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Reflektor by Arcade Fire
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The Current: Arcade Fire Live at Target Center
NPR Artist Profile: Arcade Fire
NPR: Live in Concert - Arcade Fire
Morning Edition: Arcade Fire on its Brand New Beat
All Things Considered: The Arcade Fire, Dark and Energetic
NPR: The Arcade Fire In Concert
Fresh Air: Art-Rock Fueled by Eclecticism and Pain
All Songs Considered: WHAT. THE. HELL. WHO IS ARCADE FIRE?????????
The Current: Album Review: Reflektor
It’s January of 2005, and I’m standing in an Arizona art gallery with some 200 other people. The show is BYOB, and there’s a cooler of tall boys at my feet. Seven band members, dressed like they’re attending a funeral on Halloween, are crowded onto a 15x15 stage. Behind the band is a hand-painted set — wooden cutouts of two Victorian women in profile. The band members tear through a few anthemic numbers from their debut album. They drip sweat. One member dons a helmet, and beats it with drumsticks. About 6 songs in, the band are interrupted by a train rumbling on tracks that run just on the other side of the gallery’s wall. They stop. The train roars and clatters. The front man looks back at the other members. There are subtle nods. The last car passes, and the musicians launch into a cover of The Magnetic Fields’ “Born on a Train.”
That band, that night — in front of 200 people, in a tiny venue besieged by freight trains — performed like they were The Biggest Band in the World. Eight years, four albums, one Grammy and a veritable ton of notoriety later, The Arcade Fire are, in many ways, still the same band I saw play that night. Detractors like to accuse the band of being drunk on fame, bloated with a sense of self-importance. Well, I’m here to tell you that they were always that way, even when the only people listening were a bunch of buzzed college kids in a desert town. And why not? If you’re going to bother making music, why not make it big? (For goodness sake, this is the band that, on its second album, thought, “Hey, a PIPE ORGAN would sound cool here.”) Why not put on a great show for people who spent good money to see you? And why not make music that draws freely, playfully and joyously from your heritage and your heroes?
The band’s fourth album is a bubbling cauldron containing all the magic and heart and guts that created The Arcade Fire (Bowie, jazz, Depeche Mode, U2’s PopMart spectacle, religious studies, Haiti), and James Murphy is the shaman stirring the pot, teasing out the band’s impish spirit. Reflektor is a 75-minute, two-disc hot mess. And it’s a whole lot of fun.
There are themes here — nighttime, Greek mythology, critiques of religion, the cult of celebrity, and colonialism — but, unlike past albums, you won’t find a thread running through this one (at least I couldn’t). Disc 1 begins with the beginning. Listen with headphones and you’ll hear the warped opening chords of Track 1 (“Neighborhood #1 [Tunnels]”) of their 2005 debut, Funeral. From there, Reflektormeanders delightfully. From the butt-shaking sax and keyboard-driven title track, to the smooth FM-pop of “We Exist,” to the dancehall echoes of “Flashbulb Eyes,” to the Freddy-Mercury-Meets-The-Smiths frolic of “You Already Know, ” Arcade Fire switch genres the way Katy Perry changes costumes. The highest points of the disc — and when I say high, I mean soaring — are the ecstatic, Carnival-esque “Here Comes the Night”; the classic rocker (à la Tame Impala) “Joan of Arc,” with its surprising do-wop backing vocals; and “Normal Person,” which features a delicious guitar hook, anti-imperialist lyrics, and Win Butler happily donning his Irish hero’s wraparound sunglasses and swagger.
Disc 2 is a kind of mediation. It starts in the past — with that vaguely familiar electronic squeep we used to hear at the start and end of cassette tapes. “Here Comes the Night Time II” is a lovely, nocturnal, near-dirge that evokes the hum of crickets on a wet night. The center of the disc is a beautiful two-song dialogue between two mythological figures, Orpheus and Eurydice. The former, “Awful Sound (Oh, Eurydice),” sounds like The Beatles channeled through The Decemberists, and the latter, “It’s Never Over (Hey Orpheus),” is pure ’80s pop with a wonderful R&B-style refrain. “Afterlife,” with its delicate echoes of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle,” is a solid track, despite being a slightly paler cousin of “Reflektor.” “Supersymmetry” closes the album as a sparkling showcase for the band’s husband/wife vocals. (Well, technically, a hidden track closes the album — but I won’t spoil it for you.)
Even the clunkers on this album are B-students at worst. “Porno” is boring and over-simplified — a latter-day, lesser “Roxanne.” The heavy-handed dub of “Flashbulb Eyes” feels like a costume, and the lyrics (“What if the camera really do take your soul?”) have the slight, unsavory smell of primitivism. Which brings me to my one critique of this album and of The Arcade Fire in general: Sometimes the lyrics suck.
Win Butler has two modes of lyric writing: the Storyteller and the Preacher. In the first, he is personal, intimate and specific; see, from earlier albums, the gorgeous imagery of songs like “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)” and “In the Backseat,” or the narrative leaning of songs like “Neighborhood #2 (Laika)”, “The Suburbs” and “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”. When Butler takes to the pulpit, his lyrics are unimaginative, abstract and dependent on cliché. We heard this mode a good bit on Arcade Fire’s second album, Neon Bible, but forgave it based on the album’s thematic urgency. I find I’m less forgiving of this lyrical mode on Reflektor. Songs destined for greatness are somewhat diminished by lame lyrics (“You’re down on your knees, begging us please”).
I know what the Arcade Fire are capable of — I heard it on The Suburbs' “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” the band's first foray into clubland and a standout track, musically and lyrically. But they’re not quite there yet. Reflektor, for me, finds the band maintaining their pedestal status, but the album is no masterpiece. That, I believe, is forthcoming.
On Air: Live at the BBC: Complete Set by The Beatles
On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 1 by The Beatles
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On Air: Live at the BBC Volume 2 by The Beatles
Fresh Air: At the BBC, The Beatles Shocked an Institution
Weekend Edition: The Beatles’ Defining Moment (Hint: It’s Not ‘Sgt. Pepper’)
In the studios of the British Broadcasting Corporation, The Beatles performed music for a variety of radio shows. On Air: Live at the BBC presents the sound of The Beatles seizing their moment to play for the nation. Thrilled to hear these exciting recordings again, Paul McCartney said, “There’s a lot of energy and spirit. We are going for it, not holding back at all, trying to put in the best performance of our lifetimes.”
On Air also features BBC recordings of 30 well-loved songs from The Beatles’ catalogue, including five number ones and other favorites such as “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Twist And Shout,” “Do You Want To Know A Secret,” “Boys,” “Please Mister Postman,” “Money,” “And I Love Her” and “If I Fell.”
Stereo Box Set by The Beatles - Past Masters (2LP) The Beatles’ acclaimed original studio album remasters, released on CD in 2009, make their long-awaited stereo vinyl debut.
Divided & United: The Songs of the Civil War
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All Things Considered: ‘Divided & United’ Songs of the Civil War Re-Imagined
ATO Records and music supervisor Randall Poster (Moonrise Kingdom, Boardwalk Empire, Rave On Buddy Holly) have joined forces to releases Divided & United: Songs of the American Civil War., a two -disc set of Civil War songs brought to life through fresh interpretations by the pioneers. Hall of Famers and rising young stars of county, bluegrass , folk and beyond. The collections celebrates music deeply vital to the history and spirit of America in tribute to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Each song offers a unique window on the past, with themes exploring race identity and reconciliation in a manner that echoes profoundly today. The tremendous talents on Divided & United pan several generation and genres: Loretta Lynne, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Lee Ann Womack, Ralph Stanley, AA Bondy, Jamey Johnson, Chris Thile, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Taj Mahal, Shovels & Rope, Cowboy Jack Clement John Doe Karen Elson and many more.
Magpie And The Dandelion by The Avett Brothers
NPR First Listen: The Avett Brothers, ‘Magpie And The Dandelion’
NPR: The Avett Brothers, Live In Concert: Newport Folk 2013
World Cafe: The Avett Brothers On World Cafe
The Current: CD of the Week - Magpie and the Dandelion
Review by Bill DeVille, host of The Current
little over a dozen years ago, a couple of brothers and a friend formed a little band in North Carolina. They dug playing real fast and did a lot of “hootin’ and hollerin” as they barnstormed the rock clubs of the USofA. They had more in common with punk rock than bluegrass. As the band continued touring and recording, their sound has lost some of those rough edges.
The Avett Brothers have become more of a song band. They sing deeply personal songs that often strike a chord with their fans. The band were heading in a direction that may have alienated some of their original fans, but they have bigger aspirations than plunkin’ banjo tunes on the beer-hall circuit. Largely, The Avett Brothers haven’t lost the charm that got them where they are today. Most artists’ music gets slicker and more refined as they hone their craft and become more proficient on their instruments. The Avett Brothers are no different.
The Avett Brothers have a new album called Magpie and the Dandelion. Their eighth album is the third in a row with superstar producer Rick Rubin. This one sounds a lot like its predecessor, The Carpenter; most of the songs were recorded during those same sessions.
Magpie and the Dandelion starts out like a house afire — “Open-Ended Life” might be the most country-rockin’ tune they’ve recorded! The opener on the album ought to be a closer in their set for years to come! This song chugs along like the little engine that could and turns anthem-like as it builds over Scott and Seth Avett singing, “I was taught to keep an open-ended life/And never trap myself in nothing.”
Next is “Morning Song”; this is the prettiest song on the album. A full choir joins in mid-song, giving it little bit of a gospel feel. Magpie and the Dandelion loses a little steam from there and falls into the slower, mid-tempo ballad territory the Avett Brothers have been living in lately. At least they haven’t forgotten the trusty banjo that’s been lacking the last couple of albums. Several tracks feature it, including “Another is Waiting,” which is a short, concise, sunny little tune that you can hum along to. “Skin and Bones” is another winner. Its features Scott and Seth’s best vocal on the record!
I think the best song on the album is “Part From Me,” a song they performed live at The Current last June. This “break-up”song is a real tearjerker.
The most surprising song on the album is “Vanity.” The Avetts put away the banjo on this one; they sound more electric than they ever have. It could almost pass for a Paul McCartney and Wings’ tune from the ’70s.
With winter setting in and those colder temperatures upon us, light the fireplace and give Magpie and the Dandelion a spin. It’ll warm your heart and soul.
Artpop by Lady Gaga
Morning Edition: Lady Gaga Writing a Song is like a Factory Investing in a New Machine
Soundcheck: Lady Gaga
2013 release, the third album from the Pop superstar. Artpop musically mirrors Gaga’s creative process. Simply put, Artpop is a celebration of obsession set to a carefully crafted musical landscape that brings the listener on a truly unique audio journey. With producers White Shadow, Zedd, Madeon and others on board, Gaga’s signature Dance/Pop sounds have risen to new heights, bringing a fresh experience that is destined to shake up the current state of Pop music.
The Fame Monster - “Lady Gaga isn’t flesh and blood like the rest of us. She is made of amazingness.” ~Simon Price, The Independent (London)
The Complete Album Collection V.1
The Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection Vol. One is a colossal box set encompassing the entire official discography of the American songwriter-performer who’s revolutionized folk, pop and rock music over the past half century with a profoundly influential catalog of songs and sounds.
Beginning with tracks recorded for his eponymous 1962 Columbia Records debut album, the Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection Vol. One follows Dylan’s restless transformations across six decades as a singer, a songwriter, a concert performer and a studio artist who’s continually finding fresh ways of expressing and exploring the varieties of human experience, worldly and other, with music.
The Bob Dylan Complete Album Collection Vol. One also brings together for the first time, on two “Side Tracks” discs, a wealth of previously released non-album singles, tracks from Biograph and other compilations, songs from films and more.
The collection contains 35 studio titles (including the first-ever North American release of 1973’s Dylan album on CD), 6 live albums, the 2-CD “Side Tracks,” and a hardcover book featuring extensive new album-by-album liner notes penned by Clinton Heylin and a new introduction written by Bill Flanagan.
All 41 official albums, including 14 newly remastered titles
Also includes a 2CD compilation of songs not included on the original albums
All the original artwork reproduced
Hardcover booklet with extensive liner notes and rare photos
Loved Me Back To Life by Celine Dion
"Loved Me Back To Life" is Celine Dion’s first English-language album in six years. The album will be released in the US on November 5. "Loved Me Back To Life" offered Celine the chance to work with a team of exceptional producers and songwriters including Ne-Yo, Diane Warren, Tricky Stewart, Stevie Wonder, Eg White, Daniel Merriweather, Babyface, Audra Mae Butts, Play Production, Eman, Janis Ian, Danny Mercer, Andrew Goldstein, Shaffer Smith, Jessi Alexander, Tommy Lee James, Corporal, Sauce, Kyle Townsend, Dana Parish, Andrew Hollander, Aaron Pearce, Kuk Harrell, and Walter Afanasieff. The album’s single and title track was written by Sham & Motesart and Sia. In addition, Ne-Yo and Stevie Wonder lend their incredible talents as Dion’s duet partners.
Having sold more than 220 million albums around the world, Celine Dion is one of the most immediately recognized, widely respected and successful performers in pop music history. She has been awarded five Grammy Awards, including Record Of The Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for “My Heart Will Go On” and Album of the Year and Best Pop Album.
After five consecutive years of sold-out Las Vegas shows, Celine Dion returned to Caesars Palace for her all-new sold-out show “Celine Dion In Las Vegas.” Her historic, original show, “A New Day Has Come,” was one of the highest grossing concerts in music history, selling more than 3 million tickets in its run and helping make Celine the highest-grossing touring artist in the world from 2000 to 2010. Additional performances of “Celine Dion In Las Vegas” are scheduled later this year and into 2014. The powerful set features Dion’s greatest hits, surprising covers and new songs featured on “Loved Me Back To Life.”
The Marshall Mathers LP2 by Eminem
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Brand new album from legendary rapper Eminem featuring the hit singles “Berzerk”, “Rap God” and “The Monster” along with “Survival” the official song of Call of Duty: Ghosts. Executive produced by Dr. Dre & Rick Rubin, “The Marshall Mathers LP2” deluxe version includes 2 CDs.
Like a Rose by Ashley Monroe
A Prairie Home Companion: Like a Rose
Weekend Edition: Ashley Monroe
Tiny Desk Concert: Ashley Monroe
Ashley Monroe is a country singer from Nashville, Tennessee. Her name may not be that familiar to you but the young singer-songwriter has already worked with big names: Wanda Jackson, Jack White and Miranda Lambert.
Annie Up by The Pistol Annies - Ashley Monroe combines her talent with Miranda Lambert and Angaleena Presley to form the group The Pistol Annies
A Playlist without Borders by The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
Charlie Rose: A Playlist without Borders
Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project has been on a mission to promote innovation and cross-cultural understanding through the arts for the last 15 years; the latest chapter comes with their new album, A Playlist Without Borders. The vision of Yo-Yo Ma’s limitless collective is as timely as ever: to connect the world’s neighborhoods by bringing together artists and audiences. From flashy surf guitar sounds to ninth century Chinese poetry, from modular playlists to Egyptian rhythms, the Silk Road Ensemble mixes the modern and the traditional, breaking boundaries of ethnicity and era. The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma’s A Playlist Without Borders is the groundbreaking group’s fifth recording and the first since 2009’s Grammy® nominated Off the Map. With A Playlist Without Borders, The Silk Road Ensemble once again demonstrates that there are no barriers for those approaching music with an open mind.
Dead Man’s Bones by Dead Man’s Bones
NPR Music: Dead Man’s Bones: Halloween Arrives Early
Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields share an affinity for the eerie. Their result of their musical collaboration is a striking collection of doo-wop songs about werewolves, haunting melodies telling tales of zombies with broken hearts, and children singing the joys and pains of being alive, or being dead. Features The Silverlake Conservatory of Music Children’s Choir. RIYL: Grizzly Bear, Daniel Johnston, Beirut, Nick Cave, Lon Chaney.
Pure Heroine by Lorde
All Things Considered: Lorde Doesn’t Have a Bentley, But The Charts Will Do
The Current: CD of the Week - Heroine by Lorde
The Current: Will You Join Lorde’s Team?
The Current: Album review: Lorde, ‘Pure Heroine’
2013 debut album from New Zealand singer/songwriter Ella Yelich-O’Connor AKA Lorde. It’d be easy to mistake Ella for a seasoned tunesmith from the American South, one who carries a heavy heart that’s been ravaged by careless men over time. But in truth, Lorde recorded these songs as a 16-year old Kiwi championed by the likes of Perez Hilton and Grimes. She has a timeless knack for songcraft with a sophisticated pop savvy that most people over 30 can’t find without collaboration. Lorde needs no collaborative hacks — she writes and sings her own songs. Even when she sings in her higher vocal range about teenage politics, Lorde carries herself with the grace and poise of someone like Beth Orton.
New by Paul McCartney
The Current: Paul McCartney Talks New Music
The Current: Something ‘New’ from Paul McCartney
2013 album from the singer/songwriter, former Beatle and the most successful musician in popular music history. New is Sir Paul’s first album of new solo material in six years. The album was produced by Marc Ronson, Paul Epworth, Giles Martin and Ethan Johns. Features ‘Save Us’, ‘Early Days’, ‘Everybody Out There’ and ‘New’.
Silver Bell by Patty Griffin
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World Cafe: Patty Griffin On World Cafe
NPR Music: Patty Griffin: Tiny Desk Concert
NPR Music: Patty Griffin Sings A Song For Her Father
Patty Griffin’s much sought after Silver Bell is finally getting its official release. Silver Bell would have been Griffin’s third album. It was recorded in 2000 but went unreleased by A&M Records. Despite its years of limbo the album spawned two huge hits for the Dixie Chicks, who covered both ‘Top Of The World’ and ‘Truth #2’ for their 2002 Home album. Newly mixed by legendary producer Glyn Johns, Silver Bell includes 14 original songs that were recorded back in 2000 at Daniel Lanois’ Kingsway Studio in New Orleans. Emmylou Harris sings harmony on ‘Truth #2.’ Griffin’s latest album, American Kid, was released in May.
The Diving Board by Elton John
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Fresh Air: A More Reflective Leap On Elton John’s ‘Diving Board’
Elton John’s The Diving Board, is his first studio album in seven years Produced by T Bone Burnett, the album features 12 new songs written by Elton and his longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin, as well as three piano interludes composed by the artist.
The Diving Board returns Elton John to the piano, bass and drums lineup that marked the artist s introduction to worldwide audiences more than 40 years ago. As Elton explains, In many ways, I feel like I m starting again, making records. Several years ago when beginning to work with T Bone and being in the studio with Leon Russell for The Union, I had to ask myself, What kind of music do I really want to make? , and I realized that I had to go back to go forward again. I needed to strip away the excesses and get back to the core of what I do as an artist. That s what The Diving Board represents. The Diving Board is the album I ve been waiting to make for decades. According to producer T Bone Burnett, The Diving Board is an album of music by a master at the peak of his artistic powers.