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Beck Song Reader, Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio and Ensemble Economique 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Warby Parker Presents Beck Song Reader

Various Artists

Warby Parker Presents Beck Song Reader

Virgin

File next to: Victoria Williams and Alejandro Escovedo tribute albums

Originally presented in book form, Beck's 2012 sheet-music "album" was a throwback to the way music was distributed well into the 20th century. Warby Parker Presents Beck Song Reader serves as a belated audio accompaniment, its 20 songs interpreted by the likes of Fun., Jeff Tweedy, Jason Isbell and Jack Black, all produced by Beck and Randall Foster. (Beck himself sings only one of the songs.) As you'd expect, the album is a mixed bag. Some tunes connect, including Norah Jones' version of "Just Noise," Jack White's funny take on "I'm Down," David Johansen's campy jazz treatment of "Rough on Rats," and Swamp Dogg's dark "America, Here's My Boy." The rest of the songs are easy enough to listen to but feel kind of musty, both musically and lyrically, even if they did come from Beck. — L. Kent Wolgamott

click to enlarge Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio

Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio

Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio

Concord Jazz

File next to: Frank Basile, Jan Garbarek, Ravi Coltrane

Since Chilean-born Melissa Aldana won the 2013 Thelonius Monk Saxophone Competition, she's become the darling of jazz traditionalists and free-jazz fans alike. Two solo albums gave hints of her broad talent, but when she formed Crash Trio last year with Pablo Menares on bass and Francisco Mela on drums, it underscored her special capabilities on tenor sax. The minimalist nature of the drum-bass backup lets her dominate a track as though she were Roscoe Mitchell or Ornette Coleman, yet she stays as melodic and accessible as Sonny Rollins. It's hard to pick out favorites among the 10 tracks, though the penultimate "Dear Joe" burns into the synapses with ease. While the often-stodgy jazz community's enthusiasms can't always be trusted, Melissa Aldana is a rare woodwind talent the likes of which only shows up every few decades. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Melt Into Nothing

Ensemble Economique

Melt Into Nothing

Denovali Records

File next to: Mogwai, Barn Owl, Jessamine

Catch avant-garde snobs at off moments, and they might admit to being proud when an underground artist hits the relative big time. Brian Pyle, founder of the Arcata, California, experimental band Starving Weirdos, began recording dreamier pieces with Sophia Hamadi three years ago. The resulting Ensemble Economique used the Weirdos' low-key music distribution methods, offering CDRs and vinyl recordings in impossibly small lots. The first album to gain major national and global distribution, Melt Into Nothing offers ethereal shoegazer sounds that are similar to mid-'90s bands like Flying Saucer Attack, or maybe Godspeed You! Black Emperor. All six tracks are easy to digest, though the opening "Your Lips Against Mine" sets the perfect tone. The only hazard is if EE's success means the death of Starving Weirdos, which would represent a major loss to the strange-music world. — Loring Wirbel

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