Cry it Out…Or Don’t: Break-Up Songs to Get Down To

October 22, 2012

Break-Up song playlist from WBER DJ Kelsey…

Breakin’ Up/ Rilo Kiley

If More Adventurous gave the group’s game plan away in its title, so does Under the Blacklight, for if this album is anything, it’s a sleazy crawl through L.A. nightlife, teaming with sex and tattered dreams, all illuminated by a dingy black light. So, it’s a conceptual album — which ain’t the same thing as a concept album, since there is no story here to tie it together — and to signify the sex Jenny Lewis sings about incessantly on this record, Rilo Kiley have decided to ditch most of their indie pretensions and hazy country leanings in favor of layers of ironic new wave disco and spacy flourishes pulled straight out of mid-’80s college rock.-allmusic.com

Foundations/ Kate Nash

On a first listen to Kate Nash’s debut Made of Bricks, it’s easy to hear the similarities to her contemporaries  (Lily Allen, the Streets, Amy Winehouse) and influences (Björk, Robbie Williams). Her most popular songs are both intimate and confrontational, using brief portraits and slang-conversational vocals to illustrate the larger issues going on — the dinner party that exposes a crumbling relationship on “Foundations” or the futility of using “Mouthwash” as a defense against feelings of low self-worth. The music is explosive and sample-driven, but with plenty of ties to contemporary pop, such as the frequent piano runs and occasional chamber brass or woodwinds. Spend time with this album, however, and Nash is revealed as much more than the sum of her parts. She’s an excellent songwriter who illustrates her tales of romantic woe and inadequacies with grace and many subtleties.-allmusic.com

Walk on Me/ Ben Kweller

Enthusiasm is what singer/songwriter Ben Kweller brings to his work. Ramones-like perennial goofy-teenager attitude and lack of antipathy are his golden attributes, and the combination of his keen songwriting sense makes Kweller a pop powerhouse. Following his self-released demo, Freak Out It’s Ben Kweller, and the following EP, Kweller spreads out with more pop songs and sounds on this full-length studio album. Underscoring the songwriting skill he’s been working at since age eight, he plays acoustic, folk-rock, alternative, power pop, and straight-ahead rock of the course of 11 songs. His lyrics are consistently heart-sung, but they aren’t lite — he’s got weight and bite, too. “Walk on Me” and “How It Should Be (Sha Sha),” though power pop through and through, are pure Kweller — bright, witty, fun, sweet diaries of hard-to-grapple-with feelings translated into two-to-three-minute bursts of self-empowered joy.- allmusic.com

Soft Shock/ Yeah Yeahs Yeahs

The album’s first three songs are a blitz of bliss, especially “Zero,” which kicks things off with blatantly fake beats, revved-up synth arpeggios, and O’s command to “get your leather on.” Radiating joy and confidence, she and the rest of the band couldn’t be further from Show Your Bones’ introspection as the song climbs to ecstatic heights. “Heads Will Roll” shows just how ably the Yeah Yeah Yeahs blend their rock firepower with dance surroundings, as Zinner’s prickly guitars get equal time with spooky synth strings and O makes “you are chrome” sound like the coolest compliment ever. Meanwhile, “Soft Shock”‘s dreamy, almost naïve-sounding electronics make O’s vocals — which are much less affected than ever before — feel even more natural and vulnerable. Elsewhere, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and producers David Sitek and Nick Launay find other ways to shake things up, from the disco kiss chase of “Dragon Queen,” which features Sitek’s fellow TV on the Radio member Tunde Adebimpe on backing vocals, to “Shame and Fortune,” which pares down the band’s tough, sexy rock to its most vital essence and provides Chase and  Zinner with a showcase not found anywhere else on the album.- allmusic.com

My man is a mean man/ Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings

Following up her excellent 2002 debut, Sharon Jones stays true to the formula she laid down on her early releases and Dap Dippin’ by presenting another session of full-force funk that pays homage to the genre’s glory years without coming off as contrived. The deep funk revival continues with Jones belting out commanding vocal performances that are uncompromisingly forceful yet full of rich, soulful emotion. It’s a session worthy of being found in any beat-miner’s record collection and any funk enthusiast’s basket of obscurities and rarities. Her cover of “This Land Is Your Land” is equally as impressive, as she somehow takes the song from being an American folk standard and turns it into a full-on sonic explosion. Fans of her earlier work will no doubt find great joy in this follow-up, and those seeking Jones out for the first time certainly will not be disappointed in what they find.-allmusic.com

That’s It, I quit, I’m movin’ on/ Sam Cooke

This set is near essential to fans of Sam Cooke, despite the fact that it contains none of his gospel recordings for Specialty Records or any of the work from the final year of his career (owned by ABKCO Records). Scattered every few minutes across this four-disc collection are reminders of just how far ahead of all existing musical forms Cooke was, creating sounds that stretched the definitions of song genres as they were understood and created completely new categories. Indeed, he was so successful that it’s easy to underestimate the impact and importance of many of his early triumphs. “You Send Me,” which opens this set, may seem today like the safest, tamest pop music, but in 1957 it was a genre-bending single, a new kind of R&B/pop music hybrid and one that quietly shook the foundations of the music business when it hit number one.-allmusic.com

There’s no home for you here/ The White Stripes

Chip-on-the-shoulder anthems like the breathtaking opener, “Seven Nation Army,” which is driven by Meg White’s explosively minimal drumming, and “The Hardest Button to Button,” in which Jack White snarls “Now we’re a family!” — one of the best oblique threats since Black Francis sneered “It’s educational!” all those years ago — deliver some of the fiercest blues-punk of the White Stripes’ career. “There’s No Home for You Here” sets a girl’s walking papers to a melody reminiscent of “Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground” (though the result is more sequel than rehash), driving the point home with a wall of layered, Queen-ly harmonies and piercing guitars, while the inspired version of “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself” goes from plaintive to angry in just over a minute, though the charging guitars at the end sound perversely triumphant. At its bruised heart, Elephant portrays love as a power struggle, with chivalry and innocence usually losing out to the power of seduction.-allmusic.com

In the way/ Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco has earned her rep as the most independent of artists. She records for her own label, and as a result says and does pretty much as she pleases. Di Franco has also shown a willingness to experiment, mixing genres and styles, and Evolve is clearly an important link in her continued evolution. Piano, horns, and guitar mix and merge on “Promised Land,” offering a bluesy blend of progressive folk, while a heavy backbeat informs the funky “In My Way.” The arrangements are much busier than the “girl with an acoustic guitar” sound of her earliest efforts, but they’re never crowded. In fact, DiFranco’s such a dynamic singer, at turns soulful and, when angry, in the listener’s face, that the heavier arrangements serve her well. The arrangements and solid production, however, aren’t enough to save the material. As with 2001’s Revelling: Reckoning, Evolve lacks consistency and finally seems meandering. “Icarus”‘ foreboding melody line drags at a dawdling pace, stopping and starting again, and finally, going nowhere. The worst excess is “Serpentine.” It takes three minutes for the vocal to start, and seven more for Di Franco to catalog everything that isn’t right in the Promised Land. -allmusic.com

Excuse Me, I Think I’ve Got a Heartache/ Cake

There are virtually no liner notes nor any indication of what year the songs were recorded, or in the case of the B-sides, what the A-side was, which is an unforgivable omission for a historical overview of this type. Everything screams quickie, from the haphazard track sequencing, to the lack of information in the pamphlet and the lackluster graphics. If this is indeed made for die-hard Cake fans, and who else would even pick it up? It’s a shoddy, short set that doesn’t show respect for the group’s dedicated followers, of whom there are many. A full ten minutes of the album’s already meager running time is dedicated to two versions of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” with the opening one a studio recording, and the unlisted final cut a live performance. While both are interesting angles on a song that appears to be outside even Cake’s eclectic scope, they are similar enough that the repetition only pads the disc’s slim contents. -allmusic.com

Winter Winds/ Mumford & Sons

English folk outfit Mumford & Sons’ full-length debut owes more than a cursory nod to bands like the Waterboys, the Pogues, and The Men They Couldn’t Hang. The group’s heady blend of biblical imagery, pastoral introspection, and raucous, pub-soaked heartache may be earnest to a fault, but when the wildly imperfect Sigh No More is firing on all cylinders, as is the case with stand-out cuts like “The Cave,” “Winter Winds,” and “Little Lion Man,” it’s hard not to get swept up in the rapture. Like their London underground folk scene contemporaries Noah & the Whale, Johnny Flynn, and Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons’ take on British folk is far from traditional. There’s a deep vein of 21st century Americana that runs through the album, suggesting a healthy diet of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Blitzen Trapper and Marah.-allmusic.com

Breakin’ the chains of love/ Fitz & the Tantrums

Pickin’ Up the Pieces finds this L.A.-based sextet breaking out big time within the soul revival underground, though for a band that plays heavily on their D.I.Y. cred — as their press materials frequently note, this album was primarily recorded in lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick’s  living room — these songs find them playing to the polished and poppier end of the R&B spectrum. Principle songwriter Fitzpatrick and Tantrums’ arranger James King (who also plays sax) lean to the more refined sounds of classic-era Motown. This is soul from the upscale night spot rather than the juke joint, but it’s a club that’s well worth the cover charge; Fitzpatrick is a significantly better than the average blue-eyed soul crooner, his vocal partner Noelle Scaggs is good enough that one wishes she got more space in the spotlight, and under King’s direction, the band cuts an impressive groove without cluttering up the arrangements or depending too strongly on their influences to convincingly conjure the sound of the classic era of soul.-allmusic.com

The Bad in each other/ Feist

With Metals, Feist responds to the surprise success of 2007’s  The Reminder with a whisper, not a bang. She treads lightly through a series of disjointed torch songs and smoky pop/rock numbers, singing most of the songs in a soft, gauzy alto, as though she’s afraid of waking some sort of slumbering beast. Whenever the tempo picks up, so does Feist’s desire to keep things weird, with songs like “A Commotion” pitting pizzicato strings against a half-chanted, half-shouted refrain performed by an army of male singers. But Metals does its best work at a slower speed, where Feist can stretch her vocals across fingerplucked guitar arpeggios and piano chords like cotton. “Cicadas and Gulls,” with its simple melodies and pastoral ambience, rides the same summer breeze as Iron & Wine, and “Anti-Pioneer” breaks down the blues into its sparsest parts, retaining little more than a sparse drumbeat and guitar until the second half, where strings briefly swoon into the picture like an Ennio Morricone movie soundtrack.-allmusic.com

Tymps (the sick in the head song)/ Fiona Apple

Extraordinary Machine sounds like a brighter, streamlined version of When the Pawn, lacking the idiosyncratic arrangement and instrumentation of that record, yet retaining the artiness of the songs themselves. Like her second record, this album is not immediate; it takes time for the songs to sink in, to let the melodies unfold, and decode her laborious words (she still has the unfortunate tendency to overwrite: “A voice once stentorian is now again/Meek and muffled”). Unlike theBrion-produced sessions, peeling away the layers on Extraordinary Machine is not hard work, since it not only has a welcoming veneer, but there are plenty of things that capture the imagination upon first listen — the pulsating piano on “Get Him Back,” the moodiness of “O’ Sailor,” the coiled bluesy “Better Version of Me,” the quiet intensity of the breakup saga “Window,” the insistent chorus on “Please Please Please” — which gives listeners a reason to return and invest time in the album. -allmusic.com

The Right Type/ Chromeo

Business Casual has the typically synth-suave electro-funk jams, like “Hot Mess” and “Night by Night,” featuring Gemayel’s talkbox mastery over strobe-lit four-on-the-floor beats that are right in step with “Tenderoni” and “Needy Girl.” As the album progresses, though, Macklovitch and Gemayel dig deeper into crates for cheesy inspiration, and you can hear glimmers of Rockwell, Lionel Richie, Oran Juice, and even The Kids from Fame TV series. “The Right Type” seems custom-made for a montage, and the snappy “Grow Up” could be the theme from a sitcom. Elsewhere, Solange Knowles does her best Whitney/ Mariah impression for “When the Night Falls,” and “J’ai Claqué la Porte,” with its Casio fills and fingerpicked acoustic, is sung entirely in French and features Dave One at his most smirkingly romantic. [The Deluxe Edition of  Business Casual features several remixes of “Night by Night” and “Don’t Turn the Lights On.”-allmusic.com

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Rochester Summer Music Scene Playlist

June 19, 2012

The city of Rochester comes alive with music every summer with some great events that showcase a variety of bands and artists that are as diverse as the community. The 16th annual Party In The Park kicks off every Thursday evening from 5-10 PM  for ten weeks starting on June 7 through August 9 at the Riverside Festival Site on the corner of Court Street and Exchange Boulevard across from the Blue Cross Arena. All concerts are FREE! The Big Rib BBQ & Blues Fest starts Thursday July 12 and continues through Sunday July 15: lunch, dinner and live music! Highland Bowl concert highlights include Wilco and Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. Here’s a sampling…

I might/ Wilco

The Whole Love is the work of a band that’s stylistically up for anything, from the edgy dissonance of “The Art of Almost” and the moody contemplation of “Black Moon,” to the ragged but spirited pop of “I Might” and the cocky rock & roll strut of “Standing O,” but more so than anything the band has done since Being There, The Whole Love sounds like Wilco are having fun with their musical shape shifting.- All Music Guide

My Body/ Young the Giant

The West Coast jazz-evoking album jacket of Young the Giant’s self-titled debut doesn’t exactly paint an accurate picture of the California quintet’s breezy modern rock sound, but it does complement it quite nicely. Here’s a band signed to a heavy metal label, whose music is anything but, and which actually excels through recurring shows of subtlety, not force. That’s not to say Young the Giantdon’t know how to rock; tracks like “My Body,” “Garands,” and “St. Walker” plug the guitars in and crank them up to that “tough but hooky” sweet spot inhabited by the Kings of Leon and sometimes even My Morning Jacket. -All Music Guide

Boom Boom/ Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds

The Dirty Birds navigate every twist and turn Sister Sparrow throws their way (or is it the other way around?) with ease. Check it out: here we have some smoky big-smile reggae (“Boom Boom”, “Vices” – Blondie lives!); over here we find 70s-vintage bluesrock reminiscent of J. Geils on a hot night (Arleigh’s harp-blowing brother Jackson channels Magic Dick on “Quicksand”); and over here we find a few things that just can’t be labeled so easily (the tango-on-acid of “Baby From Space”, for instance), but are fun nonetheless. And through it all are woven threads of sexy funk. Bottom line: this album is just plain fun. – Jambands.com

Pockets/ Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad

This one is about as straight-up as roots reggae gets: one-drop and rockers rhythms, socially conscious lyrics, and dubwise production flourishes are all in evidence here, and if the politics get a bit ham-handed sometimes, the grooves are relentless and powerful. Highlights include the excellent one-drop anthem “All Night Music” and a fine sufferer’s number titled “Pockets,” and the slow, thick rockers groove of “World War” is also excellent. – All Music Guide

Paper Boy/ Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers come up with combustible jazz-rock arrangements revealing the influence of Steely Dan (notably on “Paperboy”) and Brian Wilson (“Michael Raphael”), used to support sometimes bizarrely humorous lyrics, as signaled by the opening song, “The Black Rats of London.” Old-time Hornsby fans who fell away over the years might want to give this one a listen; it’s closer to his singer/songwriter self than he’s been in many years. -All Music Guide

It’s 2 A.M./ Shemekia Copeland

Copeland continues to prove herself as one of the strongest young talents in the blues on this disc. While the material itself isn’t as strong as that on her stellar first album, she still invests her all in tunes like the blasting “Not Tonight” and the romantic “Love Scene.”-All Music Guide

American Slang/ The Gaslight Anthem

With their hearts on their sleeves and their feet planted firmly in the garden state, The Gaslight Anthem’s third album, American Slang, plays out like an offering to Springsteen, the patron saint of heartland rock. The feeling on this album is considerably more relaxed. All of the punk rock tension and urgency have been replaced by a more patient and heartfelt mood. This change of pace really gives the listener the ability to sit back and take in the scenery on their musical Rust Belt road trip, making for a more moody, understated experience.- All Music Guide

Let Them Knock/ Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings

Because soul music — and this isn’t neo-soul, or contemporary R&B, but straight-up Stax and Motown brassy soul — is so much more than the actual lyrics themselves; it’s about the inflection and emotion that the vocalist is able to exude, and Jones proves herself to be master of that, moving from coy to romantic to defiant easily and believably. The magic and power of Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings: their ability to convey passion and pain, regret and celebration, found in the arrangements and the tail ends of notes, in the rhythms and phrasing, and it is exactly that which makes 100 Days, 100 Nights such an excellent release. -All Music Guide

Lost in a Crowd/ Rusted Root

Rusted Root’s debut album is an agreeable collection of post-hippie folk/rock. Drawing from The Grateful Dead, Phish and Graceland-era Paul Simon in equal measures, the band can certainly work a low-key groove, spinning out solos and singsong melodies at well. They haven’t perfected their songwriting yet — many of the songs sound underdeveloped — but their music sounds mature and hints at their potential.-All Music Guide


WBER’s DJ Kelsey Ladies of Rock Playlist

June 6, 2012

Kelsey went with the female-lead theme on this playlist. Some new, some old, but all the ladies run the show!

I found you/ Alabama Shakes

Pitched somewhere between the retro-purist vibe of Sharon Jonesand the nervy revivalism of Jack White, Alabama Shakes possesses a curious character: they’re rooted in the past but it’s clear they’ve learned their moves musicians removed some three or four generations from the source. Instead of playing like refractions from a hall of mirrors, Alabama Shakes’ 2012 debut Boys & Girls emphasizes how American roots music is now grounded in the ’60s notion of blues & soul, all filtered through the prism of ’70s classic rock. And it’s not just that Heath Fogg tears great, gnarled riffs out of his guitar while the rhythm section of Zac Cockrell and Steve Johnson hit the downbeat with a brutal force — lead singer Brittany Howard phrases like a rock singer, playing up vocal affections with glee, ratcheting up the drama by laying hard into her elongated phrases.- All Music Guide

Be Easy/Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings

Sharon Jones, the big-voiced lead singer of the Dap-Kings — a band that recently began making its name known outside those enthusiasts of the Daptone label and the reaches of the soul community thanks to appearances with Amy Winehouse and work for Mark Ronson, including a version of Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I’ll Go Mine)” — is no music-world neophyte. 100 Days, 100 Nights is just her third full-length with the Dap-Kings, but Jones has been singing on and off since the 1970s, without much of a break until she began working with her current label. Meaning, she’s certainly paid her dues, and she has enough life experience behind her voice to make the words she sings sound that much truer. – All Music Guide

Eat the music/ Kate Bush

The album is a continuation of Bush’s multi-layered and multiple musical pursuits and interests. If not her strongest work — a number of songs sound okay without being particularly stellar, especially given Bush’s past heights — Red Shoes is still an enjoyable listen with a number of diversions. Opening song “Rubberband Girl” is actually one of her strongest singles in years, a big and punchy song served well with a horn section, though slightly let down by the stiff percussion. “Eat the Music,” another smart choice for a single, mixes calypso and other Caribbean musical touches with a great, classically Kate Bush lyric mixing up sexuality, romance, and various earthy food-based metaphors. – All Music Guide

Dirty Paws/ Of Monsters and Men

Of Monsters and Men’s 2012 full-length debut, My Head is an Animal, features more of the Icelandic band’s acoustic-driven alt-rock featured on their 2011 EP Into the Woods. Showcasing the dual singer/guitarist/songwriters Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttirand and Ragnar Pórhalsson, the album also displays the six-piece ensemble’s grand and anthemic style with a bent toward passionate folk-rock uplift and more layered, introspective moments. In that sense, the band brings to mind the work of such similarly inclined contemporaries as Arcade Fire, Angus & Julia Stone and Mumford & Sons. – All Music Guide

The Re-Arranger/ Mates of State

Giving a record a title like Re-Arrange Us might imply some kind of shift in sound or approach but on Mates of State album of that title, there is nothing of the sort taking place. In fact, the album continues along the path the band has plotted out over their last couple releases with more piano and less organ, a glossy, slick feel that’s radio ready and super-hooky tunes that are both sing-along friendly and emotionally powerful. “Help Help,” with its ’80s synths and fuzzed organ; “My Only Offer,” with a majestic piano part and beautiful vocals from Kori Gardner; and the positively exuberant “Jigsaw” are the kind of songs indie rock bands would kill for. Gardnerand Jason Hammelare becoming adept at creating big, shiny records with a real-life heart beating beneath. -All Music Guide

Us/ Regina Spektor

Maybe it’s just the preponderance of piano in her music, but Regina Spektor sounds more like a traditional singer/songwriter (in the best sense of that phrase) than her anti-folk contemporaries. A few of Soviet Kitsch’s songs, like “Poor Little Rich Boy,” concentrate on the childlike, mischievous side of Spektor’s sound that puts her in the love-it-or-hate-it category for some listeners. Still, Spektor is an engaging performer throughout the album, and despite her arty quirks, she’s never pretentious. She originally self-released Soviet Kitsch nearly two years before Sire released it, so it’ll be interesting to hear what she does next. -All Music Guide

That Phone/ Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

This self-titled set is very polished — from cover photo to last note, it’s designed to scale the Billboard charts — yet it offers a representative showcase of the band’s strengths. And while it doesn’t come off as spontaneously as their live gigs, it’s not supposed to. The glammed-up Nocturnals are still a tough, few-frills rock band, and despite his pedigree, Batson  — who co-wrote six of 13 songs with Potter here — gets that. The mid-tempo numbers — the soul-drenched “That Phone” and the blazing “Only Love,” with its infectious bass line and distorted guitars — work to fine effect. In sum, this the most representative outing from Grace Potter & the Nocturnals to date, and displays, however slickly, a heady quotient of strut, crackle, and groove. – All Music Guide

Graveyard/ Feist

With Metals , Feist responds to the surprise success of 2007’s The Reminder with a whisper, not a bang. She treads lightly through a series of disjointed torch songs and smoky pop/rock numbers, singing most of the songs in a soft, gauzy alto, as though she’s afraid of waking some sort of slumbering beast. Whenever the tempo picks up, so does Feist’s desire to keep things weird, with songs like “A Commotion” pitting pizzicato strings against a half-chanted, half-shouted refrain performed by an army of male singers. But Metals does its best work at a slower speed, where Feist can stretch her vocals across finger plucked guitar arpeggios and piano chords like cotton. – All Music Guide

Oh!/ Sleater Kinney

Having consolidated their strengths with All Hands on the Bad One, Sleater Kinney revived the ambition of The Hot Rockon their sixth album, One Beat. John Goodmanson gives the group its cleanest-sounding production to date, which brings out all the new trappings in the ever more sophisticated arrangements. Carrie Brownstein’s vocals can be a bit precious at times, and the pointed 9/11 observations make the occasional feminist sloganeering sound like nothing the group hasn’t done better elsewhere. But if you’re already on board with their idiosyncrasies, One Beat is another triumph from a band that seems to produce them with startling regularity. -All Music Guide

King of the World/ First Aid Kit

Described as the Swedish answer to the Pieces, sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg,aka First Aid Kit,blend autumnal folk and wistful ’60s Americana, and have gathered a pretty illustrious following since their cover version of Fleet Foxes’  “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” became a YouTube hit back in 2008. The medieval-tinged opening title track and the infectious hand claps and mariachi horns on “King of the World,” the latter of which features guest appearances from Conor Oberstand the Felice Brothers, are convincing forays into rousing nu-folk, while it’s impossible not to be charmed by the low-key dreaminess of “In the Hearts of Men” and the campfire singalong of “This Old Routine,” both of which bear the hallmarks of the long Scandinavian dark winters.-All Music Guide

Soft Shock/ Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Never content to stay in one musical place for very long, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs take their restlessness to the limit on It’s Blitz!– and wind up making some of their most contented-sounding songs. As if to prove one more time that they’re not just the architects of New York’s early-2000s rock renaissance, Karen O, Nick Zinner and Brian Chase strip away the guitars and explosive dynamics of their early work even more thoroughly here than they did on Show Your Bones.  The serenity in It’s Blitz’s ballads feels worlds apart from Show Your Bones in a much less obvious way than the album’s outbursts. But between the violently happy songs and the softer ones, this is some of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ most balanced and cohesive music.-All Music Guide

Only if for a night/ Florence + the Machine

2011’s Ceremonials, which found Florence + the Machine expanding on their already expansive sound, helped to further propel the ghostly Brit into the spotlight, and on MTV Unplugged, she’s come full circle, allowing fans a peek into the bombast while providing the aging, acoustic show with a little defibrillation. Mid-tempo tracks like “Only If for a Night,” “No Light, No Light,” and “What the Water Gave Me,” the latter of which finds Florence Welch in full control of the room by the song’s second half, are soulful, spooky, and bold, allowing room for both Welch and her machine to strut their stuff without sounding like a murder of caged crows.-All Music Guide

Silver Lining/ Rilo Kiley

Under the Blacklight, Rilo Kiley’s 2007 major-label debut, is surely designed as the Los Angeles quartet’s entry into the big leagues, the album that makes them cross over to a mass audience — or perhaps it’s just meant to make their now de facto leader, Jenny Lewis, cross over, since it plays as a sequel to her 2006 solo stab, Rabbit Fur Coat, as much as it plays as the successor to 2004’s More Adventurous, putting the former child right out front, bathing in the spotlight. Lewis, sings lead, confirming that he’s now firmly in a subservient role to his former paramour, who dominates this record the way Natalie Merchant used to rule 10,000 Maniacs, leaving the impression that the band is now merely her support group. -All Music Guide