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Julia Holter, Joe Jackson and The Zombies 

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click to enlarge Julia Holter
  • Julia Holter

Julia Holter

Have You in My Wilderness

Domino

File next to: Holly Herndon, Stereolab, Natalie Prass

Purists will always bemoan avant-garde artists moving into the mainstream, but it's hard to make that case against Julia Holter's pop inclinations. While her first two albums fit in with L.A.'s feminist improv-drone scene, 2013's superb Loud City Song included a cover of Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger" that proved Holter could pass as a fine pop vocalist. On Have You in My Wilderness, Holter uses an odd diction that sounds like an affected foreign accent at times; but instead of being too precious, the method works. When her exquisitely arranged chamber orchestra begins getting too predictable, an unexpected time signature or stray trumpet or sax will reprise her innovative streak. To further break up monotony, she'll break hearts, as in the title track that closes the album, when she plaintively asks, "Why do I feel you running away?" — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Joe Jackson
  • Joe Jackson

Joe Jackson

Fast Forward

Work Song, Inc.

File next to: Steely Dan, David Bowie, Todd Rundgren

Though he came onto the scene during the "new wave" era, Joe Jackson's musical concerns have long been more erudite than most. For years he skipped around, skirting the edges of dilettantism. He avoided critical barbs by dint of his authenticity; he really meant it with his forays into Afro-Cuban styles (Night and Day), jump blues (Jumpin' Jive), modern classical (Will Power), and ska/reggae (Beat Crazy). But all the while, he's had a signature style of his own, one as seamless and polished in its own way as Steely Dan. So after the critically acclaimed Duke Ellington project (2012's The Duke), Jackson returns to classic form for Fast Forward. Its title notwithstanding, Fast Forward is redolent of his earlier work, especially 1991's Laughter & Lust, but that fact says more about the timeless and enduring nature of the man's music than anything else. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge The Zombies
  • The Zombies

The Zombies

Still Got That Hunger

The End Records

File next to: The Left Banke, Kinks, Argen

Call them late bloomers if you will. Compared to their fellow British invaders, The Zombies scored relatively few hits in the USA. And by the time their masterpiece, 1968's Odessey and Oracle, started to gain any traction, the group's members had gone their own ways. But mainstays Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone remained on good terms, and reunited under the Zombies banner in the 21st century, determined not to be just another oldies act trotting out the classics. Still Got That Hunger is strong from start to finish, evoking the group's old sound without explicitly aping it. The Zombies' most winning qualities — Argent's skilled and hooky keyboard work and Blunstone's assertive-yet-vulnerable vocals — are on impressive display. Lucky concertgoers will find that these new tunes fit in nicely between note-perfect readings of "Time of the Season" and "She's Not There." — Bill Kopp

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