File next to: Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple
Scottish-born KT Tunstall is that rarest of artists: She enjoys critical praise while also scoring on the commercial side of the equation. Her songs are licensed for use in TV ads, yet her musical credibility remains undiminished. Even a hiatus from the pop music scene — Tunstall took time off to study film scoring — hasn't put a dent in her popularity. Her latest record finds her putting the film scoring lessons she's learned to practical use in service of pop songs. The album's statement of purpose is in the title of the song "It Took Me So Long to Get Here, But Here I Am," but the strongest cut is the opening "Hard Girls," with a T. Rex foundation supporting a modern pop delivery. Throughout KIN, Tunstall demonstrates that, six albums in, her pop instincts and writing skills are sharper than ever. — BK
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Bad Seed Ltd./Kobalt
File next to: Mick Harvey, Mark Lanegan
Nick Cave's startling renaissance did not begin with the 2015 death of his son in a freak accident. The Australian baritone had already reunited The Bad Seeds two years earlier for the stunning album Push the Sky Away. The only question remaining was whether the new work would be too stark to be bearable. Leave it to Cave to offer a majestic album on loss that ponders how to live with grief, while only hinting at his own tragedy. Skeleton Tree often feels more like spoken-word poetry than song, with Cave evoking elements of John Cale, Leonard Cohen and Allen Ginsberg. Bad Seeds members Warren Ellis and Martyn Casey rarely rock, instead offering simple piano and synth along with reverent choral backgrounds. From the repetitive chants of "Jesus Alone" to the snare-drum brushes of the title track, everything about this album seems sacred, though far from drowning in despair. — LW
Real Gone Music
File next to: DEVO, the Go-Go's
Though they were unashamedly gimmicky, the B-52's were also among the most refreshing of the so-called New Wave groups. With a proudly tacky aesthetic that emphasized fun above all else, the Athens group turned out a short series of classic albums. Their first two — 1979's self-titled debut and Wild Planet from 1980 — are essential parts of any collection of new wave-era albums. And now there's an addition to that collection: This live album documents an August 1979 show recorded in Boston a mere three days before Wild Planet was released. Originally recorded for radio broadcast, Live 8.24.1979 captures the silly fun and excitement of the band, and proves that they were quite the tight and energetic live act, too. At nine songs (six from the B-52's and three new ones) it's a bit short, but the B-52's trump quantity with quality. — BK
This is awesome! Excited about the new music and adventures for his year!
Thanks so much!!!
Hah! Similarly, one, if famous, should not die in December, as all those who passed…