck Ainlay.
Privateering
Mark Knopfler
Yon Two Crows
Year: 2013

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new life dreaming
Steve Roach
deep sky time
Year: 2005

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Glaciation
Patrick O'Hearn
Gradual Understanding
Year: 2007

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Fountains of Wayne is one of the leaders of the latest in a long series of power- pop revivals. If the music sounds a lot like mid-'60s pop rock, it's no accident, for the songwriters are unabashed British Invasion fans. The songs on the debut album, Fountains of Wayne, take perky, '60s-like hooks and marry them to ambiguous, unnerving, '90s-like lyrics. Some songs offer an untrustworthy narrator; when the singer complains about "Joe Rey," a Eurotrash jet-setter, you wonder whether he's expressing disdain or envy and whether the song's noisy guitar energy belongs to the band or to Joe Rey. And there's something about the pent-up Mersey-beat energy and pleading vocals of "Please Don't Rock Me Tonight" that make one suspect the singer doesn't really mean what he says. Schlesinger and Collingswood are undeniably clever, but they're not afraid to rock. --Geoffrey Himes
Fountains of Wayne
Fountains of Wayne
Sick Day
Year: 2004

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Hell With the Lid Off
MC 900 Ft. Jesus
Shut Up
Year: 1990

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Lonely Avenue
Ben Folds & Nick Hornby
Picture Window
Year: 2010

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What's it all about? "A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace / And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace." Actually, it really doesn't matter. Later they would fragment and lose focus, but here is Yes functioning for once in the band's tortuous career as an organic unit, and individual elements--such as Jon Anderson's trippy lyrics--are less important than the whole. Even Rick Wakeman's Rachmaninoff-for-Hammond-organ excesses work in context, compensated for by Steve Howe's amazingly fluid guitar (equal parts Charlie Christian and Chet Atkins), in turn counterbalanced by Chris Squire's behemoth Rickenbacker bass and Bill Bruford's jazzy drumming. This is rock music informed by the improvisational spirit of jazz and allied with the grandiosity of the classics. Love it or hate it, Close to the Edge is the definitive prog album. --Mark Walker
Close to the Edge
Yes
Siberia (Studio Run-Through of Siberian Khatru)
Year: 2003

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Passion & Warfare
Steve Vai
Alien Water Kiss
Year: 1990

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Sublime
Sublime
The Ballad Of Johnny Butt
Year: 1996

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"Folon".....The Past
Salif Keita
Sumun
Year: 2010

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SHAWN COLVIN
A Few Small Repairs
Shawn Colvin
Sunny Came Home
Year: 1996

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XTC's frothy, Beatle-esque concept album about birth, death, and the passing of the seasons is hardly soft-headed: its melodic inventiveness and lush orchestrations supports bitterness ("That's Really Super, Supergirl"), displacement ("The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul"), and agnostic tirade ("Dear God") as often as it does the pleasures of sun and shower. The greatest achievement of XTC's post-Drums and Wires career, Skylarking is a must-have for the first days of spring. This deluxe, remastered version of the album contains a bonus track, "Mermaid Smiled." --Rickey Wright
Skylarking
XTC
Sacrificial Bonfire
Year: 1986

Amazon MP3

XTC's frothy, Beatle-esque concept album about birth, death, and the passing of the seasons is hardly soft-headed: its melodic inventiveness and lush orchestrations supports bitterness ("That's Really Super, Supergirl"), displacement ("The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul"), and agnostic tirade ("Dear God") as often as it does the pleasures of sun and shower. The greatest achievement of XTC's post-Drums and Wires career, Skylarking is a must-have for the first days of spring. This deluxe, remastered version of the album contains a bonus track, "Mermaid Smiled." --Rickey Wright
Skylarking
XTC
Dear God
Year: 1986

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The Aristocrats
The Aristocrats
Sweaty Knockers
Year: 2011

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Resolution
Andy Timmons
Deliver Us
Year: 2006

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Scenes From The Southside
Bruce Hornsby And The Range
Defenders Of The Flag
Year: 1990

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Bride Of The Noisemakers
Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers
Defenders Of The Flag
Year: 2011

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Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! finds Nick Cave back at the helm of his long-term band The Bad Seeds after some impressive soundtrack work--2005's The Assassination of Jesse James--and a busman's holiday in the raw, rocking Grinderman. As the title suggests, Lazarus finds Cave returning to familiar themes of God and redemption, although some of the raw poise and wild-eyed humour that resurfaced in Grinderman remains: take the opening title track, which retells the Biblical story of the resurrection of Lazarus as transposed onto the sleazy, poverty-stricken backdrop of modern-day New York City. Musically, the likes of "Moonland" and "Night of the Lotus Eaters" have a swampy feel, all skittering drums, simmering bass and smoky organ riffs; elsewhere, there are rockers that tie on dissonant guitars without losing their dissonant touch ("Lie Down Here"). Probably the album highlight comes with "We Call Upon the Author", a sprawling, "Sister Ray"-like chugger that shows off Cave's skill for magnificent, sung-shouted narratives: "Now mixamatoid kids roam the streets, we've shunned them from the greasy grind/The poor little things, they look so sad and old as they mount us from behind". --Louis Pattison
Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
More News From Nowhere
Year: 2008

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Produced by Greg Wells (Adele, OneRepublic), Chase The Sun is filled with Holden’s passionate, purpose-driven rock songs, which brim with tough, vibrant energy and showcase his lean, literate songwriting. Much of Chase The Sun was inspired by a life-changing, seven-week trip that the Scotland-born, England-bred artist took to India and Nepal in February 2013. Upon his return, Holden began to write the songs that appear on Chase The Sun, including the first single, “Hold On Tight,” which he says was the driving force for the album.
Chase the Sun
Greg Holden
Hold On Tight

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In Absentia
Porcupine Tree
The Creator Has a Mastertape
Year: 2002

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Walk On
John Hiatt
Cry Love
Year: 1995

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Bagpipes, a song written as the soundtrack to a Michel Gondry music video, Patti Page's musical shadow, and Jack and Meg co-narrating a scavenger's rummages: It must be time for Icky Thump, the many-flavored riposte to 2006's Get Behind Me Satan. The duo starts big with the title track--Jack's fast-tumbling, falsetto-tinged lyrics jagging on hyper keyboard-sounding segues and Meg's pounding drums. They rarely shy from an idea, invoking acoustic Bob Dylan to frame "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues," but interjecting a series of distortion-laden guitar paroxysms for good measure. The end of Icky, on "Effect and Cause," is where Jack's trademark vocal warble and spare, quick acoustic strums meet Meg's single-minded beats. Everywhere on Icky giant riffs leap and shout, with Flamenco horns and those eerie bagpipes and rhythmic shifts and Jack's impatient vocal kinetics, marking new territories even as the White Stripes again populate them with vintage ideas. --Andrew Bartlett
Icky Thump
The White Stripes
Conquest
Year: 2007

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