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  • Dave K. 6:00 pm on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , vinyl   

    The Best New Vinyl of November 2017 

    Whether you’re getting an early start on gift buying or adding to your own collection, plenty of great records are hitting our shelves for your consideration in November! We’ve got new albums from Sam Smith and Morrissey, the original cast recordings for SpongeBob SquarePants and Charlotte’s Web, soundtracks for Game of Thrones and Serenity, and the final album from Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. And if you’ve got Christmas on the brain, we’ve got a compilation album from Al Green that fits the spirit of the season. K

    SpongeBob SquarePants Original Cast Recording
    Over the years, SpongeBob SquarePants has gotten a lot of unlikely attention from cool, influential musicians. This phenomenon extends to the original cast recording for the stage musical based on the cartoon, which features songs written by Jonathan Coulton, Sara Bareilles (who also composed for Waitress), members of Panic! At The Disco and The Flaming Lips, and even Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. It’s incredible how many legit rock stars put their talents into this show, and the original cast steps up to that pressure with impressive performances across the board. Standouts include “Poor Pirates,” “I’m Not A Loser,” and the show’s version of David Bowie’s “No Control.”

    The Thrill of It All, by Sam Smith
    Sam Smith, who found fame in 2014 with his hit single “Stay With Me,” spent most of 2016 working on new material, and will be releasing his second album, The Thrill of It All, in November. Sam worked with classical crossover group Clean Bandit and Timbaland for this record, with the latter producing Smith’s second single, “Pray,” inspired by the singer’s experience with the War Child charity. “Pray” is an awesome song, by the way, with plenty of gospel heft stabilizing Smith’s voice. The album’s other single, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” will make you miss your ex even if you don’t have one.

    Game of Thrones Season 7 Original Soundtrack (B&N Exclusive Edition)
    Game of Thrones superfans, soundtrack junkies, and classical music fans alike will find lots to like about the score to Game of Thrones‘ seventh season. Composed by Ramin Djawadi, this album should be treated like a series of movements in one overarching piece, as specific moments in each track reflect plot points in prior seasons. “The Dagger,” for example, is a sinister update of a piece associated with the character Littlefinger, and “A Lion’s Legacy” contains a variation of the Lannister theme. But don’t worry if you’re not caught up with the show enough to catch each reference; Djawadi’s score more than stands on its own. This exclusive B&N edition features swirled black and fiery orange vinyl.

    Charlotte’s Web Original Soundtrack (B&N Exclusive Edition)
    Possibly the only animated film to feature a non-terrifying spider, Charlotte’s Web was released in 1973 and has become a classic children’s movie since then. Part of that appreciation is due to the soundtrack, written by the Sherman Brothers and featuring an all-star cast of Debbie Reynolds, Paul Lynde, Agnes Moorehead, and Henry Gibson, among others. The lyrics are sharp and clever throughout this album, with “I Can Talk” as a particular high point; how Gibson didn’t sprain his tongue on one of the many deft turns of phrase in that song is a mystery. Not only is this soundtrack a Barnes & Noble exclusive, we’ve got it on pink vinyl with black webbing.

    Low In High School, by Morrissey
    Morrissey, the Pope of Mope himself, is releasing his eleventh solo album this November. His fans, among the most devoted in all of pop music, are already buzzing about the two singles, and their excitement won’t be in vain; Morrissey’s mix of melancholy longing, sly wit, and caustic political commentary is as potent as ever, and his collaborations with longtime music director and guitarist Boz Boorer (formerly of the Polecats) still sound great. Electric piano riffs and synths give “I Wish You Lonely” a new wave vibe (the bouncy rhythm doesn’t hurt, either), and the verse in “Spent the Day In Bed” sounds downright McCartney-ish.

    Serenity Original Soundtrack (B&N Exclusive)
    The soundtrack for Serenity, available only at Barnes & Noble, was composed by David Louis Newman, whose other film score credits include Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, The Sandlot, and the animated film Anastasia, for which he received an Oscar nomination. His career has been eclectic, to say the least, which is why he was recommended to Joss Whedon, who wanted a composer “capable of everything.” This soundtrack is full of tension and rising action, but not in the typical space opera way. Rather, the soundscape is a varied blend of strings, brass, percussion, and quirky flourishes of erhu and pan-Asian flute. Recommended tracks are “Funeral/Rebuilding Serenity” and “Love.”

    Feels Like Christmas, by Al Green
    Feels Like Christmas is a ten-song compilation that pulls the best tracks from Green’s two 1980s Christmas albums. Green’s smoky tenor and soulful delivery were tailor-made for Christmas songs, particularly ballads like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “The Christmas Song.” Green’s approach to Christmas music could be described as upbeat crooning, and he fully commits to each song, making for a supremely enjoyable listening experience. There’s even a non-Christmas track on here—his 1976 song “Glory Glory”—which is also great. This vinyl release is exclusive to Barnes & Noble, and pressed on snow-white vinyl.

    Soul of a Woman, by Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
    Sadly, Sharon Jones passed away last year, but not before recording one final album with her band, the Dap Kings. Their record label promises that Soul of a Woman has the band’s “rawest and most sophisticated recordings to date,” and for once, a record label press release is not hyperbole. Soul of a Woman is a triumph in every aspect. Knowing what we know now about Sharon’s health, songs like “Matter of Time” and “These Tears (No Longer for You)” are wrenching and urgent, but they’re great out of context, too. Sharon’s vocals and the band’s performances were never better, and this record is an essential buy for any vinyl collector.

    The post The Best New Vinyl of November 2017 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Dave K. 8:00 pm on 2017/09/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , editor's picks, vinyl   

    The Best New Vinyl to Spin This October 

    With fall officially here, we’ve got a bunch of autumnal music selections coming to the Vinyl Store in October! Among them are new records from Robert Plant, Margo Price, Beck, and Weezer. And just in time for Halloween, we’ve got a spooky, exclusive picture disc for the official soundtrack to Stephen King’s It. Don’t miss any of these great records, and keep checking Barnes & Noble’s Vinyl Store for more of your favorite music!

    Colors, by Beck
    Beck’s music is so timeless, it’s easy to forget how long he’s been around—Colors is his 13th studio album. Thanks to Beck’s touring schedule, it took four years for him to write it and he and producer Greg Kurstin play most of the instruments. How he sustained that level of energy is anyone’s guess, but this record is the most fun music Beck’s released in years. The central melody of “Wow” is a potent earworm, and “Dear Life” is as bouncy as the hipster lounge funk that made him famous in the first place.

    Carry Fire, by Robert Plant
    Rock legend and ex-Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant adds his 11th solo album, Carry Fire, to his impressive discography. Collaborating once again with the Sensational Space Shifters, Plant (unlike many of his contemporaries) wrote most of what you’ll hear on this album, and what he and his band have created is fascinating. Carry Fire combines Middle Eastern, American, and Celtic music to create a stompy, psychedelic folk sound. The tone changes from song to song, too: opening track “The May Queen” is pretty upbeat, whereas the title track is downright haunting, due in no small part to the judicious use of an electric oud.

    All American Made, by Margo Price
    Country singer Margo Price’s sophomore album, All American Made, follows what many critics called the best album of 2016, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter. It’s also an immensely satisfying record for country fans, balancing the old-school sound of Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette with the clever lyrics and alt-country swagger of Neko Case. “A Little Pain” is a perfect example of how her sound blends modern and traditional country; the band keeps it simple, the lyrics are playful, and she belts out notes with tuning fork accuracy. “Weakness,” released as an EP earlier this year, does the same thing, and proves that country music can still reach people no matter where they live.

    It Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
    Film scoring is a difficult and exacting process, and horror film scores have the additional complication of needing to be scary and compelling. Many horror films go for abstract compositions, but for the 2017 remake of Stephen King’s It, Benjamin Wallfisch went full orchestral. In so doing, he’s created one of the most interesting, and moving, film scores we’ve heard in a while. The tender, melancholy piano that drives “Paper Boat,” for example, flows seamlessly into the strings-heavy tension of “Georgie, Meet Pennywise.” The whole score functions that way, and when tense, discordant tracks like “Time to Float” arrive, they have a lot more impact.

    Meaning of Life, by Kelly Clarkson
    Meaning of Life is Clarkson’s eighth album, but her first for Atlantic Records, having finally completed the RCA contract she won on American Idol back in 2002. To mark this occasion, Clarkson decided to veer away from her well-established pop/rock sound and explore soul and R&B music. That turns out to be a wonderful idea, because this album is a fun, fierce breath of fresh air. “Love So Soft” expresses Clarkson’s vocal range in a new way, with a refreshing trap vibe and funky horns, and “Move You” has legitimate slow jam percussion, gospel hand claps, and a massive vocal performance that aims for pure emotion and hit it dead-on.

    Pacific Daydream, by Weezer
    Described by the band as “the Beach Boys gone wrong,” this album even has a song called “Beach Boys,” and captures what can only be described as an avant-garde summer vibe. “Mexican Fender” tells the kind of boy-meets-girl story that’s central to every beach movie, but in a fractured, unconventional way that only Rivers Cuomo could pull off. Meanwhile, “Feels Like Summer” is unrestrained pop that exaggerates beginning-of-summer excitement to the point of madness.

    What tracks are you spinning this month?

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

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

    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: , , , vinyl   

    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: , , , , , vinyl   

    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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