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Pink Floyd, Antony & The Johnsons, and Foo Fighters 

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click to enlarge Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd

The Endless River

Columbia Records

File next to: Camel, Yes, Tame Impala

The biggest music mystery of the 2014 holiday season may be why Endless River sold out so quickly in all formats, when most Pink Floyd fans judged it as nothing short of dreadful. Maybe David Gilmour's declaration of "the last Pink Floyd album" motivated fans, but since it's composed of outtakes from the 1993 Division Bell sessions, sans Roger Waters, it's hard to even call this Pink Floyd. At least Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera provides decent production, but too often it feels more like Yanni covering Pink Floyd. Even the tracks that have some spirit, like "It's What We Do," come across as a remake of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." Some musicians, like Garth Brooks or Fiery Furnaces, know when it's time to take a break. But Pink Floyd went back for another drink at the well long after anyone stopped caring — except the millions who are buying Endless River. — Loring Wirbel

Antony & The Johnsons

click to enlarge Turning

Turning

Secretly Canadian

File next to: Perfume Genius, Rufus Wainwright, My Brightest Diamond

It's either pretentious or simply unusual to release two live albums in a row, though this one from Antony Hegarty and his band goes different places than 2012's Cut the World. First, the chamber ensemble is more subtle than its predecessor's orchestral accompaniment. Also, the primary purpose of Turning is to spotlight a film by Charles Atlas, included as a second disc, which makes the set more of a manifesto than a concert. The difficulty lies in Hegarty's unique world vision and Atlas' visual interpretations. Hegarty clearly wants to use his experience in transgender cultures to say something about the human body and the linguistic theories of his muse Julia Yasuda. But this ain't easy stuff, even for conceptual artists or LGBT activists. The best strategy is to enjoy the astonishing music and accept that you may never quite get what he's trying to convey. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

Sonic Highways

Roswell/RCA

File next to: Nirvana, Superchunk

To make Sonic Highways, Foo Fighters took to the road, stopped in various "music cities," and holed up in legendary studios, writing and recording a song at each stop. Along the way, frontman Dave Grohl talked to the likes of Emmylou Harris and Roky Erickson, all of it captured on camera for a current HBO series. "Something from Nothing," recorded at former Nirvana producer Steve Albini's studio in Chicago, is an homage to Buddy Guy that includes a powerhouse baritone guitar riff by Cheap Trick's Rick Nielsen. "Congregation," recorded at Zac Brown's Southern Ground studio, toasts the Ryman Auditorium and features vocal contributions from Steve Earle, while "What Did I Do/With God As My Witness" was recorded in the old "Austin City Limits" studio with Gary Clark Jr. But even with all the guests, this is without question a Foo Fighters album, the most varied the band has done in its 20-year history. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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