Brad Mehldau -- House On Hill: Mehldau's classical-meets-jazz style playing intrigues the hell out of me. There's a rigidity to some of his work that strains at the liquid core of his trio, who are a more traditionally jazz-oriented rhythm section of drums and bass. That's not to say there's anything particularly traditional about Mehldau's music — it's equally beautiful as it is cutting and slashing, and often at the same time.
While last year's Day is Done introduced new drummer Jeff Ballard, House On Hill marks the final trio recording of Jorge Rossy, who left to pursue new avenues of music and to spend time with his family in Spain. What remains to be seen is if House On Hill can top Day is Done — I have a feeling not, because that was a truly incredible piece of work, and Ballard was an absolute key to why it worked so well. House On Hill, however, will likely be another beautiful entry in Mehldau's catalog, and a fitting goodbye to Rossy. It just may have been more satisfying for everyone had the release dates been switched.
Grant-Lee Phillips — nineteeneighties: The great Grant Lee Buffalo may be long gone, but the heart was always just the voice and guitar of Phillips anyway, wasn't it? In between takes as Gilmore Girls' resident town troubador, Phillips found a few free moments to record this stripped down tribute to his favorite songs from, you guessed it, the 1980s. Before you start rolling your eyes, give it a chance — his choices are slightly more obscure than you might think (REM's "So. Central Rain," a strangely fitting Hawaiian take on the Pixies' "Wave of Mutilation," believe it or not) and even ones that are slightly more obvious are so fitting for his voice that you simply have to hear them — such as the Church's "Under the Milky Way" (I was sold on this the moment I saw that mentioned — I could hear his voice handling this very well, and from what I've heard, it's as beautiful as I expected it would be.)