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The Listening Room: Billie Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones, One Direction and more...
Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones
Now here's one nobody saw coming -- Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong teaming with pop-jazz chanteuse Norah Jones on a recreation of the Everly Brothers' 1958 country and roots exploration "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us." Seems about as likely as...oh, a Green Day album turning into a Broadway musical. The result is more than a pleasant surprise, however. Armstrong has always been more than just a punk shouter and Jones, of course, has demonstrated ample affinity for this kind of music. Their voices -- Armstrong as Don Everly and Jones as younger brother Phil -- blend well together, and minimal instrumental backing, with occasional touches of piano harmonica, fiddle or pedal steel, gives these dozen songs a stark, rustic quality that keeps the focus squarely on the singing and the melodies, especially on brooding waltzes such as "Lightning Express," "Who's Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet?" and the desperately sad "Rockin' Alone (In an Old Rockin' Chair)" and rich narratives like "Barbara Allen" and "I'm Here to Get My Baby Out of Jail." Armstrong and Jones toss a hint of a yodel into "Long Time Gone," and the upbeat tracks -- "Oh So Many Years," the light samba touch of "Kentucky" and Gene Autry's "Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" -- are effective counterpoints to the dour tenor of rest of the album.
One Direction, "Midnight Memories" (Syco/Columbia): **
With two straight No. 1 albums in as many years and a member (Harry Styles) who got headlines for dating Taylor Swift, this British boy band quintet rides into its third effort with a head full of momentum and sounds, not surprisingly, even more confident on these 14 tracks (18 on the deluxe edition). "Midnight Memories" leans a bit more rock than its predecessors from the "Baba O'Riley" aping opener "Best Song Ever" to heavier fare such as the title track and "Better Than Words," and One Direction also sets its sites on the Mumford & Sons/Jake Bugg acoustic world with "Story of My Life," "Through the Dark" and "Happily." The arena-sized pop touches are here, too, but the overall diversity may surprise a few listeners (i.e. adults) who walk in wincing at the prospect.
New & Noteworthy:
A Perfect Circle, "A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo" (PCE): A four-disc concert box set featuring performances of each of the group's three albums from 2010, plus a more mixed 2011 live set in Colorado.
Alestorm, "Live at the End of the World" (Napalm): Scotland's "pirate metal" troupe, not to be confused with Halestorm, is caught live on stage in Melbourne, Australia earlier this year.
Alt-J, "Summer" (Infectious Music): The British group recruits members of Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket, Odd Future and more to remix songs from its Mercury Prize-nominated debut album.
Blurry, "Lulls" (Butterscotch): The multi-instrumentalist's collaboration with producer Allen Farmelo yields a minimalist concept set whose eight tracks are all titled "Lull."
Danielle Bradbery, "Danielle Bradbery" (Big Machine): The debut set from "The Voice's" Season 4 winner features "The Heart of Dixie" and plenty others the country crowd will likely gobble up.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood, "Betty's S.F. Blends" (Silver Arrow/Megaforce): Famed Grateful Dead taper Betty Cantor-Jackson curated this multi-disc vinyl (and digital) live set from a five-night stand in San Francisco by the Black Crowes frontman's other band.
Clutch, "Earth Rocker Live" (Weathermaker): A double vinyl picture disc set pairing the "Earth Rocker" album with a live companion of the songs in their album running order.
Jucifer, "There is No Land Beyond the Volga" (MRI Associated): More heavyweight metal from the sludgy Georgia duo.
NOFX, "Stoke Extinguisher" (Fat Wreck Chords): A six-song EP from the Southern California punk group follows its 2012 "Self Entitled" set.
Pitbull, "Global Warming: Meltdown," "Meltdown EP" (Mr. 305/Polo Grounds/RCA): The Miami rapper adds five songs to his latest album, including collaborations with Ke$ha, Kelly Rowland and Michigan's Mayer Hawthorne." Available separately or packaged with the original album.
Puscifer, "What Is..." (Puscifer Entertainment): This live DVD and accompanying soundtrack album from Tool/A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan's other-other band offers plenty of laughs not always associated with his other groups.
Shearwater, "Fellow Travelers" (Sub Pop): The Okkervil River spin-off group's latest release is led by a cover of Xiu Xiu's "I Luv the Valley OH!!"
Tennis, "Small Sound" (Communion) The third album by the lo-fi indie rock troupe from Denver.
Various Artists, "Fifteen Shades of Blue Jazz" (Justin Time): Tracks by Diana Krall, Paul Bley, Pontiac's Hank Jones and others dot this jazzy cash-in on the "Shades" phenomenon.
Various Artists, "It's a Scream How Levine Demos the Rhumba: The Latin-Jewish Musical Story 1940s-1980s" (ISMP): From Tito Puente doing "Hava Nagila" to Larry Harlow's "Yo Soy Latino," this scholarly collection will put a different spin on the Hanukkah dreidel this year.
From The Vaults: The Animals, "The Mickie Most Years & More" (Real Gone); Big Star, "Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star" (Columbia/Legacy); Thelonious Monk, "Paris 1969" (Blue Note); Soundgarden, "Screaming Life/Fopp" (Sub Pop)
Soundtracks: James Newton Howard, "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Original Motion Picture Score)" (Universal Republic); Various Artists, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Original Score" (Decca)
New Holiday Albums: Moya Brennan, "An Irish Christmas (2013 Edition)" (BEO); Anita O'Day, "Have a Merry Christmas with Anita O'Day" (RED)
New Music DVDs: August Burns Red, "Rescue & Restore: Foreign & Familiar Edition" (DMGI); "Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me" (Magnolia); Black Sabbath, "Live...Gathered in Their Masses" (Universal Republic)
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