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Best Coast

The Only Place

Mexican Summer

File next to: Dum Dum Girls, Wavves

On the sunny title track that opens The Only Place, Bethany Cosentino sings of the California she clearly loves. But that's the only bit of cheer to be found on Best Coast's second album. The rest of the way, the mercurial Cosentino sings of heartache and uncertainty, worry and regret. Of course, it's all wrapped up in the garage surf pop that she and her partner, multi-instrumentalist Bob Bruno, crafted on their 2010 debut Crazy for You and have, in some measure, refined over the last two years. The sound — part garage rock, part surf and part girl group — is cleaner, thanks to producer Jon Brion. But it still has the quasi lo-fi charm and hookiness that made it all work the first time around. Best Coast isn't really doing anything all that different on The Only Place, but there's nothing wrong with that when the music connects this well. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Loudon Wainwright III

Older Than My Old Man Now

2nd Story Sound Records

File next to: John Hiatt, Randy Newman

Loudon Wainwright III has given musical tours through every phase of his life, from young dude to dadhood to midlife crisis to losing his parents. This time, he surveys it all: childhood, adolescence, manhood, marriage, parenthood, mortality — and that's just in the first song ("The Here & the Now"). It's a jazzy, humorous take on life and death, as well as a full-on family affair with contributions by all four kids and two of their three moms (Suzzy Roche and Ritamarie Kelly). Kate McGarrigle, who's Rufus and Martha Wainwright's mom, is also acknowledged via "Over the Hill," which she and Loudon co-wrote. Like John Hiatt, Wainwright is a master at alternating humor and melancholy. Addressing the indignities of aging and his inability to reverse time, Wainwright sums it up best in "Ghost Blues": "I don't know what killed me, Lord," he sings. "It might have been life." — Lynne Margolis

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Willie Nelson

Heroes

Legacy

File next to: Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson

Only Willie Nelson could get away with putting a western swing cover of "Home in San Antone" on the same album with "Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die," his collaboration with Snoop Dogg, Kris Kristofferson and Jamey Johnson. On Heroes, the Texas troubadour also covers Tom Waits, Pearl Jam and Coldplay and brings along all kinds of collaborators, including Merle Haggard and Sheryl Crow. But the primary co-star here is his son Lukas, who plays guitar throughout, sings on 10 of the 14 songs, wrote three of them, and sounds like an even reedier version of dad when they swap vocals. Their collaborations include the dramatic laid-back reworking of Pearl Jam's "Just Breathe" and Willie's new "Come On Back Jesus," a heartfelt plea that urges that John Wayne be brought along, too. Heroes proves that Nelson can still do anything he wants — and always have it work. — L. Kent Wolgamott

  • Best Coast, Loudon Wainwright III, Willie Nelson

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