Sound Advice 

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Willie Nelson

Country Music


Buy if you like: Kris Kristofferson, Punch Brothers

For his Rounder Records debut, Willie Nelson didn't just go country; he came down from the mountain. And settled on the porch. With producer T Bone Burnett, the man behind O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Nelson delivers a set of Appalachian-influenced, banjo-and-fiddle-laden bluegrass songs like "Dark as a Dungeon," "Gotta Walk Alone" and "I Am a Pilgrim." Because he's "One-Take Willie" and seems to toss off an album about every 10 minutes, this does sound, well, tossed off (and slightly monotonous) after a while. But Nelson's voice is still rich, warm and inviting, with no hint whatsoever of wearing out — amazing when one considers how much smoke has traveled down that throat — and his guitar playing as nimble as ever. With help from such go-to greats as Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller and Ronnie McCoury, Nelson confidently airs sentiments like, "I'll leave this world / with a satisfied mind." We hope so; he's certainly earned it. — Lynne Margolis

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Buy if you like: Spaceman 3, early Pink Floyd

Congratulations, the much anticipated follow-up to MGMT's 2008 smash Oracular Spectacular, doesn't contain any dance pop, and there sure isn't a catchy single on a par with "Kids" to get the party started. Instead Andrew VanWyngarden, Ben Goldwasser and their chaotic cohorts have gone off on an acid-tinged binge, creating nine heavily layered tracks that swirl and dive with psychedelic abandon. Empathetically produced by Sonic Boom of the U.K.'s late, lamented Spaceman 3, the album is anchored around a 12-minute mega-opus called "Siberian Breaks." There's plenty of venturing into Syd Barrett territory throughout, as electronic fuzz and buzz combine with ear-catching hooks on standout tracks like "Lady Dada's Nightmare" and "Brian Eno." There's even a tribute to the Television Personalities singer on "Song for Dan Treacy." None of this is what you'd call instantly accessible. But after three or four listens, it all connects. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Iggy and the Stooges

Raw Power


Buy if you like: the Sex Pistols, the Dictators

You could find Raw Power, the 1973 audio assault from Iggy and the Stooges, in the cutout bin within a year after its release. That's hardly the way to treat a rock 'n roll classic, an album that set the standard for punk rock, went on to influence generations of musicians, and still feels fresh and contemporary. This two-disc Legacy Edition resurrects the original David Bowie mix that Iggy abandoned on subsequent reissues. Actually, the two aren't all that different; Bowie really just dialed down the rhythm section. The second disc features an hour-long concert recording that, while sonically flawed, is still the best live Iggy and the Stooges record I have heard. A Deluxe Edition — which adds a bonus disc of rarities and outtakes (including a couple surprising acoustic versions) plus a 35-minute DVD of band commentary — is available through iggyandthestoogesmusic.com. — L. Kent Wolgamott


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