Kitka - Women's Vocal Ensemble - photo by Pixie Vision Productions
For those celebrating miraculous births this month, KITKA’s gorgeous collection of global lullabies, “Cradle Songs,” nurtures a haunting blend of female voices for eye-opening testaments to nap-time. Those fed up with the season’s commercialism can find bittersweet solace from ARCTIC MONKEY’s biting bon mots in the dark, mosh-pit glossy, dance-rock packed inside the marvelously malevolent, “Humbug.” Meanwhile, Slipped’s December details people’s tendency toward deference, stalking the exalted and subverting responsibility.
Dave Rawlings Machine - A Friend of a Friend
Album title: A Friend of a Friend
Record Label: Acony Records
Assembling a crackerjack team including long-time collaborator Gillian Welch, revivalist and raconteur Rawlings picks and fiddles contemporary Dust Bowl bluegrass. Toe-tapping happiness grazing cautionary tales, “Friend,” renders and remembers faith-based fables and gospel-flavored shotgun swan songs. Train yard bards shooting the breeze, DRM play Madison’s High Noon Saloon Dec 7th.
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Christine Vaindirlis - Dance Mama!
Album title: Dance Mama!
Record Label: Ubuntu World Music
A feisty maestro commanding cool jazz and smokin’ R&B rooted within pan-African grooves, Christine’s honey-covered harmonies and big band stampede feeds your feet sweet, frenetic medicine. Navigating hairpin turns through soulful vocals and whiplash brass, funky zydeco and doo-wop soukous, “Mama,” channels impassioned evangelism; a world-class, booty-shaking bouquet dipped in sass and imagination.
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Mittens On Strings - Let’s Go To Baba’s
Album title: Let’s Go To Baba’s
Record Label: Soungs Records
A veritable garden of quirky curiosities, existential wit and literate kismet, “Baba’s,” boasts both gray, no wave guitar psychedelia harvesting lofty, alt-Goth waltzes and banjo, cello and mandolin spiking pastoral, prog-rock rodeos. MoS’s smirking, earnest grandeur merges into democratic genre-jumping offering sentimental laments and mocking double-talk, deadpan stanzas and granola-soaked anecdotes.
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Arms and Sleepers - Matador
Album title: Matador
Record Label: Fake Chapter Records
Birthing slow explosions alongside quibbling rhythms, A&S’s baroque kaleidoscopes spin tingling kinderpop into oceanic ambience, drawing patient cadence from slippery whisperings. Electro-acoustic druids from New England, A&S concoct eerie folk electronica reveling in liberating minimalism. A fluid fog of quietly classical trip-hop chamber-rock, “Matador,” surpasses the passive to float over edgy, enigmatic elegance.
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Tegan and Sara - Sainthood
Album title: Sainthood
Record Label: Sire Records
Examining how far from perfect we are, T&S volley teasing, time-bomb tempos into impetuous, kinetic calisthenics, confronting choppy-water obstacles to snare love’s illogical lobbying. Tactful battleaxes parlaying blasts of bashing pop into frantic romance, “Sainthood,” is frosted to neon perfection - a pipsqueak blitzkrieg buffed into intense, anxious, well-timed insolence designed for maximum impact.
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Glass Ghost - Idol Omen
Album title: Idol Omen
Record Label: Western Vinyl Records
Nebulous tenors narrate disembodied biographies swimming in impish synths, slithering between machine beats and tumbling, jungle percussion. A short-circuited circus of post-modern androids sorting through shattered reality, Glass Ghost hosts day-glo hymns addressing bureaucratic static. Mesmerizing, intoxicating and strangely familiar, “Idol,” calls forth Major Tom promises from Kafkaesque scenarios and Clockwork Orange dreams.
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Everyone from BOB DYLAN to TORI AMOS present musical season’s greetings this year, but re-mastered compilations from FRANK SINATRA and RAY CHARLES ring those silver bells best. Tastefully classy and classically hip, “Christmas with Sinatra and Friends,” and, “The Spirit of Christmas,” roast those chestnuts. For a luminous, new age jazz perspective unwrap DAVID ARKENSTONE’s tranquilizing, “Christmas Lounge,” or revisit golden moments through the nostalgia generated by, “A Hollywood Christmas.”