As music columnist for hellomagazine.ca, each week I’ll bring you my selections for the best and most notable new music, albums you’re going to want to add to your collection plus a five-song playlist to try out. Happy listening!
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BEST NEW ALBUMS:
Wilco – Star Wars
Wilco ranks as one of America’s most adventurous bands, having evolved from alt-country and free-form folk to something best described as art rock. The Chicago group’s ninth studio album, released for free through its website, keeps the experimental tradition going. Despite the kitten artwork cover, possibly a comment on the internet obsession with cuteness, Stars Wars buzzes like intercepted radio frequencies from a far-off galaxy. “You Satellite” is the spaciest song here, a slowly orbiting number that draws you in with irresistible, gravitational force. And the instrumental “EKG” is a jagged opener, full of stabbing guitars and off-kilter rhythms. But Wilco has always had a melodic side, thanks to Jeff Tweedy’s love of sweeter sounds. So the album has nods to McCartney-like pop on “Taste the Ceiling” and Dylanesque folk-rock on “The Joke Explained.” Overall, a freebie well worth downloading.
Joss Stone – Water for Your Soul
Ever since meeting Bob Marley’s son Damien in SuperHeavy, the short-lived supergroup with Mick Jagger, Dave Stewart and A.R. Rahman, the English singer famous for her Soul Sessions debut has had an unabiding love affair with reggae. Her seventh album is full of reggae’s one-drop rhythms and chicka-chicka guitars. Together with Damien, Stone tackles topical subjects on “Wake Up,” a warning about the power of advertising, and “Clean Water,” about seeking purity in life. On “Harry’s Symphony,” she teams up with reggae legend Barrington Levy, even dabbling in a little Jamaican patois herself, and sings about the island’s sacred herb on “Sensimilla.” Although reggae is the predominant sound, some songs touch on South Asian percussion (“Stuck on You”) and Spanish guitar (“Let Me Breathe”). There’s even a little Celtic fiddle on the album’s anthemic closer “The Answer,” in which Stone offers an inspired, life-affirming message. Boogie on, reggae woman.
OTHER NOTABLE RELEASES:
Daniel Romano – If I’ve Only Got One Time Askin’
The Welland, Ont.-bred crooner wears his battered honky-tonk heart on sequined sleeves on his brilliant fourth album, inspired by heroes like George Jones and Lefty Frizzell.
Natalie Imbruglia – Male
The Aussie singer covers her favorite male artists, with pretty, acoustic renditions of such indie hits as Daft Punk’s “Instant Crush” and Iron & Wine’s “Naked As We Came.”
Jill Scott – Woman
Who is Jill Scott? If you still don’t know, check out her fifth album, a collection of storytelling songs of hard truths and deep-fried southern soul.
The Chemical Brothers – Born in the Echoes
Guests include Beck, St. Vincent and A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip, but the electronic dance music veteran’s best song is the trippy title track, featuring Cate Le Bon.
Kasey Chambers – Bittersweet
The ninth album by the Australian country star is filled with spiritual-themed numbers like “Is God Real” and heart-on-the-sleeve confessionals like the gutsy title track.