BRAD MEHLDAU: Live in Marciac
[Nonesuch, Feb. 22]
A concert recording that brings out the best of the jazz pianist — his ability to take the old, the new, the borrowed and, yes, the blue, and spin them in a style all his own. It's all there: the musical theater standards he first flirted with a decade ago — Cole Porter's "It's All Right With Me" — and the pop covers he's known for — Nick Drake's "Things Behind the Sun," Thom Yorke's "Exit Music (for a Film)." Perhaps Nonesuch Records will release an album of his final concert at L.A.'s Disney Hall last month, and folks in Marciac will close their eyes and try to imagine the experience.
NICOLE ATKINS: Mondo Amore
[Razor & Tie, available now]
Singer-songwriter Nicole Atkins is a rock & roll chick with a heart for the blues. In her husky, just-rolled-out-of-bed voice, she pleads plaintively. Blood, sweat and tears figure prominently in Mondo Amore: A barroom brawl of a song, "My Baby Don't Lie," finds her brassily defending her man. Upon confirmation of his infidelity, the music suddenly turns majestic, and her voice becomes measured. Still, the standout track "Vultures" ends with the words, "Ahead there is a tiny star that even I can see." This may be the anti–Valentine's Day album, but Atkins isn't throwing a pity party. Totally striking album cover, too.
JULIANNA BARWICK: The Magic Place
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Diplo once described Barwick's music as "the sound of Care Bears making love." This observation is not completely unfounded. Her latest release doesn't deviate significantly from her prior releases in that it features layers upon layers of ethereal vocals and sequenced synthesizers dancing over a smooth aural landscape that is largely devoid of percussive elements. For the most part, the music is its own percussion: the looped arpeggio of a synthesizer, her "ahhs and oohs," fragments of lyrics. Picture a mix of Glasser and a Bach fugue, with bells and vocal layers. The clincher? The beautifully haunting title track. Surrender.
LIL B: "Justin Bieber"
He's already called himself Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres and Paris Hilton, so who else should "the Based God" (aka Lil B) choose to be his next, uh, honoree but underage heartthrob Justin Bieber? Over his signature whoops and chants of "swag," the prolific Bay Area cult rapper (he's authored thousands of songs and a self-help book) drones "Justin Bieber" over and over like he's hypnotizing you. Bie-ber, Bie-ber, Bie-ber ... we can't get it out of our heads. Thank you, Based God!