Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
I Learned The
Hard Way

On its previous album, 100 Days, 100 Nights, the Brooklyn-based group finally broke through with widespread critical acclaim and measurable sales. Its breakthrough was also aided by the group’s playing on Amy Winehouse’s killer Back To Black. Recorded at the famed House of Soul Studios in Brooklyn, and recorded the old-fashioned way on an Ampex eight-track tape machine, the album brims with old-school soul and r&b. There is a sweeter sound this time out and many songs have hit written all over them.

Plastic Beach

This is the third album from the animated music collective led by Damon Albarn of Blur and Jamie Hewlett, the creator of Tank Girl. It is the group’s first full-length album of all new music since the 2005 release Demon Days. Some of the guests on this release are Snoop Dogg, De La Soul, Mark E. Smith of The Fall and Lou Reed. The release is primarily a rap and electronica hybrid with pop overtones and, as with the group’s previous efforts, the music is hard to categorize. The best track on the album is “Broken” and features Albarn on lead vocals, which is unfortunately the only track on which he does a lead vocal. Fun, cool and to be treasured given how few albums the group releases (especially considering that Blur has just reunited), this is one beach you’ll want to stay lost on.

Massive Attack
Heligo Land

Speaking of Damon Albarn, he, along with others such as Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star and Adrian Utley of Portishead, guest on the first new Massive Attack album since 2003’s 100th Window. On this, only the fifth album of the group’s career, the kings of English trip-hop continue to mature, making music that is more for watching the early morning sunrise than for dancing to at night. There is a drama and tension here that makes the music and the lyrics work better together than ever before. This is a truly welcome comeback and a highly listenable album.

Gil Scott-Heron
I’m New Here

After 13 years away from the music business, Scott-Heron returns with a whole new sound. Aided by XL chief Richard Russell’s imaginative production, Scott’s sound now moves from primarily jazz into a post-apocalyptic, bop-jazz noir. With mostly spoken-word vocals, Scott-Heron delves deep into the hard-bitten truths of equality and the struggles of America’s underclass. Often eerie and unsettling, the music here is the perfect soundtrack to Scott-Heron’s near narration of the story of a country that has struggled for years to see everyone have the same opportunities.

Mose Allison
The Way Of The World

{ad-art-music}Like Scott-Heron, Allison hasn’t made an album in some time (10 years). Also like Scott-Heron, he has found a label that is clearly devoted to quality contemporary music. He also has the aid of a producer (Joe Henry) who is attuned to respecting his place in music while creating a musical environment that does not present his music as a museum piece. What sets the sound here apart from previous releases is the guitar interplay supplied by the ubiquitous Greg Leisz and Anthony Wilson, who provide a different shade of blues to Allison’s signature sound. At 82, this longtime Long Island resident sounds more vital than ever.