This week’s new and upcoming vinyl includes new releases from pop sensations Justin Bieber and One Direction, British rock legend Jeff Lynne (recording as Jeff Lynne’s ELO) and legendary jazz singer Tony Bennett, as well as re-released albums from alternative/jam band moe. This week also marks the re-release of the soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. A lineup this diverse just shows you that no matter what you want for your vinyl collection, you’ll find it at Barnes & Noble.
Silver Lining: The Music of Jerome Kern, by Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett, who could be very accurately described as a living legend, made a career out of singing jazzy showtunes, so it’s only natural that he’d turn his attention to the music of composer Jerome Kern, one of the fathers of modern musical theatre. In this double LP, Bennett pays tribute to Kern by performing 14 of his songs with pianist Bill Charlap. Since Kern was primarily a composer, he didn’t write lyrics for his songs, but he did collaborate with some of the best American songwriters of his era, including Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin, and Oscar Hammerstein III, all of whom are honored on this album. As one might expect, Tony knocks every song out of the park, especially “I’m Old Fashioned” and “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”
Purpose, by Justin Bieber
Beliebers rejoice! Justin Bieber’s new album is scheduled to drop on November 13th, and he’s already setting records with “What Do You Mean,” the album’s first single. Not only is it his first number-one on the Billboard Hot 100, it made him the youngest male artist to debut at the top, earning him a Guinness Record for that achievement. Both that song and the follow-up single, “Sorry,” are a blend of Bieber’s pop sound and tropical house, making his work even catchier and more danceable than it already was. Critics across the board agree with this, and Jezebel’s Bobby Finger claims that Bieber released the three best singles in 2015, referring to “Where Are Ü Now,” “What Do You Mean?” and “Sorry.”
Made in the AM, by One Direction
One Direction plans to take a hiatus next year, but not before releasing Made in the AM, their upcoming album and their first without Zayn Malik. The first single from this angle, “Drag Me Down,” got an astonishing 350,000 downloads in its first week, the group’s best sales week to date. As if that wasn’t enough, their second single from this album, “Perfect,” marked their fifth Top 10 debut on the Hot 100 chart, breaking a record previously held by the Beatles. As a whole, this album blends sleek electropop with elements of the Beatles, U2 (especially obvious in the album’s third single, “Infinity”), and Paul Simon. If this album precedes more than just a hiatus for One Direction, it’s a heck of an album to go out on.
Alone In the Universe, by Jeff Lynne’s ELO
Some ELO fans don’t realize that founding member Jeff Lynne resuscitated the band in 2001 as more or less a solo project; always a multi-instrumentalist, he plays everything except the shaker and the tambourine on this album. Considering that Lynne is knocking on 70 years of age, the clarity of his voice is incredible. You could filter creek water through his vocal performance on “When I Was a Boy,” and “When the Night Comes.” Since Lynne is also a recording engineer, the mix of instruments used throughout this album is perfectly balanced as well. The wall of sound elements that defined classic ELO have receded in favor of a cleaner, sharper sound, but that’s not a change as much as it is an upgrade.
No Doy, by moe
Released almost 20 years ago in 1996, No Doy was moe’s major label debut. More polished than the band’s previous albums and their notoriously freewheeling live presence, No Doy is nevertheless a strong debut for a band that combined the mellowness of a typical jam band with the goofy, sardonic attitude that pervaded a lot of 1990s alternative rock. And unlike a lot of other bands with similar pedigrees, the band’s strong musicianship keeps this album as fun and relevant as it was in the mid-90s; in particular, drummer Chris Mazur should have gotten way more accolades for his strong rhythm and great, meaty fills. Standout tracks here are “Spine of a Dog” and fan favorite “Saint Augustine.”
Tin Cans and Car Tires, by moe
This album, released two years after No Doy, was their first album with drummer Vinnie Amico, who replaced Chris Mazur after No Doy‘s release. Luckily, Amico was every bit as good as his predecessor, and the other members stepped up their game as well; this album is bigger, better, and more diverse than No Doy, with more emphasis on the funk elements of their sound. The second track, “Spaz Medicine,” shows off the band’s musical flexibility with unorthodox time signatures and Middle Eastern melodies, whereas “Head” could have been a Presidents of the United States of America song thanks to its straightforward guitar work and humorous tone.
Natural Born Killers Soundtrack
Diverse in a way that few soundtracks are, the soundtrack to Oliver Stone’s infamous comedy about serial killers features everything from grunge to pop to hip-hop to classics like Leonard Cohen and Patsy Cline, all assembled by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor. Seeking to replicate the hallucinatory weirdness of the film, Reznor splices in dialogue and sound effects to connect the songs, making it an interesting conceptual album in its own right. The context brings new life to songs like Cowboy Junkies’ cover of “Sweet Jane” and Duane Eddy’s rockabilly instrumental “The Trembler,” so they fit right in alongside darker, more contemporary fare like Nine Inch Nails’ “Burn” and Jane’s Addiction’s “Sex Is Violent.”