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Savages & Bo Ningen, Anais Mitchell, and Bob Dylan & the Band 

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Savages & Bo Ningen

Words to the Blind

Stolen/Pop Noire

File next to: Pere Ubu, Glenn Branca, Boredoms

If Savages' debut album, Silence Yourself, proved more traditionalist than the British art-punk band's political manifestos, this live, single-track 37-minute collaboration with Japanese poetry-noise band Bo Ningen represents a great leap in the opposite direction. Words to the Blind was recorded in May 2013 in a Dadaist theater-in-the-round experiment, and starts out resembling Pere Ubu's B-side "The Book is On the Table," with whispered voices in a variety of languages backed with strange noise. The album proceeds into sonic experiments resembling Carla Bley or Starving Weirdos, with found sounds ricocheting in all directions. Its final 10 minutes feature the vocals of Savages lead singer Jehnny Beth, offering something akin to real music, delivered with cryptic shouted invective. This is a scary art-attack, and a gutsy move for Savages. — Loring Wirbel

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Anais Mitchell

xoa

Wilderland Records

File next to: Sarah Jarosz, Joanna Newsom, Sharon Van Etten

There are definitely some worthy eclectic new Christmas albums in 2014 from the likes of Mark Kozelek and Smoke Fairies, but those seeking the ideal mix of sacred and secular should turn to xoa, an album that never intended to have holiday ties at all. Anais Mitchell went into a Nashville studio with Gary Paczosa for some post-partum acoustic reworkings of her past work, and a few unrecorded songs. Most had seen first light as highly engineered elements of concept albums like Hadestown and Young Man in America. Hearing these 15 songs in minimalist fashion is a transcendent experience. Some tracks, like "Cosmic American," are just joyful surprises, but listening to the story of Uncle Louie's Cajun adventures in "Out of Pawn" will lead to more shivers than any Coventry Carol a listener might hear this year. — Loring Wirbel

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Bob Dylan and The Band

The Basement Tapes Complete: The Bootleg Series Vol. 11

Columbia/Legacy

File next to: Richard Thompson, Blitzen Trapper

Recorded in 1967 by Bob Dylan and the future members of The Band, The Basement Tapes have been bootlegged, much talked about, but never officially or fully compiled until now. This Holy Grail for Dylan fans contains 138 songs, 117 of them previously unreleased (30 or so never bootlegged), that Dylan and The Band, then called The Hawks, recorded primarily on Garth Hudson's reel-to-reel tape recorder in the basement of the house that became known as "Big Pink." They're loose, rough versions of traditional tunes as well as Dylan songs like "This Wheel's On Fire," "Million Dollar Bash," and "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere." Mostly presented in the order they were recorded and without overdubs, the collection runs for more than five hours and, even if you've heard the bootlegs, is still a revelation. — L .Kent Wolgamott

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