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New Album Releases November 17, 2009: Norah Jones, Paul McCartney, A Fine Frenzy, John Mayer, Them Crooked Vultures

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Christmas is always such an expensive time of year.  I have to rush, rush, rush to make sure I get all the great new releases I can't live without.  Life would be simpler, easier, and cheaper if I could wait until December 25 to have them but that wouldn't be me. 

It's the week before Black Friday, boys and girls, and that means there is only one more Tuesday between now and the big day for the major labels to tempt and torment us all.  They're pulling out some big guns this week, and I'm already getting tendinitis in my elbow from reaching for my wallet.

I didn't get my e-mail from the mighty AllMusicGuide this week and I held out as long as I could, so you're not going to get as full a rundown as I usually provide.  Instead, we'll talk about a few of the higher profile releases and leave it at that, hoping for better luck next week.  First up…

Norah Jones
The Fall

That which is understood need not be explained, dear readers.  It's a new record from Norah Jones.  You don't need a reason to buy it, just $15. 

Jones continues her evolution as an artist with The Fall.  This might alienate some of the masses who embraced Come Away With Me.  The nocturnal piano ballads that made her debut such a classic have been left behind; Jones plays guitar at least as often if not more than she plays piano.  She also continues the trend of Not Too Late, writing or co-writing all 13 songs.  Among her songwriting collaborators are Jesse Harris, who wrote her smash hit "Don't Know Why," and Ryan Adams.

I've listened through the album twice now and I'm still getting a feel for it.

BUYER'S NOTE: Target is selling an exclusive version of the album that comes with a second CD, featuring six live cuts.  Among the live cuts are covers of Johnny Cash's "Cry, Cry, Cry" and Wilco's "Jesus Etc."  I don't know about you, but that justifies a trip to Target for me.  These bonus tracks are also available to those who buy the album through iTunes.

A Fine Frenzy
Oh Blue Christmas

I don't know exactly when this was released, but seeing as we don't have a full list, I figure I have some column inches to fill.

The worst thing about Oh Blue Christmas is that it's only an EP.  The second worst thing about it is that it's a Target exclusive, and I hate retail exclusives with the passion of a nova.

Those are the only bad things to say about this wonderful little EP.  Alison Sudol was blessed with one of those Christmas carol voices.  Oh, I know Elvis' "Blue Christmas" will be the definitive version for generations to come but you'll have to forgive me if I enjoy hearing AFF's rendition just a little more.  Since we're being sacrilegious, I'll also tell you I'd rather hear her sing "Christmas Time Is Here" than the Peanuts' Gang. 

Paul McCartney
Good Evening New York City

The great Paul McCartney is drawing rave reviews for this 2 CD/DVD live set from NYC.  As someone who has mostly enjoyed McCartney's recent output, I've inexplicably bypassed the recent live packages he's released.  After reading the reviews, I think I'm about to end that streak.

He mixes in a few songs from his Memory Almost Full album, but the overwhelming majority of these tracks are the hits you know and love from his solo career as well as his time in that little Beatles band of his.

John Mayer
Battle Studies

Okay, I'm busting out my asshole card here.   If there's one thing in this world I hate, it's the music of John Mayer, and I never pass up an opportunity to heap scorn upon it.  When I'm King he'll be first against the wall, charged with Attempted Profundity and Aggravated Inanity as well as Counterfeit Stevie Ray Vaughan and Counterfeit Jimi Hendrix.  Those seem to be the two sides to his musical persona: writer of vapid ballads yearning to be deep and the soul of privileged kid stealing licks from SRV and Hendrix when he wants to prove he's "hard."

Them Crooked Vultures
Them Crooked Vultures

Interesting release, this.  I'm not sure it's one I'm going to check out but the names attached to it make it intriguing and there's a chance some of you may not have ever heard about it.  Former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighter frontman Dave Grohl has teamed up with Josh Homme, full-time Queen of the Stone Age and one-time part-time Screaming Tree, and Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones.

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About Josh Hathaway

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    I don’t know about you, but that justifies a trip to Target for me.

    yessir! too bad it’s so far away from me. i gotta add 5 bucks of gas money. still, it’ll be worth it.

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Them Crooked Vultures

    Interesting release, this. I’m not sure it’s one I’m going to check out …

    If you can only buy one thing this week, THIS is the one thing to buy. INSANELY fun album. It’s like Cream on crack.

    McCartney’s live album is excellent too, but it’s just a best-of in a stadium (despite an otherwise fantastic performance, the autotuning on his voice is a letdown. It won’t keep me from listening to it, but it does chip away at the enjoyment of it a little bit.) And, of course, if you’re buying, you HAVE to get this at Best Buy for the bonus DVD of the Letterman performance (and uninterrupted “I’m Down.”)

  • http://marksaleski.com Mark Saleski

    autotune? really? geez, usage of that thing is spreading disease-like through the world.

  • http://everythingisamess.wordpress.com Tom Johnson

    Even my wife picked up on it (not by name, just “his voice sounds really weird.”) And it’s used fairly sparingly. It seems like he has trouble hitting the really low notes, and that’s when you can hear the computer kick in to keep him even. It seems completely unnecessary, the guy is 67, I think we all know he might not be perfect, and they leave in plenty of other minor vocal flaws. To be fair, it may not *technically* be Autotune but some other similar technology, even employed live. Something is going on with his voice in spots that isn’t natural. Is it enough to complain about? I don’t know. We’ve lived with “false live” albums for ages and not cared, what’s the big deal about a few notes here and there when the rest is obviously live? And yet, for some reason, it feels a little different . . .

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    Josh, you’re still wrong on Mayer, but you know that. You’re right on most things musical, so I’ll forgive you this major blind spot. After all, you did admit to playing the asshole card! :-)

    In all the excitement surrounding last night’s Switchfoot concert, I missed this release, so now I have to pick it up at Target on my lunch hour. Thanks for the tip!

  • http://pwinn.tumblr.com/ Phillip Winn

    And oh yeah, Them Crooked Vultures has me excited, too.

  • http://theglenblog.blogspot.com Glen Boyd

    You’re not reprinting the list anymore?

    -Glen

  • Josh Hathaway

    Glen, perhaps you want to read the article before you comment. I didn’t get the list from AMG until after I wrote this today, already one day late. I didn’t go back and re-add it because the article had already been published. Let’s hope AMG is a little more timely next week.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    it would probably have messed-up code in it anyway so not much of a loss.

    “vapid ballads yearning to be deep”

    that would be an excellent point coming from someone who wasn’t a Coldplay fan.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/gordon-hauptfleisch Gordon Hauptfleisch

    The McCartney album is on my list as a matter of course, of course, redundancies repetitiously reprised, and all. But the coveted “I’m Down” is an extra special, um, special (speaking of redundancies).