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New releases from Beth Orton, The Monkees and Anton Barbeau 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Beth Orton
  • Beth Orton

Beth Orton

Kidsticks

Anti

File next to: Martha Wainwright, Dido

Beth Orton's last couple outings aimed for a stripped-down folk approach with a sincere veneer, but left the listener with few memorable lyrical turns. Now, for her first new album in four years, she's worked with Andrew Hung of Fuck Buttons, crafting a folk-electronica sound that recalls her seminal 1996 work Trailer Park or even her early dance collaborations with William Orbit. Most of Kidsticks' 10 tracks are very much about electronic washes evoking emotional environments. Few contain lyrics that tell a story, but that doesn't appear to be Orton's intention. And while the notion of "stripping back to roots" usually means going acoustic and minimal for most artists, for Orton it means returning to a spare electronica, where songs like "Dawnstar" and "Moon" recall 1990s favorites like "She Cries Your Name." The result is Orton's best work in a decade. — LW

click to enlarge The Monkees
  • The Monkees

The Monkees

Good Times!

Rhino

File next to: The Turtles, The Zombies, The Box Tops

Call them a guilty pleasure, if you must; but at their core, The Monkees were just as "real" a group as many others of their era. And there's no denying that they made a lot of music that has worn well for a half-century. Various reunions have since yielded enjoyable tours, but little in the way of memorable music. Good Times! changes that by embracing the band's original approach: songs from outside writers who understand the pop aesthetic. Eschewing clumsy attempts to "update" their sound, the album reunites Micky, Mike and Peter (along with a vintage vocal from the departed Davy) for timeless renditions of songs written by Andy Partridge, Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller and other next-generation artists. For those who don't mind a whiff of nostalgia now and then, Good Times! delivers on its title. — BK

click to enlarge Anton Barbeau
  • Anton Barbeau

Anton Barbeau

Magic Act

Mystery Lawn Music

File next to: Barrett, Tommy Keene

Often swimming in the quirkier end of the power-pop pool, the prolific Barbeau most recently made a pair of albums fronting Three Minute Tease, on which he bent the sound made by Robyn Hitchcock's former bandmates (Andy Metcalfe, Morris Windsor) toward his own unique aesthetic. Magic Act is more of an assortment, with solo-made tracks alongside tunes featuring Metcalfe, Windsor, XTC's Colin Moulding, The Corner Laughers' Karla Kane and other like-minded musicians. After Antronica, his delightful 2014 side trip into krautrock electronica, Magic Act finds the Sacramento native (now based in old East Berlin) putting his melodic skills on brilliant display. The musical polymath's adventurousness — plus an ever-present psychedelic haze — informs all 12 tracks, but Barbeau's inerrant knack for tunefulness makes Magic Act supremely accessible. And that's the cleverest trick of all. — BK

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