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The Pauseandplay.com Record Roundup

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Breaking the Machine

Breaking the Machine

Independent

Tallahassee rockers are ready to get your head moving with chugging rhythms and a hard rock vocal style with a focus on melody. This is the band’s seven-song debut album, and it’s a solid punch of robust energy and well-built songs. Highlights include “Redemption” with its driving drum-bass, and the stripped-down (and undeniably catchy) “Acrimony.”

– Nikki Hedrick

Crystal Coast

Crystal Coast III

Independent

Retro or ultra-modern? I’m not entirely sure, but it is a heck of a lot of fun. Pensacola’s Crystal Coast combines soaring synths, EDM beats, and vocals that harken to British pop music. By embracing experimental tones while holding onto indie-pop song structures, Crystal Coast has crafted something memorable and enjoyable. Under the danceable beats are lyrics that touch on relationships, self-discovery, and how time affects us all, providing ample substance to this quirky project.

– Nikki Hedrick

Al Di Meola

Opus

earMUSIC

Opus is the latest release by Grammy-laureate guitarist and composer Al Di Meola. Di Meola has about as variable a jazz résumé as anybody, with more than 20 albums alone as leader. His job history includes Return to Forever and The Rite of Strings, plus collaborations with Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorius and John McLaughlin, to name only a few giants. Opus offers a rich menu of 11 compositions, with Di Meola very much at the forefront, letting go and gliding over a variety of rhythms and settings. There’s a definite, danceable Latin vibe, but Di Meola doesn’t tie himself down.

– Bruce Collier

Harpeth Rising

Against All Tides

Independent

Classically trained string trio use their instruments for contemporary music and storytelling. With complex folk-driven lyrics, heavenly vocal harmonies and versatile string instruments, Harpeth Rising are without question rising stars. If you think these young women are stuffy, I’d first question if your hearing is intact and then encourage you to visit their website, which includes an extensive page on their pets, full of levity and love. It’s also an appropriate parallel for their music—out to make an impact on the world, working to change perceptions on what classic instruments can do, and embracing a message of caring.

– Nikki Hedrick

MGMT

Little Dark Age

Columbia

MGMT’s new album is a cocktail of sounds, a well-shaken mix of old school Britpop, synth and drum machines served up in an echo chamber. For the most part, they’ve stuck with a recipe that works. Musically, it’s a fine album peppered with lyrics that range from the seemingly trite “She Works Out Too Much” to the seemingly morbid “When You Die.” Despite the titles’ alternatively frivolous and dark connotations, both are great, upbeat tracks. But then the band totally switches gears with “When You’re Small,” a touching song that channels Leonard Cohen, maybe even Johnny Cash.

– Joni Williams

Adam Nussbaum

The Lead Belly Project

Sunnyside Records

Delta Blues legend Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter and his music get taken for an interpretive ride by drummer Adam Nussbaum on The Lead Belly Project. Nussbaum is joined by guitarists Steve Cardenas and Nate Radley, and saxophonist Ohad Talmor. The 11 tracks include canonical works like “Black Girl” and “Old Riley,” and an unexpectedly twangy, melancholy take on the old country moonshiner anthem “Bring Me a Little Water, Sylvie.” Nussbaum and company take some thoughtful liberties, not out of self-indulgence, but more as an exploration of the music’s potential. A good example is Talmor’s lead on an ethereal “Goodnight Irene.”

– Bruce Collier

Smack Dab

Jamboree Live 9

La Cupula Music

Smack Dab is a Barcelona-based jazz quintet—Oriol Valles (trumpet), Lluc Casares (sax), Joel Gonzalez (piano), Pau Sala (double bass) and Joan Casares (drums). Their latest release is a live club recording. The seven tracks offer a blend of hard bop, straight-ahead and a touch of cool jazz. As with most live recordings, there’s audience applause for individual solos, and the occasional introduction—all in Spanish. The combo has been playing together for a while, and it shows—their style is big, bold and very much together. There’s some great individual work, too. Hope to hear more from them.

– Bruce Collier

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