On the Record

Strut, by Lenny Kravitz

As the first song on Lenny Kravitz’s latest suggests, Strut is unabashedly about “Sex.” The funky album-opener’s driving beat and jangly guitar is a full-throttle introduction that awakens the senses. Two songs later, the carnal ...

Sleater-Kinney's No Cities to Love

The band that kept the heart of the riot-grrrl movement pumping is back, in a wicked way. Sleater-Kinney’s No Cities To Love burns bright and flames out on cue, blazing a trail for other punk ...

Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, by Belle & Sebastian

There hasn’t been a new Belle & Sebastian record in five years. The Scottish pop group made good use of that time to develop fresh ideas for Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance. Sonically, the ...

Leonard Cohen's Popular Problems

“Slow” opens and sets the tone — not, oddly enough, a tone of “slow” but a statement of intense personal vision, with humor, with openness, but only partial openness. This is how I’m doing things, ...

In the Lonely Hour, by Sam Smith

Arguably 2014’s best (and most talked about) new artist, Sam Smith proves on his debut album that the hype is justified. While many first discovered the British singer’s now-trademark falsetto on Disclosure’s house hit “Latch,” ...

Heaven & Earth, by Yes

“Wimps,” Robert Christgau sneered, comparing them to Talking Heads — who were wimps, he proclaimed, without “vagueness or cheap romanticism.” But that was ’77; the Heads (whom I love) left us; and four Englishmen, fronted ...

Stevie Nicks's 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault

The too-expensive deluxe version, which this isn’t, adds two of the most righteous songs, including one about a rendezvous with God; neither version omits the weakest cut, “Cathouse Blues,” an arched cat back before the ...

Black Star Elephant, by Nico & Vinz

Nico & Vinz have crafted a pure, primal debut album that rejoices in the band’s chosen path while applauding others’ individuality. The reach of this singer/songwriter duo from Oslo, Norway, had touched several continents with ...

Lucinda Williams's Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone

Singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams is an acquired taste. If you have it, Christmas came early this year with the release of her new double-disc Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone. The set collects 19 new ...

Redeemer of Souls, by Judas Priest

A wonderful friend of mine, gay, wants to know what the new Judas Priest album is all about (lyrically). I tell him that (lyrically) it’s about blood, glory, bloody glory, steel blades, fighting and dying ...

We Are Nots, by Nots

Slow songs are overrated

Any band that says they’re punk but then tries to sneak in a slow song — imposters. If you’re looking for authentic, brazen punk, the four women in Nots have it. There’s a bold intensity ...

Johnny Marr's Playland

Since the demise of the Smiths, Johnny Marr has worked on collaborations with feverish intensity, so it was no surprise that it took so long for his debut solo record to happen, but it is ...

Ariana Grande's My Everything

Pop singer Ariana Grande used her theater-kid talent to prove herself competent in her debut Yours Truly. Though her vocal chops were well represented, the singer played it too safe to impress. A year later, ...

Bite the Hand, by Three Minute Tease

Anton Barbeau’s second album with his Three Minute Tease (no hyphen) comes dedicated to his great friend and all-around under-hyped genius, Scott Miller (late of Game Theory, late of the Loud Family, late of the ...

Cheek to Cheek, by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

Cool crooner and shock popper an unlikely, entertaining pair

In a smoky, darkened nightclub, the stage is bare save for two figures singing in the gloom. A woman sits playfully at a piano as her partner sips a scotch on the rocks and smiles ...

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