June is a big month here at Barnes & Noble’s Vinyl Store! First of all, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s career-changing album OK Computer, and a special vinyl release has been prepared for the occasion. We’ve also got exclusive records from rock legend Chuck Berry (pressed on limited edition white vinyl) and gospel/pop legend Mavis Staples, plus new records from Sheryl Crow, the Chainsmokers, Halsey, and Lorde. Jump headfirst into summer with these records, and keeping checking back for more additions to the Vinyl Store!
Melodrama, by Lorde
Lorde joins a handful of her pop music peers in releasing a concept album, Melodrama, as her sophomore effort. The album tells the story of a house party, and is also an album about being alone and Lorde’s own post-adolescence. Her growth as an artist was expressed in Melodrama‘s lead single, the surprising piano ballad “Liability,” which replaces the drums and glowing synth of her previous album with minimal production to emphasize her shaky, but still powerful, voice. The other lead single, “Green Light,” starts out with just piano, but blossoms into perky, jangly pop that sounds a lot like Florence and the Machine.
Memories…Do Not Open, by the Chainsmokers
For all the press the Chainsmokers have been getting, you might be surprised to learn that Memories…Do Not Open is their first proper full-length album. You’ll also be surprised by how much of a departure it is from the EDM-pop they’ve released prior to this. A lot of the songs on Memories are smooth, mid-tempo ballads, with lyrics focused more on selfishness and regret than partying. Fortunately, the Chainsmokers adapt well to this alteration in their sound, and prove to be just as accessible in collaborations with Coldplay (“Something Just Like This”) as with their standard dance material (“Break Up Every Night”).
Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack
The soundtrack for the 2017 live action Beauty and the Beast film revitalizes the original 1991 score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, adding some new songs and celebrity voices. Kevin Kline’s performance on “How Does a Moment Last Forever (Music Box)” is as charming as you’d expect, as is the combination of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Ian McKellen on “Be My Guest.” Celine Dion also contributes on “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” paying tribute to what that song did for her career. The best track on this record, though, is Ariana Grande and John Legend’s modern take on “Beauty and the Beast.”
Be Myself, by Sheryl Crow
If you were worried Sheryl Crow’s detour into country music was permanent, don’t worry; Be Myself is a return to her 1990s sound, with just enough Nashville soul in the mix to keep things groovy. The production is slick without sounding fake, and Crow’s lyrics are refreshingly honest and mature. The band backing her up is no joke, and may remind you of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Letter” era in how tight and polished they are. The rhythm of “Halfway There” will have you dancing before you know what hit you, and “Heartbeat Away” builds into a punchy chorus with a fun, and surprisingly sleazy, blues guitar sound.
I’ll Take You There, by Mavis Staples
I’ll Take You There was an all-star concert staged to honor the career of singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. As one of the original Staple Singers, Mavis was part of the most influential gospel group in American music history, and became a voice of the civil rights movement as well. Her music influenced every performer on this concert recording, including Keb’ Mo’, the recently departed Gregg Allman, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne, Widespread Panic, and Bonnie Raitt. And, of course, there’s Mavis Staples herself, who still manages to outshine them all.
Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, by Halsey
Halsey’s brand of catchy electropop is inspired by alternative rock (Brand New, Panic! At the Disco, Nirvana) and hip-hop (Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Slick Rick), so you’ll find elements of both in her upcoming album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. Much like her previous record, Badlands, this is a concept album, one that tells the story of two lovers in a futuristic limbo. Concept albums are usually an established artist’s excuse to experiment, but Halsey is using this one to prove she can write radio-friendly pop. Judging by the strength of the album’s two singles, “Now or Never” and “Strangers,” she definitely can.
Chuck, by Chuck Berry
The late Chuck Berry’s final album, Chuck, could have been written at the height of his popularity in the 1950s, when he practically fell to Earth from outer space with a style all his own. Berry’s approach to songwriting, his riffs, and even his voice hadn’t changed much since that era. This is a good thing, because while most of his peers were putting out albums full of covers, Chuck is full of new songs, like “Big Boys,” “Wonderful Woman,” and “Lady B. Goode,” which references his biggest hit. And while Chuck was never known as a great bandleader, his band on this album—which included his children, Chuck, Jr., and Ingrid Berry—was top notch.
OK Computer (20th Anniversary), by Radiohead
Before OK Computer, which came out two decades ago, Radiohead was one of many seemingly interchangeable post-grunge bands with introspective lyrics and sluggish guitars. OK Computer changed all that, setting a new, more experimental and atmospheric path for the band’s career and influencing more artists than their previous record, The Bends, ever could have. Songs like “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” were not only longer than traditional rock singles, they had weird, abstract lyrics and layered production that few of the band’s fans (or anyone else) saw coming. As both a pop music artifact and a predictor of 21st-century indie music trends, this album lives up to the hype.