The music industry’s final quarter of the year is a time for superstar releases, as the record labels try to end the year with a big bang of holiday sales. In recent weeks, such boldface names as Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Pearl Jam and Eminem have offered new albums.
But there are plenty of other new discs and downloads worthy of your attention. Consider these…
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Boardwalk Empire Soundtrack, Vol. 2
BOARDWALK EMPIRE, VOLUME 2
Maybe you don’t get HBO. Maybe you’re a wuss (like me) who can’t handle sudden violence. But you can still enjoy the second volume of music from the jazz and standards-fueled hit cable TV series.
While the TV show includes plenty of authentic recordings in its re-creation of the mob wars of the Roaring ’20s, on this disc, the likes of Patti Smith (“I Ain’t Got Nobody”), David Johannsen (“Strut Miss Lizzie”) and Elvis Costello (“It Had to Be You”) are among the many respected artists who interpret songs from the prohibition era. You get two Wainwrights – Loudon III and Rufus – and performances by Stephen DeRosa, who plays Eddie Cantor on the series, and new season four cast member Margot Bingham.
With the holidays coming, this varietal mix – where else would you find both Liza Minelli and Neko Case?! – would work well at the cross-generational family dinner, with recognizable tunes for grandma to hum to while HBO cachet impresses the twentysomethings.
Circles, Super Bon Bon…
MIKE DOUGHTY – CIRCLES, SUPER BON BON…
In his fascinating and often searing 2012 memoir, “The Book of Drugs,” Mike Doughty made it very clear that he was not a happy camper in his time with the band that made him famous, Soul Coughing. After years of ignoring his rich back catalog in pursuit of his solo career, Doughty has reclaimed his song book on this collection of re-invented Soul Coughing tunes which he describes as, “bigger, heavier, cleaner, funkier, more streamlined than the originals.”
The album’s full title is a list of all 13 of the songs included (if only I were paid by the word…). Crowdfunded by fans in a mere 16 hours and released on Doughty’s own imprint, the album recasts the old hits closer to his original intent as a young musician working as a doorman at an avant-jazz club, while immersing himself in the house, hip-hop and techo music of early ’90s Manhattan.
Doughty has also confirmed a five-week, 32-city tour this fall, which will feature him and a new backing band performing songs by his former band. It’s been a set list long in the making, but worth waiting for.
Just Desserts: The Complete Waitresses
JUST DESSERTS: THE COMPLETE WAITRESSES
If all you know of The Waitresses is the deliciously catty “I Know What Boys Like,” or the charming seasonal ditty “Christmas Wrapping” (the Spice Girls covered it, but the original is the one you want on your holiday mix), you’re missing out on one of the truly joyful bands of the early 80s New Wave. Thanks to this new reissue, which collects all of the band’s recorded work for the Polydor label, you’ll get the full buffet of Waitresses fun – two albums and an EP’s worth of tracks on two CDs.
Songwriter/guitarist Chris Butler wrote the clever songs that Patty Donahue delivered in an idiosyncratic style that was more spoken than sung, projecting a sassy, somewhat snarky persona that stands alongside Patti Smith, Lene Lovich and the ladies of the B52s as an influential model for women rockers to follow.
Along with the wonderful wordplay (sample song titles: “I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get The Parts” and “They’re All Out of Liquor, Let’s Find Another Party”) an undercurrent of avant pop/jazz crept into many of the Waitresses’ catchy melodies thanks to Butler’s Ohio roots/musical kinship with the likes of Devo and the Bizarros and a crackerjack band which included sax man Mars Williams (who later joined Psychedelic Furs), bassist Tracy Wormworth (she toured with Sting) and drummer Billy Fica (ex-Television).
Though the Waitresses served the public for just a short shift, from the 1982 debut album “Wasn’t Tomorrow Wonderful?” through 1983’s “Bruiseology,” they did an awful lot in a little time, and this album is well-titled. “Just Desserts” is a tasty treat, indeed.
ANOUSHKA SHANKAR – TRACES OF YOU
Still in her twenties, Anoushka Shankar has established herself as one of world’s foremost sitarists and, as a composer, explores the crossover potential between Indian music and genres such as jazz, electronica and Western classical. Shankar lost her legendary father, Ravi Shankar, during the recording process for her seventh album, so it’s only natural that loss is a central focus. But that’s not to say that the album is a downer by any means.
The title references the idea that everything in the universe leaves a subtle trace on all it comes into contact with; appropriately, the elder Shankar’s spirit enfuses the record with something ultimately hopeful rather than mournful, as do references to the joy of raising a new son. With half-sister Norah Jones on three tracks and shorter songs than her esteemed father’s lengthy meditations, you could call this a pop sitar album, but that’s not to diminish its considerable charms.
Check out the video for the title track, directed by Shankar’s husband, filmmaker Joe Wright (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina) and featuring Jones.
At Dashboard Confessional shows, singer/guitarist Chris Carrabba had no lack of audiences singing along with passionate intensity to his emo songs (back when the sound was a fresh and exciting new style). In his newest collaboration, Carrabba should get much the same reaction, plus some hooting and hollering, as he’s turned his talents to creating a more rootsy, traditional folk-styled music.
While the high-energy acoustic spirit of Dashboard remains, Carrabba
challenged himself to learn classic fingerpicking technique and revised his songwriting methods, incorporating the mandolin and occasional vocal work of Suzie Zeldin, Jonathan Clark’s bass and Ben Homola’s drums for a veritable hoedown throwdown.
The five track EP blasts its intentions in the very first song, the fun and frentic “Back To You,” and doesn’t quit until the last notes of the Celtic closer, “Scraping Up The Pieces.” This isn’t another bandleader jumping on a Mumfordian bandwagon. Twin Forks has its own celebratory, infectious road to hoe.
Check out “Cross My Mind.”