Teenage Fanclub's 'Here': Now 10 albums in, this Scottish band is one of music's quiet constants since bursting on the alternative radio landscape with the feedback-laden power-pop of "Bandwagonesque" in 1991. Still armed with the winsome, preternaturally catchy work of its three songwriters, Norman Blake, Raymond McGinley and Gerard Love, Teenage Fanclub can recall the likes of Big Star, Buffalo Springfield and the Byrds with their often delicate sense for harmony and melody but on their first album in six years still sound most like themselves. Start with "The Darkest Part of the Night" and follow Teenage Fanclub into the light.
The West Wing Weekly: Nostalgia may be a powerful drug, but if reveling in the fantasy of compassion and competence in civic leadership is wrong, fans of "The West Wing" don't want to be right. Now there's this podcast to serve as an episode-by-episode companion for Aaron Sorkin's beloved, bingeable series hosted by Hrishikesh Hirway of the Song Exploder podcast and onetime "West Wing" staffer Joshua Malina. Reveling in the show's rich details while also calling out where its flourishes haven't aged so well, the podcast proves the celebrated series still offers an inspiring glimpse into the Oval Office, except with far less tweeting.
'Arrival' (2016): As always, beware of any "film that we need now," which has been part of the building buzz surrounding this film, which carries a message of global cooperation and understanding in its alien invasion story, which is exactly the sort of far-fetched desperate circumstance it feels like it would take for humans to figure that whole thing out. But for all its exploration of linguistics and non-linear time in its artfully drawn narrative, this film rushes past its most emotional moments at the finish and misses the shared awe of interstellar contact that came in the decades-older "Close Encounters." "Arrival" isn't bad, especially compared to most of today's sci-fi, but we needed more.
Joe Bonamassa's 'Live at the Greek Theater': Like Santa himself, the Grammy Awards always deliver any number of surprises within its nominations, and this year it was including this guitarist's sprawling two-disc live album in the traditional blues category. There's no denying the almost oppressive technical skill with which the former guitar prodigy polishes and expands the tradition of blues guitar, particularly on this set from an L.A. show that paid tribute to three late masters, but this album's outsized sound and glossy swagger is best suited for the contemporary side of the field. Evidently, voter turnout from the guitar shop soloist demographic was bigger than expected.
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