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England's Newest Hit Makers!

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Christina Aguilera: Lotus (RCA) A wonderfully expressive singer who apparently is on TV a lot these days, Christina Aguilera once made headlines for being the supposed rival of pop goddess Britney Spears, herself also a TV star, but seeming somehow…how to say this politely?...kinkier! While Aguilera's fortunes have risen and fallen with the times – and who among us can't relate to that? – most agree that her infamous encounter a few years back with a rich and reclusive botanist changed her game entirely! Now reduced in size to a mere six inches, the singer these days emerges regularly as a lotus flower stamen in various gardens on the East Coast and in Japan, spends a few hours talking about the inherent flaws of Botticelli's The Birth Of Venus, trash-talks her earliest work on The New Mickey Mouse Club, and spends way too much time talking about the shape of Ceelo Green's head! Sometimes she makes albums, and this is one of them! I think it may be a masterpiece!

Brian Eno: LUX (Warp) An entirely dandy Brian Eno ambient affair that recalls his earlier instrumental works – think Music For Airports, Music For Films, Discreet Music – but, for all its 76 minutes, contains a little more motion than those earlier works, and is officially (though inaudibly) divided into 12 separate sections, all apparently derived from an art installation currently based somewhere in Italy. Smooth, dreamy, the perfect music to listen to while writing a blog that must somehow contain wordage about the Beatles, Susan Boyle and Christina Aguilera yet still seem rational, the album's greatest success may be its ability to be purely enjoyed without reading about the context of its composition – a boogeyman that has haunted some of Eno's earlier highbrow work. That said, anybody who wants to pony up 25 bucks for a version of this on vinyl – and the inherent clicks that format, over time, can't help but provide – is a funny bunny!

Lana Del Ray: Paradise (Interscope) Since I never saw Ms. Del Ray on TV, and have only heard that her performance seemed silly – and this from a cluster of humans whose judgment itself might seem questionable – I was entirely willing to listen to this fab new EP and take it purely at face value. And I kind of liked what I heard! There is subtlety, there is sensuality, there is a memorable cover logo, there is an oozing orchestra that appears to want to emulate that whole Angelo Badalamenti thing, there are songs with titles like "American," "Cola," and "Bel Air," and there is a red-headed singer that I would probably cast as Lana Lang if I was doing that new Superman remake! If it was May, I might even ask her to the prom! Still, devoting an entire album to one Meat Loaf song does seem a little iffy!

The Rolling Stones: GRRR! (ABKCO) Some might scoff at a 3-CD set of Rolling Stones hits that feature a mere two new songs unavailable elsewhere, but those songs – "Doom And Gloom" and "One More Shot" – are not bad at all, and more importantly, fit in quite well as the wrap-up to relatively unique collection: These dudes have been making records since Hector was a pup! Hector Jones, my neighbor! But you know what? If you can sit still long enough to listen to three consecutive CDs of Rolling Stones material – extending as far back as 1492's "Come On," their first single, powering through the good stuff like "Satisfaction," and even making stuff like 1986's "Harlem Shuffle" sound palatable – those last two tracks make a great finale to a wonderful listening experience! My plan is to listen to them repeatedly when I refinance my house so I can buy tickets to their upcoming concerts! Record store clerks: make sure you insist customers ask for this album by name!

Marvin Gaye: Trouble Man: 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Motown/Hip-O Select) All these years later I would maintain that my favorite Tamla/Motown recordings of all time are those albums recorded by Marvin Gaye between 1971's What's Going On and 1981's In Our Lifetime – and with this, all of those discs have now been reissued in deluxe, expanded form, and the world is a loving, rational place. Mostly instrumental, featuring the well-known title track and now a batch of alternate takes and (no small thing) the actual film score, Trouble Man is an underrated gem in Gaye's distinguished catalog: it is sophisticated, extra-musical, and precisely the sort of thing you'd want to hear if it's getting late, you feel like driving around a little, but first you want to try on a few hats while looking in the mirror! I mean, like, hypothetically!

Deftones: Koi No Yokan (Reprise) A long-lived band with a fiercely devoted following, Deftones return with a new album! As always, each album title is an anagram specifically spelling out each album's theme – and this time out, it's Okay In Nook! I guess when you get older, you think about sex a lot!

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Song Stories

“Long Walk Home”

Bruce Springsteen | 2007

When the subject of this mournful song returns home, he hardly recognizes his town. Springsteen told Rolling Stone the alienation the man feels is a metaphor for life in a politically altered post-9/11 America. “Who would have ever thought we’d live in a country without habeas corpus?” he said. “That’s Orwellian. That’s what political hysteria is about and how effective it is. I felt it in myself. You get frightened for your family, for your home. And you realize how countries can move way off course, very far from democratic ideals.”

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