You’ve got to hand it to Beck. The guy has successfully juggled two careers — one as the ironic, genre-jumping party animal on releases like Mellow Gold and Odelay, and the other as a stripped-down, straightforward singer-songwriter on the likes of Mutations and Sea Change. His first offering since 2008’s Modern Guilt falls into the latter category, setting up Beck with an acoustic guitar, grand string arrangements from his father (noted composer David Campbell) and, aside from a vague melancholy, not much else. It’s almost a total drag, but Campbell’s string arrangements keep things interesting, as does Beck’s great ear for pop. —Lee DeVito
Burn Your Fire for No Witness
Angel Olsen’s latest sees the singer-songwriter, for the most part, ditching the acoustic guitar routine, plugging in with a full rock ’n’ roll band, and playing up the throwback Roy Orbison-warble in her voice. The retooled formula works great here — you’ve got to love lines like, “Are you lonely too? High five! So am I” on “Hi-Five,” given extra punch thanks to the fuzzed out, garage rock production. After these bursts of color, it’s kind of a downer when Olsen does return to the monochromatic coffeehouse vibe, but songs like “Iota” manage to stay refreshing, thanks to Olsen’s smart lyrics. —Lee DeVito
Like the previous Muppets movie, much of the soundtrack to the sequel has been written by Flight of the Conchords man Bret McKenzie and, as a result, it’s hilariously self-effacing. Opening song “We’re Doing a Sequel” contains lines like “The studio considers us a viable franchise” and “The studio wants more, while they wait for Tom Hanks to make Toy Story 4.” Cast members like Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey add to the fun, as do guest musicians like Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett and even Celine Dion (her career highlight). When the soundtrack is this funny, the movie has to be great. —Brett Callwood
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