Spring is coming, and with it comes a motherlode of great records available at Barnes & Noble’s Vinyl Store. This month, we have exclusives from the Monks of Norcia and Béla Fleck, plus exclusive vinyl pressings of the Outlander: Season 2, Game of Thrones: Season 2, and Sing motion picture soundtracks. Not only that, we’ve got limited edition pressings of new albums from Ed Sheeran, Flume, and Bob Dylan. No matter what you’re looking for, your next favorite record is waiting for you in the Vinyl Store.
Benedicta: Marian Chant from Norcia, by Monks of Norcia
Who would’ve thought “Benedictine chanting” would become its own genre? Usually albums like these fulfill a relaxing or scholarly function, but Italy’s Monks of Norcia are more workmanlike in their approach; the chants on this record focus on a single subject—Mary, mother of Christ—and were recorded on site at the monastery (so it sounds great). Also, the monks of Norcia are younger than most people called to monastic life (the average age there is 33), and their youth can be heard in their voices: there’s an energy here that isn’t always present in other monastic recordings. These monks even wrote their own chant, “ Nos, qui Christi iugum,” and it’s one of the album’s best tracks.
Juno Concerto, by Béla Fleck
Béla Fleck is not only a world class banjo player, film producer, and composer, he’s also a dad. In fact, fatherhood was the basis for this one of a kind collaboration with the Colorado Symphony. Titled Juno Concerto, the album is named after his firstborn son, and it’s one of Fleck’s rare forays into classical music. It’s also a great record that shows off Fleck’s extraordinary abilities as a composer and player, and showcases the complexity of his chosen instrument. The banjo is far more versatile than people think, and it strikes a doomy, melancholy tone that complements the orchestral arrangements beautifully, especially on “Movement III.” This album is a must-have.
Outlander: Season 2 Original Soundtrack
Available as a Barnes & Noble exclusive on clear vinyl, Outlander: Season 2‘s soundtrack sees composer Bear McCreary return with a few new tricks up his sleeve. Since the show’s second season is set in France rather than Scotland, McCreary has a whole new set of regional music to play with, and he does a great job incorporating it into the show’s lush, symphonic score. Specifically, his use of French Baroque music is well done, and he even includes a French-language version of the show’s theme song, sung by Raya Yarbrough. Fans of the first season will be happy to know that the Celtic influences from the first season’s soundtrack are still present here, too.
Considering how quickly Universal Pictures’ animated film Sing lit up the box office, it’s no surprise the soundtrack is a winner, too. With a star-studded and talented singing cast performing a mix of current and timeless pop songs, Sing hits a home run with every track. Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande start off with Wonder’s song “Faith,” and two tracks later, Seth MacFarlane shows off his impressive, Rat Pack–influenced voice with his version of Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” The record also features Taylor Swift, Queen with David Bowie, Reese Witherspoon, and Jennifer Hudson.
Game of Thrones Season 2 Original Soundtrack
Revered for its setting and atmosphere as much as its political intrigue and violence, Game of Thrones owes a lot to its music, scored by German composer Ramin Djawadi (who also scored movies including Iron Man and Pacific Rim. The soundtrack for season two, much like that of season one, is orchestral and tense, but season two is more mature and dynamic than its predecessor. The buildup in “What Is Dead May Never Die” is an exercise in patience that’s well rewarded by the end of the piece, and the moodiness of “Valar Morghulis” and “I Am Hers, She Is Mine” shows a kind of musical range that wasn’t fully explored in season one.
÷ (Divide), by Ed Sheeran
English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran’s new album, Divide, comes after Sheeran’s self-imposed break from social media, and the time away did him a lot of good. Sheeran claims Damien Rice, Van Morrison, and the Beatles as major influences, and there’s plenty of that to be found here, but Sheeran’s pop sensibility is very much his own, pairing straightforward, narrative lyrics with interesting composition. The way the verses splash into the chorus in “Castle On The Hill,” for example, is unique to Sheeran. As a bonus, Barnes & Noble is stocking the deluxe, double-LP version of the album, pressed onto 180-gram vinyl.
A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out, by Panic! At the Disco
Panic! At the Disco’s first album gets a proper vinyl release, and it’s as good now as it was then. In fact, it has gotten better over time. Written right after the band graduated from high school, this record has a bit of a split personality; half of it is pop-punk, and the other half is pure pop, hinting at the direction the band would take in the years to come. What holds the album together, aside from the band’s precocious musical talents, are the clever, self-aware lyrics, as expressed in song titles like “The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage.”
Heartworms, by the Shins
The Shins return to the studio for the first time in five years for Heartworms, and fans of their surrealist pop style won’t be disappointed. In fact, you’ll already be familiar with one of the tracks: the dreamy “So Now What” was written for the Wish I Was Here soundtrack, and is the tenth track on this album. Critics are already impressed by the album’s tunefulness, lyrical content (the empowerment-themed first single, “Name For You,” was inspired by singer James Mercer’s daughters), and glossy production. There’s a definite Brian Wilson–like shimmer to the instruments and vocals here, and the layered instrumentals pretty much guarantee repeat listens; you’ll always hear something new in this record.
Skin, by Flume
Australian electronic musician Flume won himself a Grammy with Skin, released in 2016, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does this album have a lot of energy (which makes sense for a dance record), it shows a kind of personality that’s lacking in a lot of his peers’ records. Skin is a big, loud, restless album balancing wild tempos and overstimulated samples with quieter, more contemplative songs. Flume also shows off his excellent taste in collaborators, as Little Dragon, Wu Tang Clan’s Raekwon, and Beck make cameos on this album. Standout tracks include “Numb & Getting Colder” and Beck’s cameo track “Tiny Cities.”
Triplicate, by Bob Dylan
Like Bob Dylan’s previous two albums, Triplicate is a collection of covers, specifically classic American songs that influenced him early on in his career. However, Triplicate is the first triple-LP Dylan has ever released. It means a lot that a guy with Dylan’s career is still finding firsts, and you’ll hear that sense of joy and curiosity in every track on this deluxe, limited-edition LP. Each disc has its own theme—‘Til the Sun Goes Down, Devil Dolls, and Comin’ Home Late—and Dylan covers songs by Jimmy Van Heusen, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Johnny Burke, Irving Berlin, and Hoagy Carmichael, among others.