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Duncan Sheik

Covers 80s

Sneaky Records

Buy if you like: Thompson Twins, the Cure

Some of us think most '80s music was dreck (R.E.M. and Elvis Costello notwithstanding), but on Covers 80s, Duncan Sheik revisits some of that decade's more worthy musical moments. The Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now," Tears for Fears' "Shout," the Blue Nile's "Stay" ... all excellent, done in a very mellow style. It's safe to say no hairspray was abused in making this album. Or even synths. All in all, it's a decidedly acoustic affair, with nylon and steel-stringed guitars, dulcimer, ukulele, banjo, piano and glockenspiel, basically the antithesis of '80s studio wizardry. And that's its charm. Rachael Yamagata lends vocals to several songs, bringing a little drama and rescuing what otherwise might veer a little too closely toward lullaby music. It's also great to hear Howard Jones' "What Is Love" salvaged from its Saturday Night Live musical punchline status. — Lynne Margolis

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Dawes

Nothing Is Wrong

ATO

Buy if you like: Jayhawks, Jackson Browne

The quality of this rootsy L.A. band's first album, North Hills, created high expectations for its follow-up. Dawes delivers and then some on Nothing Is Wrong. Imagine the Jayhawks combined with vintage '70s California country-rock (singer Taylor Goldsmith sounds a lot like Jackson Browne), and you'll have a good picture of what Dawes brings to the party. But the real stars are the songs themselves. "Fire Away" and "Time Spent in Los Angeles" have the plaintive sound and classic melodicism of Browne's early music, but with a touch more edge. "So Well" and "My Way Back Home" settle into quieter territory with their unhurried tempos and spacious melodies, while things get a bit friskier on "Coming Back to a Man" and "The Way You Laugh." With plain-spoken lyrics that carry emotional weight, Dawes' sophomore effort has the feel of a classic in waiting. — Alan Sculley

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Joe Jackson Trio

Live Music: Europe 2010

Razor & Tie

Buy if you like: Elvis Costello, Steely Dan

Joe Jackson has ventured into many styles in his three-decade career — taut new wave rock, reggae, jump blues and full-on classical music — that he was bound to come full circle. After re-forming the original Joe Jackson band a decade ago, he came back out rocking with the excellent Volume 4. Live Music: Europe 2010 finds Jackson working with two-thirds of that band, bassist Graham Maby and drummer David Houghton. The trio's arrangements are built around Jackson's piano playing, resulting in a stripped-down version of the jazzy pop approach that helped make his Night and Day album a smash hit. That album's "Stepping Out," "Another World," "Chinatown" and "A Slow Song" all show up here, as do wild-card covers of the Beatles' "Girl," Bowie's "Scary Monsters" and Ian Drury's "Inbetweenies." It all adds up to an illuminating look at Jackson's timeless artistry. — Alan Sculley

  • Duncan Sheik, Dawes, Joe Jackson Trio

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