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  • Tara Sonin 6:00 pm on 2017/12/07 Permalink
    Tags: a notorious countess confesses, a rogue by any other name, , , , , , , , , Joanna Wylde, , , , , , , music, , one good earl deserves a lover, original sinners series, , reaper's legacy, , , slightly wicked, , , , trouble at the wedding, unclaimed, when he was wicked   

    A Romance Novel for Every Song on Taylor Swift’s reputation 

    It’s been over a week, we’ve listened to it over a thousand times…and now the moment has come: we’re pairing up romance novels with Taylor Swift’s newest album, reputation!

    “…Ready For It?”

    I immediately thought of Claire and Jamie for this song, so Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is my pick! It’s fast-paced, like their adventures, but also sensual and sexy, like their relationship. “Younger than my exes but he acts like such a man” make sense since Jamie is younger than Frank (and Claire herself) in the series. And of course all the references to islands reminded me of the current Season Three (no spoilers, if you haven’t seen it!)

    “End Game (featuring Ed Sheeran and Future)”

    “Ahh, and I heard about you…you like the bad ones too.” This song is all about a couple whose reputation precedes them, making them probably the least likely to work. “And I bury hatchets but I keep maps of where I put ‘em” made me think of Devon Ravenel of Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas: he’s a rake who lives up to his name. But then he inherits an earldom and must step up to the plate and assume responsibiity for his status—and the honor of the late earl’s three sisters. “You’ve been calling my bluff on all my usual tricks” is what happens when he meets Kathleen, who knows better than to ever fall in love with a man like Devon…except, as the song implies, they both wind up wanting to be one another’s end game.

    “I Did Something Bad”

    Unclaimed by Courtney Milan is about a handsome Bachelor known for having unimpeachable character…who finds himself entangled with a secret courtesan, not the high-bred lady he assumed her to be. “I never trust a playboy, but they love me…” totally embodies Jessica’s character: she’s a woman who knows what she wants, and is willing to do “something bad” in order to get it…like team up with the bachelor’s enemies to take him down in exchange for money. But of course, doing bad things makes you feel oh so good, and Jessica and Mark are no exception to the rule.

    “Don’t Blame Me”

    The moody, rumbling, erotic nature of this song brought one threesome to mind: Nora, Soren, and Kingsley from Tiffany Reisz’ Original Sinners series. “For you, I would cross the line/I would waste my time/I would lose my mind/They say, “She’s gone too far this time…” are definitely words worthy of Nora, preeminent Dominatrix and submissive only to Soren, a Priest she credits with saving her life. And of course, there’s Kingsley, the owner of the BDSM club, Dominant in every way…except when it comes to Soren. “If you walk away/I’d beg you on my knees to stay…” The pulse-pounding romance between these three people over the course of the series is the perfect accompaniment to Taylor’s pining words.


    Two people with broken pasts—and reputations that have never been worse, as this song croons—meet and marry for convenience in A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. It’s just business between them: Bourne runs a casino after being stripped of all societal influence a decade ago, and Penelope is just trying to secure her future after a string of failed relationships. But eventually their boundaries start to slip. “Is it cool that I said all that?/’Cause I know that it’s delicate…” That’s contemporary speak for the passion that ignites between this regency couple when they least expect it.

    “Look What You Made Me Do”

    A revenge song needs a worthy book—and I can’t lie, this one made me think about one particular villainess in the 50 Shades Series…Christian Grey’s ex-girlfriend, Leila. “I don’t like your kingdom keys/they once belonged to me…” those words might as well have come out of her mouth in Fifty Shades Darker. We all know that Taylor likes to parody the “man-eater” persona the media has developed for her, but in this case, Leila’s instability was totally real. “I’ll be the actress starring in your bad dreams”, indeed.

    “So It Goes…”

    This is one of the quieter songs on the album, but with lyrics like “You know I’m not a bad girl/but I do bad things with you” and “I’m so chill, you make me jealous” the book to match needed to have the right balance of sweetness with an undercurrent of passion. Sarah MacLean’s One Good Earl Deserves a Lover totally fits! Pippa is a good girl from a good family who wants nothing more than a quiet life…and the freedom to pursue science. But before she settles down in that life, she wants one little taste of true passion. So she goes to Cross, a notorious gaming hall owner, and proposes an arrangement between them—all in the name of science. But of course, Pippa can’t stay “chill” when it comes to Cross for long.


    This upbeat song is definitely worthy of a happily ever after! Julia Quinn’s When He Was Wicked follows the track of the song: a man and woman meet, and sparks fly…the problem—well, in the song it’s that she’s got “a boyfriend, he’s older than us…” but in this book, it’s a betrothal! And to make things worse, the guy she’s marrying is the cousin of the one she falls for. “You’ve ruined my life, by not being mine…” That’s exactly how Michael Stirling feels when she marries the guy anyway. But trust me, there’s a happily ever after waiting for this gorgeous couple.

    “Getaway Car”

    One of my favorite songs on the album spins a story about doomed lovers caught in the aftermath of their betrayal. “Nothing good starts in a getaway car”, the song begins…and the statement rings true in Reaper’s Legacy by Joanna Wylde, except for one thing: you can swap out “car” for “motorcycle”. A love triangle winds its way through the story of Sophie, Zach, and Ruger: Sophie and Zach slept together, resulting in their baby, Noah…but Zach’s a deadbeat dad, leaving his brother Ruger to pick up the pieces. But living—and loving—a man in a motorcycle club can be dangerous, and even when he tries to provide security for Sophie and her son, the past always finds a way of catching up with a speeding bike. After all, remember what Taylor says: “Us traitors never win…”

    “King of My Heart”

    This song makes specific reference to the “American” identity of the heroine (and of course, there’s been rampant speculation on the British identity behind most of Taylor’s new songs) so for this one I chose Trouble at the Wedding by Laura Lee Guhrke, a story about an American falling for a Brit! Annabel does not want true love (just like the heroine of the song, who knows she is “better off being alone,”) but still, she agrees to marry a high-born man with a British title as a way to protect her new, “Southern” estate. The problem? Christian, the Duke of Scarborough, does NOT approve of Annabel’s choice. “Change my priorities/the taste of your lips is my idea of luxury…” And that’s exactly what Christian decides to do: make Annabel fall for him, instead, and become King of Her Heart.

    “Dancing With Our Hands Tied”

    Mary Balogh’s Slightly Wicked is about the ramifications of one reckless, erotic night that you think no one else will ever find out about. When Judith meets Rannulf after an accident with her stagecoach, she indulges in a passion she knows she will soon have to bury. (“First sight, yeah, we love without reason…”) But when he shows up at her aunt’s house, intending to court her cousin, Judith knows her secret will not be kept in the dark for long, especially when she can’t stop her feelings from pouring out. As this song says, “I knew there was no one in the world who could stop us/I had a bad feeling”, and soon enough, Judith and Rannulf are dancing with their hands tied, too.


    One of the sexiest songs on the album deserves a romance to match. A Notorious Countess Confesses by Julie Anne Long made me think of some of the song’s steamiest lyrics, starting with “All of this silence and patience, pining and anticipation/My hands are shaking from holding back from you (ah, ah, ah).” Evie is an ambitious actress, and has charmed all of London…until her scandalous marriage goes down in flames. (Sound at all like a familiar narrative?) She escapes the tidal wave of gossip only to find herself tempted once more…by Vicar Adam Sylvaine, a man sworn to piety and prayer. “Even in my worst lies, you saw the truth in me…” Soon enough, they can’t stop their passion from overflowing, and the costumes come off to reveal their true hearts to one another.

    “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”

    You can finish the title of this romance novel with the title of Taylor’s diss track: If You Deceive…this is why we can’t have nice things! Two people caught at the center of a family feud (aka, a “narrative” they’d like to be excluded from, perhaps?) in the third novel in Kresley Cole’s MacCarrick Brothers series find themselves irrevocably drawn to one another despite the pain and anguish that their families have wrought. “But then you stabbed me in the back while shaking my hand…” What starts as a quest for revenge soon becomes a mission to keep the one thing they both hold dear in this Highland romance.

    “Call It What You Want”

    The Royal We by Jessica Morgan and Heather Cocks is a sweet romance with just a tad of high-stakes drama: Bex Porter has a real-life fairytale in the form of Nick, the heir to the throne of England. But just like Taylor Swift, loving a famous person comes with consequences. “All the drama queens takin’ swings/All the jokers dressing up as kings…” is right: between the paparazzi, backstabbers, and family baggage, it’s going to take everything she has to keep their relationship together.

    “New Year’s Day”

    This poignant, piano-based closer is heartfelt and raw with emotion, all about what happens when the glitz and glamour fades and the reality of life sets in….and who will be by your side when it does. “I want your midnights/but I’ll be picking up bottles with you on New Year’s Day…” It’s not a New Year’s story, but that sentiment really reminded me of The Notebook: a love story all about choosing the harder road, but the one that’s ultimately true to who you are.

    What do you think of our pairings?

    The post A Romance Novel for Every Song on Taylor Swift’s reputation appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dave K. 7:00 pm on 2017/09/01 Permalink
    Tags: , , , music,   

    The Best New Vinyl to Spin This September 

    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.

    The post The Best New Vinyl to Spin This September appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dave K. 5:00 pm on 2017/08/04 Permalink
    Tags: #bnvinylday, music,   

    Join Us for Vinyl Weekend in B&N Stores, August 11–13 

    Record collectors, rejoice: this year’s Barnes & Noble Vinyl Weekend lands August 11–13! You’ll receive 10% off all in-store vinyl purchases, including Barnes & Noble exclusives, and 30% off all in-store Crosley product purchases. If you’ve been thinking about starting a record collection, Vinyl Weekend is a great time to begin. Here’s a sample of what will be available to help kickstart your collection.

    Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Original Soundtrack
    Much like the soundtrack for the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, the second is fun and nostalgic, covering a wide expanse of pop music. Most of it is upbeat, like Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” and Sweet’s “Fox On the Run,” but not all of it is rock ‘n’ roll. Sam Cooke makes an appearance with “Bring It On Home to Me,” and Parliament’s “Flash Light” adds some much-appreciated funk to the proceedings. Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison, and obscure pop-country band Silver are included here, too, but the real gem is “Guardians Hero,” sung by none other than David Hasselhoff.

    13 Reasons Why Original Sountrack
    Who would have guessed that a controversial Netflix show based on a young adult book exploring the impact of teen suicide would have such a great soundtrack? Music might be the last thing on viewers’ minds, but on its own the soundtrack is a thorough exploration of teen angst. Naturally, a lot of younger performers and bands are included here; Selena Gomez contributes two tracks—“Only You” and an acoustic version of “Kill ‘Em With Kindness”—and actual teenager Billie Eilish contributes “Bored.” Counteracting these very contemporary songs are timeless expressions of troubled youth, like the Cure’s “Fascination Street,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and the Alarm’s “The Stand.”

    L O V E, by Kirstin
    Pentatonix singer Kirstin Maldonado starts a solo career with this EP, which draws a lot from house music and is a little darker than we expected. It’s a fantastic debut, especially from someone who’d only performed a cappella before this. “Break a Little” is a club anthem for sure, and “Naked” is clearly about Kirstin feeling vulnerable as she strikes out on her own. “All Night” is another standout that reveals how good she is at writing catchy choruses. Throughout the album, Kirstin doesn’t let the electronic production overwhelm her; that golden voice of hers is front and center, and her time with Pentatonix lends this album a more dynamic range than most pop albums.

    A Boy from Tupelo: The Sun Masters, by Elvis Presley
    Most people know something about Elvis Presley’s career and biographical arc by now, but there hasn’t been much concentrated focus on his early career, specifically his first year as a professional musician. Fortunately, this is the exact focus of A Boy From Tupelo: The Sun Masters, which collects the single A- and B-sides he recorded for Sun Records in 1954. People who only know Elvis from his 1968 comeback and afterward will be surprised to hear his take on bluegrass classic “Blue Moon of Kentucky,” or the very country-sounding “You’re Right, I’m Left, She’s Gone.” This exclusive, two-disc set also includes arguably his best song from this period, the rockabilly-tinged “Mystery Train.”

    Best of the Descendants
    This unique record, sold exclusively through Barnes & Noble, will appeal to pop fans and Disneyphiles alike. The Descendants franchise of musicals (which includes a TV series and a few movies) follows the teenage children of Maleficent, Queen Grimhilde from Snow White, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil, with music appealing to their young fanbase’s tastes. “Rotten to the Core” mixes EDM and dubstep, and “If Only” is a strong electropop ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on standard Top 40 radio. “Set It Off” has the most energy, mixing EDM with Broadway-style ensemble singing, something only Disney could pull off.

    The post Join Us for Vinyl Weekend in B&N Stores, August 11–13 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dave K. 4:00 pm on 2017/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: , music, ,   

    The Best New Vinyl to Spin This August 

    The end of summer is on the horizon (boo!), but there’s no end to Barnes and Noble’s Vinyl Store selection! We’ve got a whole bunch of exclusives coming in this August, including the soundtracks for Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and Power Rangers, plus a selection of songs from Disney’s Descendants series. Also not to miss: the rerelease of Suicidal Tendencies’ excellent self-titled debut and one of Elvis Presley’s most underrated albums, Elvis is Back! Keep checking in for more record recommendations, our Vinyl Store never closes.

     Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (Exclusive version)
    Much like the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, the second has a fun, nostalgic soundtrack covering a wide expanse of pop music. Most of it is upbeat, like Cheap Trick’s “Surrender,” ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” and Sweet’s “Fox On the Run,” but not all of it is rock ‘n’ roll. Sam Cooke makes an appearance with “Bring It On Home to Me,” and Parliament’s “Flash Light” adds some much-appreciated funk to the proceedings. Fleetwood Mac, George Harrison, and obscure pop-country band Silver are included here, too, but this soundtrack’s real gem is “Guardians Hero,” sung by none other than David Hasselhoff.

    Power Rangers (Exclusive version)
    If you’re one of those people who needs music to wake up in the morning, you should consider the Power Rangers original soundtrack. The 26-track score was composed by Brian Tyler, who also composed the scores for Iron Man 3 and five Fast and the Furious movies, as well as ESPN’s NFL theme song. Needless to say, Tyler knows his way around action sequences, so there’s a ton of energy and tension in the Power Rangers soundtrack. Even quieter tracks don’t lose intensity or momentum, as exemplified by one of the score’s overall highlights, “It’s Morphing Time.” And if what gets you going is dramatic build, “The Final Stand” has that for days.

    Suicidal Tendencies, by Suicidal Tendencies
    A lot of words get used to describe legendary L.A. punk/thrash band Suicidal Tendencies, and “fun” isn’t usually one of them. But make no mistake, their self-titled debut—released in 1983—is really, really fun. Written before the band started taking themselves and their gang image too seriously, this record is full of hilarious and astute social commentary. “Institutionalized” has become a classic American anthem for the misunderstood, while “Subliminal” is weird and funny and one of the best parts of Grand Theft Auto V‘s soundtrack. The same can be said of the delightfully deranged “I Saw Your Mommy,” which shows off the band’s impressive speed.

    Best of the Descendants (B&N exclusive)
    This unique record, sold exclusively through Barnes & Noble, will appeal to pop fans and Disneyphiles alike. The Descendants musical franchise (which includes a TV series and a few movies) follows the teenage children of Maleficent, Snow White’s Queen Grimhilde, Jafar, and Cruella De Vil. “Rotten to the Core” mixes EDM and dubstep, and “If Only” is a strong electropop ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place on Top 40 radio. “Set It Off” has the most energy, mixing EDM with Broadway-style ensemble singing, something only Disney could pull off.

    Elvis is Back, by Elvis Presley
    This album was a special one for Elvis, as it was the first he recorded after serving two years in the Army. Although it didn’t get much love from critics when it was released in 1960, time has been kind to it. For one thing, Elvis received vocal training in the Army and added a full octave to his already impressive vocal range, giving extra heft to his performances of “Make Me Know It” and “Thrill of Your Love.” In fact, “Reconsider Baby” and “Like a Baby” are among the best blues vocals he ever recorded. This is the record that really kicked off the King’s transition from rockabilly teen idol to bonafide adult pop star.

    The post The Best New Vinyl to Spin This August appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dave K. 7:03 pm on 2017/05/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , music, ,   

    The Best New Vinyl to Spin This June 

    June is a big month here at Barnes & Noble’s Vinyl Store! First of all, this year marks the 20th anniversary of Radiohead’s career-changing album OK Computer, and a special vinyl release has been prepared for the occasion. We’ve also got exclusive records from rock legend Chuck Berry (pressed on limited edition white vinyl) and gospel/pop legend Mavis Staples, plus new records from Sheryl Crow, the Chainsmokers, Halsey, and Lorde. Jump headfirst into summer with these records, and keeping checking back for more additions to the Vinyl Store!

    Melodrama, by Lorde
    Lorde joins a handful of her pop music peers in releasing a concept album, Melodrama, as her sophomore effort. The album tells the story of a house party, and is also an album about being alone and Lorde’s own post-adolescence. Her growth as an artist was expressed in Melodrama‘s lead single, the surprising piano ballad “Liability,” which replaces the drums and glowing synth of her previous album with minimal production to emphasize her shaky, but still powerful, voice. The other lead single, “Green Light,” starts out with just piano, but blossoms into perky, jangly pop that sounds a lot like Florence and the Machine.

    Memories…Do Not Open, by the Chainsmokers
    For all the press the Chainsmokers have been getting, you might be surprised to learn that Memories…Do Not Open is their first proper full-length album. You’ll also be surprised by how much of a departure it is from the EDM-pop they’ve released prior to this. A lot of the songs on Memories are smooth, mid-tempo ballads, with lyrics focused more on selfishness and regret than partying. Fortunately, the Chainsmokers adapt well to this alteration in their sound, and prove to be just as accessible in collaborations with Coldplay (“Something Just Like This”) as with their standard dance material (“Break Up Every Night”).

    Beauty and the Beast Soundtrack
    The soundtrack for the 2017 live action Beauty and the Beast film revitalizes the original 1991 score by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman, adding some new songs and celebrity voices. Kevin Kline’s performance on “How Does a Moment Last Forever (Music Box)” is as charming as you’d expect, as is the combination of Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Ian McKellen on “Be My Guest.” Celine Dion also contributes on “How Does a Moment Last Forever,” paying tribute to what that song did for her career. The best track on this record, though, is Ariana Grande and John Legend’s modern take on “Beauty and the Beast.”

    Be Myself, by Sheryl Crow
    If you were worried Sheryl Crow’s detour into country music was permanent, don’t worry; Be Myself is a return to her 1990s sound, with just enough Nashville soul in the mix to keep things groovy. The production is slick without sounding fake, and Crow’s lyrics are refreshingly honest and mature. The band backing her up is no joke, and may remind you of Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Letter” era in how tight and polished they are. The rhythm of “Halfway There” will have you dancing before you know what hit you, and “Heartbeat Away” builds into a punchy chorus with a fun, and surprisingly sleazy, blues guitar sound.

    I’ll Take You There, by Mavis Staples
    I’ll Take You There was an all-star concert staged to honor the career of singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples. As one of the original Staple Singers, Mavis was part of the most influential gospel group in American music history, and became a voice of the civil rights movement as well. Her music influenced every performer on this concert recording, including Keb’ Mo’, the recently departed Gregg Allman, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, Taj Mahal, Joan Osborne, Widespread Panic, and Bonnie Raitt. And, of course, there’s Mavis Staples herself, who still manages to outshine them all.

    Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, by Halsey
    Halsey’s brand of catchy electropop is inspired by alternative rock (Brand New, Panic! At the Disco, Nirvana) and hip-hop (Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac, Slick Rick), so you’ll find elements of both in her upcoming album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. Much like her previous record, Badlands, this is a concept album, one that tells the story of two lovers in a futuristic limbo. Concept albums are usually an established artist’s excuse to experiment, but Halsey is using this one to prove she can write radio-friendly pop. Judging by the strength of the album’s two singles, “Now or Never” and “Strangers,” she definitely can.

    Chuck, by Chuck Berry
    The late Chuck Berry’s final album, Chuck, could have been written at the height of his popularity in the 1950s, when he practically fell to Earth from outer space with a style all his own. Berry’s approach to songwriting, his riffs, and even his voice hadn’t changed much since that era. This is a good thing, because while most of his peers were putting out albums full of covers, Chuck is full of new songs, like “Big Boys,” “Wonderful Woman,” and “Lady B. Goode,” which references his biggest hit. And while Chuck was never known as a great bandleader, his band on this album—which included his children, Chuck, Jr., and Ingrid Berry—was top notch.

    OK Computer (20th Anniversary), by Radiohead
    Before OK Computer, which came out two decades ago, Radiohead was one of many seemingly interchangeable post-grunge bands with introspective lyrics and sluggish guitars. OK Computer changed all that, setting a new, more experimental and atmospheric path for the band’s career and influencing more artists than their previous record, The Bends, ever could have. Songs like “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” were not only longer than traditional rock singles, they had weird, abstract lyrics and layered production that few of the band’s fans (or anyone else) saw coming. As both a pop music artifact and a predictor of 21st-century indie music trends, this album lives up to the hype.

    The post The Best New Vinyl to Spin This June appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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