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New releases from Opeth, Phantogram, and Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox 

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click to enlarge Opeth
  • Opeth

Opeth

Sorceress

Nuclear Blast America

File next to: Porcupine Tree, Metallica

On their 12th studio album, Swedish group Opeth continue to move away from their death-metal origins. Fans who cherish Mikael Åkerfeldt's Cookie-Monster-from-Hell vocal growling will be disappointed, but their loss is everyone else's gain. In fact Opeth has been on this path for years now; their current sound maintains the uber-heavy riffage of old, but contextualizes it amid melodic minor-key excursions. Tracks like "The Wilde Flowers" — the song title is a nod to the late-'60s Canterbury scene — have it both ways, with organ runs that channel early-'70s Deep Purple, and a central melody worthy of Metallica at its best. Spanish guitars, Mellotron and vocal harmonies abound on Sorceress, offering up bone-crushing power and nuance in equal doses. It might not please aficionados of black metal, but with Sorceress, Opeth has crafted a work that rivals their very best. — BK

click to enlarge Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox
  • Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox

Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox

The Essentials

Concord Records

File next to: Buddy Rich, Either/Orchestra

On paper, it seems like an inspired concept: Assemble a top-notch band that can play anything, bring together a wildly varied collection of contemporary songs from a variety of genres, and recast those songs in the styles of yesteryear (hot jazz, swing, etc.). And it works just as well on record. PMJ — a rotating cast headed by Bradlee — is nothing if not prolific: Since debuting with a 2013 digital EP, the collective has released literally hundreds of songs via weekly online postings. Now smartly picked up by a major label, PMJ presents a kind of best-of showcasing their creative breadth. There are lots of winners here, but one of the most effective is a reading of the Celine Dion hit, Titanic's "My Heart Will Go On." Recast here as a doo-wop extravaganza with the vocals of Mykal Gilmore, it positively sizzles. — BK

click to enlarge Phantogram
  • Phantogram

Phantogram

Three

Republic Records

File next to: Sleigh Bells, Chvrches, Sylvan Esso

Sarah Barthel and her partner Josh Carter in the Greenwich, New York, duo Phantogram had to confront the type of overwhelming grief Nick Cave addressed earlier this year: Barthel's sister Becky took her own life in early 2016. Phantogram's third album is both more direct and more fragmented than Skeleton Tree, Cave's epic album for his departed son. In part, Phantogram's bass-heavy dance style is not always conducive to sadness, even though the duo specialize in songs almost invariably in a minor key. But many tracks on this album, like "Same Old Blues," add unusually aggressive electric guitar, as though Phantogram wants to remain defiantly and stridently in favor of life. The pair continue to grow more riff-conscious with each album, and Three has less a feel of a concept album than a suite of 10 strong tracks paying homage to a lost loved one. — LW

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