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Next Week in Music | Oct. 25-31 • The Short List: 8 Titles You Want to Hear

Billy Bragg, War On Drugs, Tori Amos, Mastodon & the rest of this week's best.

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I have nothing against Ed Sheeran. In fact, after seeing him in concert, I think he’s pretty talented. Even so, I’m not particularly interested in hearing his new album. But I am interested in hearing these:

 


Tori Amos
Ocean To Ocean

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Tori Amos was never going to enjoy a lockdown. She’s been playing live since she was 13 years old. She splits her life between Cornwall, Florida, and the road. Her songs are written with the act of traveling and observing. Her last studio record, 2017’s Native Invader, pulled together four impossibly disparate strands with an energy and cohesion that made your skin bristle. But without live music, travel, and much at all to observe, Amos had a difficult pandemic; holed up in Cornwall, she hit a place of personal crisis familiar to anyone who suffered during the third UK lockdown. Against all odds, that crisis resulted in Ocean to Ocean, Amos’ most personal work in years — an album bursting with warmth and connection, with deep roots in her earliest song writing. She descended to an emotional state lower than she had been to for a long time — but the depths became creative, forcing a return to the kind of introspection she recognised from her debut album Little Earthquakes. “This is a record about your losses, and how you cope with them,” she says. “Thankfully when you’ve lived long enough, you can recognise you’re not feeling like the mom you want to be, the wife you want to be, the artist you want to be. I realised that to shift this, you have to write from the place where you are. I was in my own private hell, so I told myself, then that’s where you write from — you’ve done it before…”


Billy Bragg
The Million Things That Never Happened

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “It was always my intention to record a new album in 2021. I’d planned to spend most of 2020 on the road, where I could crank out ideas for new songs in soundchecks and maybe even try a few in the live set. Things didn’t quite work out that way, of course. In the past, it has been purely personal issues that have kept me off the road and I’ve sought to come to terms with those events by writing songs that draw the listener’s attention to my individual experience. The Million Things That Never Happened isn’t about the pandemic per se, but the highs and lows of what we’ve been through provide the backdrop for the album, as they have done for all our lives over these past two years.”


Jerry Cantrell
Brighten

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Iconic singer, songwriter, guitarist, and Alice In Chains co-founder Jerry Cantrell says, “Pretty early on, I knew Brighten was the cornerstone track of the album, and it seemed to fit the body of work as a title. There’s plenty of darkness and edge, but there’s also some light, space, and good vibes.”


Mastodon
Hushed And Grim

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Mastodon’s core lineup has been in place for 21 years, an eternity in the highest echelons of metal, where even the most legendary band names eventually become brands staffed by a rotating cast of hired guns. And yet, Brann Dailor, Brent Hinds, Bill Kelliher and Troy Sanders experienced enough individual and collective tragedy to threaten their adamantine bond — the death of their longtime friend and manager Nick John after battling pancreatic cancer, a devastating global pandemic that put their faith, families, and livelihoods in jeopardy. Mastodon’s decades of success and the brotherhood between its four members had not made them any more immune to the possibility that it could all splinter tomorrow. Mastodon had a glimpse of the end and committed to a new beginning — and Hushed And Grim does not take a single moment for granted. And there are more of these moments than on any previous Mastodon release. It initially feels reductive to simply describe Hushed And Grim as Mastodon’s ninth album — at 88 minutes, their first double LP boldly defies conventional assumptions about attention spans in the streaming era. With the expanse of a studio film, the texture of a novel and the breadth of a Greatest Hits, Hushed And Grim is Mastodon paying tribute to John by building an eternal monument. “He’s always been an influence when he was alive,” Hinds wistfully states. “And he’s even more of an influence now.”


R.E.M.
New Adventures In Hi-Fi 25th Anniversary Edition

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Craft Recordings celebrates the 25th anniversary of R.E.M.’s 10th studio album New Adventures in Hi-Fi, with a special reissue. The bonus-filled Deluxe Edition offers a trove of audio-visual content, including the newly remastered album, 13 B-sides and rarities, a never-before-released 64-minute outdoor projection film (shown on buildings across five cities in 1996 to promote the album’s original release), and a previously unreleased 30-minute EPK. Additionally, the Blu-ray features New Adventures in Hi-Fi in stunning Hi-Res and 5.1 Surround Sound audio, plus five HD-restored music videos including Bittersweet Me, Electrolite, and E-Bow the Letter. Housed in a 52-page hardcover book, the collection includes archival photographs — many of which have never been published — plus new liner notes from journalist Mark Blackwell and reflections from all four original band members, as well as from Patti Smith, Thom Yorke and producer Scott Litt.”


They Might Be Giants
Book

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:They Might Be Giants have always blazed an original path, and their ambitious new project Book takes that impulse to another level. The music from Book teems with the same energy, melody, and inventive songcraft, but this latest effort goes even further, introducing an immersive and fascinating album experience that blends photography, design, text, and music. True to its title, Book isn’t just a collection of 15 new songs: it’s a 144-page art book, created in collaboration with Brooklyn street photographer Brian Karlsson and celebrated graphic designer Paul Sahre. Like their Dial-A-Song service, breakthrough MTV videos, and vast catalog of television work, Book was borne out of the duo’s relentless quest to take their music to new platforms and new places. “At this point, the album itself might seem like a quaint idea,” John Flansburgh explains. “Giving yourself real creative challenges keeps you moving forward.” John Linnell adds, “Nowadays albums are often just a collection of ones and zeroes. With Book we’re looking to make a more interesting object.”


Various Artists
Brown Acid: The Thirteenth Trip

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Some of the best thrills of the Internet music revolution is the ability to find extremely rare music with great ease. But even with such vast archives to draw from, quite a lot of great songs have gone undiscovered for nearly half a century — particularly in genres that lacked hifalutin arty pretense. Previously, only the most extremely dedicated and passionate record collectors had the stamina and prowess to hunt down long forgotten wonders in dusty record bins — often hoarding them in private collections, or selling at ridiculous collector’s prices. Legendary compilations like Nuggets, Pebbles, ad nauseam, have exhausted the mines of early garage rock and proto-punk, keeping alive a large cross-section of underground ephemera. However, few have delved into and expertly archived the wealth of proto-metal, pre-stoner rock tracks collected on Brown Acid. Lance Barresi, co-owner of L.A./Chicago retailer Permanent Records, has shown incredible persistence in tracking down a stellar collection of rare singles from the ’60s and ’70s for the growing compilation series. Partnered with Daniel Hall of RidingEasy Records, the two have assembled a selection of songs that’s hard to believe have remained unheard for so long.”


The War on Drugs
I Don’t Live Here Anymore

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “Over the last 15 years, The War on Drugs have steadily emerged as one of this century’s great rock ’n’ roll synthesists, removing the gaps between the underground and the mainstream, between the obtuse and the anthemic, making records that wrestle a fractured past into a unified and engrossing present. The War On Drugs have never done that as well as they do with their fifth studio album I Don’t Live Here Anymore, an uncommon rock album about one of our most common but daunting processes — resilience in the face of despair.”