Honor roll: Pop albums

Each of these Pop albums has received at least one award nomination. They are ranked by honors received.

Album:American Beauty: Music from the Motion Picture

American Beauty: Music from the Motion Picture

Thomas Newman, Various Artists

What’s the soundtrack for suburbia gone awry? Perhaps it’s American Beauty—the music for the dark Sam Mendes-directed flick starring Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening. With its mix of classic and indie rock, the disc seems to reflect something for everyone (or at least those found in middle America). Bobby Darin’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade” is the epitome of unhip, Free’s “All Right Now” is a classic rock anthem we’ve heard way too many times, and Peggy Lee’s “Bali Ha’i” is vintage exotica at its best. But then there are some surprises: Elliott Smith’s…

Album:How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb

U2

The album that carries U2 into its 25th year—and likely the mixed blessings of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—is one of its most frank and focused since the days of October and War. But its gestation was anything but simple, in part salvaged from ‘03 sessions the band deemed subpar. Enter Steve Lillywhite, the band’s original producer and sometime collaborator in the decades since, who helped retool the track “Native Son” (originally an antigun screed) into the aggressive iPod anthem “Vertigo” and leaves his distinctive stamp on the muscular “All…

Album:Genius Loves Company

Genius Loves Company

Ray Charles

The fact that Genius Loves Company will be Ray Charles’s final new album inspires an unavoidable blue feeling. But it’s also a happy reminder that the man spent the last months of his life at work doing what he loved. The overall effect of these dozen duets is autumnal and smooth. Brother Ray is on point and cruising here. Fine moments abound—you can hear his delight even in the rather stiff company of Diana Krall and Natalie Cole. His voice sounds a bit frayed by ill health at times, but it also allows for great performances like the slyness behind the…

Album:Come Away with Me

Come Away with Me

Norah Jones

It is not just the timbre of Norah Jones’s voice that is mature beyond her 22 years. Her assured phrasing and precise time are more often found in older singers as well. She is instantly recognizable, blending shades of Billie Holiday and Nina Simone without sounding like anyone but herself. Any way you slice it, she is a singer to be reckoned with. Her readings of the Hank Williams classic “Cold Cold Heart” and Hoagy Carmichael’s “The Nearness of You” alone are worth the price of the CD. Jones’s own material, while not bad, pales a bit next to such masterpieces.…

Album:Two Against Nature

Two Against Nature

Steely Dan

Never so much a band as the slyly crafted specter of one, Steely Dan’s mid-1990s “return” to live performance was as surprising as it was perverse. They’d previously toured only once, round about the era of Watergate, pet rocks, and Shaft. A half-decade after their concert comeback and a mere 19 years after Gaucho seemingly closed out their recording career, the jazz-pop conceit of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen deliberately dropped back into a recording landscape where they weren’t so much seasoned vets as alien ambassadors…

Album:Anna Karenina: Original Music from the Motion Picture

Anna Karenina: Original Music from the Motion Picture

Dario Marianelli

There are several themes in the score of Anna Karenina: sometimes appearing alone, often intersecting, their paths running alongside for a while. Those paths are shared by the characters in the story as they walk towards or away from convention, pretence, happiness, guilt, love, fun, and even truth.

In a very important sense, the musical motifs do not represent the characters themselves I prefer to think of them as spirits, perhaps demons, unseen, signposting the way, or simply bearing witness to the events.

Most of the action, in our version of Tolstoy’s novel, takes place in an abandoned theatre, upon or around a stage—a symbol of the make-believe life of the Russian aristocracy at the end of the 19th century. Having convention and pretence confined within the boundaries of an old theatre, hints of course to another life, one that must exist somewhere outside the confines of…[more]

Album:Lincoln: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Lincoln: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

John Williams

In a career spanning almost six decades, John Williams has composed some of the most recognizable film scores in the history of motion pictures. Winner of twenty-one Grammy® Awards, four Golden Globe® Awards and five Academy Awards®, Williams is easily the most recognized composer working in film today. He has a long association with Steven Spielberg, composing music for all but two of Spielberg’s feature films, most recently on the Academy Award®-nominated scores for The Adventures of Tintin and Warhorse.

Album:Skyfall: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Skyfall: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Thomas Newman

The Skyfall motion picture soundtrack features original score music by Thomas Newman. Newman is one of the most respected and recognized composers for modern film. He has scored over fifty feature films in a career which spans nearly three decades.

Album:The Emancipation of Mimi

The Emancipation of Mimi

Mariah Carey

Early buzz on The Emancipation of Mimi predicted that this would be the disc to mark “the return of the voice”—the voice being that glass-shattering instrument that propelled Carey to bestselling female artist of all time status—and mostly it is. But because of the small army of talent involved in its assembly, the album is way more than just a comeback vehicle. For proof, try straight-ahead, look-out-Beyonce-Mimi’s-still-got-it “Mine Again,” or ‘70s-soul cuddle-up, “Circles:” a don’t-attempt-on-American-Idol love song, or the gospel dazzlers “Fly…

Album:American Idiot

American Idiot

Green Day

For its first new set of music since 2000’s Warning, Green Day tears up the blueprint and comes up with something unexpected: a punk rock concept album built around elaborate melodies, odd tempo changes, and a collection of songs that freely reference classic rock warhorses like the Beatles and Pink Floyd. “She’s a Rebel” and “St. Jimmy” might sound like vintage Green Day, but the rest of the disc finds the Northern California trio trying on a variety of different guises: “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” is a cliché-strewn Foo Fighters-style power ballad;…

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