Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles, “Heart Songs” (Thirty Tigers)
For decades, acoustic guitar virtuosos Emmanuel and Knowles have dazzled with their skills, from intricate runs to coaxing unexpected sounds from their instruments. On their new instrumental album, though, the focus is on the melodies of the songs they have chosen and the gorgeous arrangements they have crafted to carry out these classics with just their two guitars.
Though “Cold, Cold Heart” and “Somewhere” have been tackled by countless artists in a wide variety of styles, they offer their own twist, as Emmanuel approaches the melodies on his guitar like a singer. On their lovely version of Billy Joel’s “Lullabye (Goodnight, My Angel),” they cleverly start with a bit of acoustic flourish before the melody begins in earnest, as if to symbolize the calm that comes with a lullaby. The first single is a sweet cover of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” where Knowles’ countermelody is as important as the lead that Emmanuel delivers with a mix of finesse and emotion.
With its simple, poignant style, “Heart Songs” offers a sweet, melody-driven oasis in the pounding pop world.
The duo will perform at the Dakota in Minneapolis on Jan. 25-26.
Glenn Gamboa, Newsday
The-Dream, “Ménage à Trois Sextape Vol. 1, 2, 3” (Radio Killa)
“We don’t need no bridge for this song,” The-Dream, aka Terius Nash, sings toward the end of “You and I,” from his first new release in half a decade. But, oh, yes, he does. Sly callback as it is to the “I don’t need no hook” cruise control of his first single, “Shawty Is the S-!” in 2007, he could also generate hooks in his sleep in the year that he co-owned both Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” But these songs cry out for shaping.
After two more good albums and two forgettable ones, this triple-length mixtape may yet be a five-year clearinghouse for a real album. That would explain how utterly devoid of new ideas it is, amounting to an endless B-list Jeremih album with an occasional high (like the burping beatbox and bells of “Gimmie That”) or low (turning his 2014 domestic abuse allegations in a winking sex boast on “Super Soaker”).
Dan Weiss, Philadelphia Inquirer
• Maggie Rogers, “Heard It in a Past Life”
• James Blake, “Assume Form”
• Mike Posner, “A Real Good Kid”
• Pedro the Lion, “Phoenix”
• Sharon Van Etten, “Remind Me Tomorrow”
• Joe Jackson, “Fool”
• Future, “The Wizrd”
• Guster, “Look Alive”
• Aesop Rock and Tobacco, “Malibu Ken”
• Deerhunter, “Why Hasn’t Everything Already Disappeared?”
• Juliana Hatfield, “Weird”
• Papa Roach, “Who Do You Trust?”
• Switchfoot, “Native Tongue”
• Toro y Moi, “Outer Peace”
• Steve Mason, “About the Light”
• Whitehorse, “The Northern South Vol. 2”