‘Tis The Season!
And it wouldn’t be the same without Kenny Rogers. He delivers a beautiful gift in Once Again it’s Christmas, reminiscing on past seasons with the familiar, a la “Winter Wonderland” and contemplative original, “The Light.” Special guests abound with appearances from Jennifer Nettles, Jim Brickman and the inimitable Alison Krauss. –Rachel Whitney
Draped with melodic glitz and classic songwriting, Jeff Lynne makes ELO all his own.
Veteran fans of Electric Light Orchestra won’t be disappointed in the aptly titled Alone In The Universe with frontman Jeff Lynne handling all instruments himself. He’s reviving an iconic band more than 35 years after their peak and making it sound like time has stood still. –Michelle Solomon
INDIE SUB OF THE WEEK
Where can one hear a post-rock salute to New Zealand’s forgotten history of psychedelic mountaineering?
Right here! Triumphs are a hard rocking NZ duo who pay sonic tribute to their esteemed countryman Sir Edmund Hilary with Beekeeper/Bastardknocker, a sprawling collection of dense, epic instrumentals chronicling Hilary’s journey via a heady mix of moody math rock, stoner sludge and hypno-rock heaviness. –Andee Connors
Behold the 10-minute-long single from David Bowie’s 25th studio album.
The groundbreaking title-track to 2016’s Blackstar scores a delightfully creepy video directed by Breaking Bad director Johan Renck. “Blackstar” is an electro-soul informed epic with skittering beats and chaotic horn arrangements. Bowie’s lyrics imagine a surreal, futuristic landscape wherein he must rescue his muse from the paralysis of intergalactic purgatory. –Eric Shea
El Son No Muere.
Patricio Hidalgo continues to demonstrate that folk traditions are not inherently static cultural expressions; rather, they can be infused and enriched through constant experimentation and reinvention. On Subterráneo, Hidalgo continues this work through his medium of choice, son jarocho, a folk variant from the state of Veracruz, México. The result is sincere, engaging and ultimately, timeless. –Marcos Juarez
Abstract beauty meets abstruse beast.
Rare is the record that so artfully balances melody and malevolence, pop and pummel. But Arca’s Mutant does precisely that, channeling the classic sound of early Warp Records (Autechre, Aphex Twin, etc.) and transforming those sounds into a dizzying jumble of fractured, technicolor shards which coalesce into a soft cacophony of deliriously dreamy, difficult listening. –Andee Connors
Rising Ethiopian star Galaana Gaaromsaa updates the classic Ethio-jazz sound.
On his debut album, Galaana Gaaromsaa delivers some beautiful swirling originals that could come off of one of the stellar Ethiopiques compilations. Replete with the lilting rhythms and long twisty melodies made popular by that series, Ilmaan Hayyootaa showcases Galaana’s excellent voice and arrangements. Fun and uplifting music! –Diego Gonzalez
Ending his breakout year, Leon Bridges bids a soulful “So Long.”
After the success of his debut album Coming Home, soul crooner Leon Bridges makes a surprise return with the single So Long. The beautiful ballad will be included on the soundtrack of Will Smith’s upcoming movie Concussion and is already figuring into this year’s best original song Oscar race. –Michelle Solomon