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The Listening Room: Snow Patrol, the Little Willies and more...
During the past four years or so Snow Patrol has labored, especially in the U.K. under the weight of being a Next Big ... Something, whether it was U2, who the group opened for during part of its 360 Tour, or Coldplay. The quintet from Northern Ireland certainly delivered a capable brand of anthemic rock (“Run,” “Chasing Cars,” “Signal Fire”), but there was a sense of working to fit a mold rather than create one for itself. “Fallen Empires,” Snow Patrol’s sixth studio album, is a bold if not entirely successful attempt to do just that. The 14-track set finds frontman Gary Lightbody trading angst for optimism and sentimentality, warm emotions (with the occasional dark discourse) that are accompanied by an organic and spacious blend of acoustic guitars, piano, strings and gospel choir carefully constructed by the group and producer Jacknife Lee. “I’ll Never Let Go” starts things off with a synthesized underpinning and echo vocals by American singer Lissie, while four-on-the-floor beats drive “Called Out in the Dark” and “The Weight of Love” and New Wave textures envelope “The Symphony.” The finest moments in “Fallen Empires” are some of its quietest, particularly the heart-wringing pep talk “This Isn’t Everything You Are” and sweetly positive “Lifening,” in which Lightbody salutes simple pleasures such as “Ireland in the World Cup, either north or south” and “Just some simple kindness, no vengeance from the gods.” There’s a meandering quality to some of the tracks (“New York,” “The Weight of Love,” “The President”) that render the experiment a little less than grand, but “Fallen Empires” certainly finds Snow Patrol building something when it likely could have gotten away with staying the course.
The Little Willies, “For the Good Times” (Milking Bull/Parlophone) ***
The Little Willies are a fairly relaxed endeavor — and certainly sounds that way on its second album. The New York quintet of country-western enthusiasts, fronted by Norah Jones, again takes on a collection of favorites ranging from jazzy takes of Scotty Wiseman’s “Remember Me” and the Tin Pan Alley classic “Lovesick Blues” to guitarist Richard Julien’s gentle rendering of Willie Nelson’s “Permanently Lonely” and Jones’ faithful treatment of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” The Willies kick up a little noise on Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City,” Johnny Cash’s “Wide Open Road,” Lefty Frizell’s “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” and the instrumental Tommy Rockwood (an original by guitarist Jim Campilongo), and the group also deftly wades through the tricky mood shifts of Ralph Stanley’s “I Worship You” and “Foul Owl on the Prowl” from the “In the Heat of the Night Soundtrack.” A good time can indeed be had by all.
New & Noteworthy
Joshua Bell, “French Impressions” (Sony Masterworks): The violinist teams with pianist Jeremy Denk on this collection of pieces by Charles Camille Saint-Saens, Maurice Ravel and Cesar Franck.
David Crowder Band, “Give Us Rest” (Six Steps): The contemporary Christian group from Waco, Texas, subtitled this two-CD set “A Requiem Mass in C (The Happiest of All Keys),” which makes it pretty clear what you’ll hear in these 35 tracks.
Charlie Haden and Hank Jones, “Come Sunday” (Emarcy): Bassist Charlie Haden has unearthed recordings of spirituals, hymns and folks songs he made with the late Pontiac-raised pianist Hank Jones as a sequel to their Grammy-nominated 1995 collaboration, “Steal Away.”
Kronos Quartet, “The Music of Vladimir Martynov” (Nonesuch): The experimental string section’s latest features three pieces — including the 40-minute “Der Abschied” — written especially for it by Russian composer Martynov.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo, “Ladysmith Black Mambazo & Friends” (Listen 2 Africa/Razor & Tie): The “Graceland”-popularized South African vocal troupe harmonizes with some famous friends (Paul Simon, Emmylou Harris, Sarah McLachlan, Taj Mahal and more) on this two-disc set.
Lego Feet, “Lego Feet” (Skam): The latest release from the Autechre electronic duo of Sean Booth and Rob Brown’s alter ego.
Nightwish, “Imaginaerum” (Nuclear Blast/Roadrunner): The Finnish metal group’s seventh studio album is a conceptual companion to the Stobe Harju movie of the same name.
O’Brother, “Garden Window” (Favorite Gentlemen/Triple Crown): The highly anticipated debut album by the hard-hitting quintet from Atlanta.
Jimmy Owens, “The Monk Project” (IPO): The trumpeter, flugelhornist and bandleader leads a septet — including fellow NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron — through a set of Thelonious Monk material.
Eddie Palmieri, “La Fruta Bomba” (Brook): The New York-born pianist and salsa lover takes a 14-song romp through tunes from the southern hemisphere.
Charlie Parr, “Keep Your Hands on the Plow” (House of Mercy): The Americana artist wades into gospel waters on his latest release with help from his wife, Emily, and members of Low and Four Mile Portage.
Public Jones, “The Fall” (self-released): The New Wavey duo from Los Angeles delivers its first full-length album after courting attention with a 2010 EP.
Rebelution, “Peace of Mind” (87 Music): The Santa Monica, Calif., reggae band accompanies its latest effort with separate discs of acoustic and dub versions of the songs.
Red Wanting Blue, “From the Vanishing Point” (Fanatic): The roots-rocking quintet from Columbus, Ohio, moves to its own label after previous releases for a selection of other independent imprints.
Safetysuit, “These Times” (Universal Republic): The Nashville-based modern rock quartet teamed with hitmakers Howard Benson and Ryan Tedder (of OneRepublic) on its first new album since 2008.
Yo Gotti, “Live From the Kitchen” (Polo Grounds Music/RCA): The Memphis MC’s first album piles on guest appearances by Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, Rick Ross, Jadakiss, Gucci Mane, Big K.R.I.T. and Detroit’s Big Sean.
From The Vaults: Alex Chilton, “Free Again: The 1970 Sessions” (Omnivore); Jellyfish, “Bellybutton,” “Spilt Milk” (both Omnivore); Andy Gibb, “Greatest Hits” (Rhino); Van Morrison, “Live On Air” (IMV Blueline); Elvis Presley, “Elvis Country” (RCA/Legacy); Jim Reeves, “If You Were Mine” (Pazzazz); Frank Sinatra, “Nevertheless” (Pazzazz)
Soundtracks: Michael Giacchino, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” (Varese Sarabande); Original Broadway Cast, “Silence! The Musical” (Ghostlight); Various Artists, “Joyful Noise” (Watertower); Gabriel Yared, “In the Land of Milk and Honey” (Varese Sarabande)
New Music DVDs: Electric Daisy Carnival, “The Electric Daisy Carnival Experience” (Manifest)
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