September is turning into one of our best months for vinyl yet! We’ve got one of the best Jimi Hendrix retrospectives coming in this month, along with new Foo Fighters and Van Morrison albums, plus records from Jack Johnson, the National, Steve Martin, Beyoncé, and Gregg Allman’s final album, plus the soundtrack to box office smash Wonder Woman. Be sure to check them out, and keep your eye on Barnes and Noble’s Vinyl Store for more great records every month.
All the Light Above It Too, by Jack Johnson
Jack Johnson’s newest album pairs his mellow, soft rock style with sharp, often political lyrics inspired by surfing, camping, and the documentary Smog of the Sea. The album’s lead single, “My Mind Is For Sale,” was specifically inspired by (and is overtly critical of) Donald Trump’s public statements concerning pollution and global warming, and “Fragments” is about ocean pollution and environmental responsibility. Johnson promotes stewardship of the environment in both his creative and personal lives, but this album never gets preachy, and Johnson never drops his laid-back vocal style. In fact, he sounds downright relaxed on “Sunsets For Somebody Else.”
Concrete and Gold, by Foo Fighters
Foo Fighters are officially nine studio albums deep with the release of Concrete and Gold, the band’s first album since their hiatus following Dave Grohl’s 2015 leg injury. Originally planning to take a year off from music to heal his leg, Grohl started writing songs for this album after six months of physical therapy, eventually collaborating with pop producer Greg Kurstin. Because of this, and their decision to record at EastWest Studios, this album has a lot of pop music cameos; Boyz II Men’s Shawn Stockman, Inara George, the Kills’ Alison Mosshart, and Paul McCartney (who drums on one track) all appear on this fantastic return to form by the Foo Fighters.
Wonder Woman Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Wonder Woman wasn’t just a commercial and critical success, it shattered records for films directed by women and renewed fans’ enthusiasm for the DC cinematic universe. Obviously, a film this impressive needs a soundtrack to match, and Wonder Woman has got the goods. Composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams—who also worked on several projects for Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions—the soundtrack keeps to the moody, melodic, and broad gestures of other recent DC films (especially Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice), but doesn’t rest on those laurels. The proud, majestic “No Man’s Land” and “Hell Hath No Fury” are already fan favorites, as is Sia and Labyrinth’s “To Be Human.”
Roll with the Punches, by Van Morrison
Van Morrison’s newest album, which features retired professional wrestler Billy Two Rivers on the cover, is largely a collection of the singer-songwriter’s favorite soul and blues classics. Morrison curated the tracklist down to songs he enjoys performing live, and the effort shows: there’s an undeniable passion in particular in his version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me” and Bo Diddley’s “I Can Tell” and “Ride on Josephine.” He does a great job with Lightnin’ Hopkins’ “Automobile Blues,” too, showing particular skill with that era of blues. In addition to these standards, the album features five new original compositions.
Sleep Well Beast, by the National
This album is the National’s seventh studio effort, and they’re slowly introducing electronic elements to their rootsy, Americana-tinged indie pop sound. If you’re worried those changes might make their music colder and more obtuse, don’t be; there’s still plenty of emotion and clever songwriting on this album. “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” chosen as the album’s lead single, is a tense, piano-driven song with a surprisingly gnarly guitar solo, while “Carin at the Liquor Store” is influenced by Leonard Cohen in the best possible way. The same can be said for “Guilty Party,” which will very likely be the post-breakup anthem of 2017.
The Long-Awaited Album, by Steve Martin
Legendary comedian/actor/playwright Steve Martin has many interests, and playing the banjo is one of them. Martin has released a few bluegrass music albums over the years, but he’s never sounded better than on this record, where he’s backed by the Steep Canyon Rangers. As one would expect, Martin is a clever, tongue-in-cheek lyricist—“Caroline” is all the proof you need of that—but he’s a very talented banjo picker as well, and the Rangers provide vocal harmonies and lush instrumentation that complement, rather than crowd, his abilities. The curiously titled “Office Supplies” is another standout track that shows off how well Martin and the Rangers work together.
Southern Blood, by Gregg Allman
Sadly, Gregg Allman’s eighth studio album was his last one, as the legendary country rocker passed away from liver cancer in May 2017. The album became a very personal one for Allman, and is a collection of songs written by his friends, who includes Bob Dylan’s “Going Going Gone” and the Grateful Dead’s “Black Muddy River,” as well as blues standards like Willie Dixon’s “I Love the Life I Live” and Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam,” which features a cameo by Browne himself. Allman’s trademark honey-sweet guitar tone and homespun vocals lend an unexpected optimism to this album. Rather than sing about death, Allman is, in his own way, explaining his life as it reaches the end.
Lemonade, by Beyoncé
Lemonade took the pop world, and specifically the internet, by storm when it was released in April 2016. It has the rare distinction of being both a concept album and a visual album, given that it was accompanied by an hour-long film on HBO. Unsurprisingly, it’s up for Album of the Year, based on both the strength of singles like “Freedom,” “All Night,” and the Grammy-nominated “Formation,” and because of its obvious ambition. With Lemonade, Beyoncé showed the world she’s more than just a mega-successful pop culture star who makes radio-friendly R&B music. She’s also making deeper, more genuine art.
Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix
There are a lot of Jimi Hendrix compilations out there, which is to be expected for one of the most influential guitarists of all time. What makes Experience Hendrix unique is that it looks beyond 1968, including unfinished tracks that reveal the R&B/soul-oriented direction Hendrix was going in before his death. But don’t worry, it also has more popular, and still timeless, songs like “Foxy Lady,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Hey Joe,” and his unkempt rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Really though, the Cry of Love-era tracks are the standouts here, and not just because they’re more obscure; they prove Hendrix was A talented and creatively limber musician who was just getting started.