A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:
Greg Swan of Waconia:
1 "The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special" soundtrack. Music plays a key part in the galactic Marvel movie series, so it's no surprise this Disney Plus soundtrack is full of gems, including one by Kevin Bacon. Highlights include "I Don't Know What Christmas Is (But Christmastime Is Here)" by the Old 97's, "Just Like Christmas" by Low, the "SNL"-inspired "Christmas Time Is Here" by Julian Casablancas, and out-of-this-world holiday numbers from the Wombats, the Pogues and Fountains of Wayne.
2 Lazerbeak, "Lava Bangers II." It's the new 20-track instrumental hip-hop sequel to Beak's banger-filled solo album of 2012. Samples, saxophones, complex beats and unending layers coalesce in a highly accessible album for the club, background music or that snowy commute.
3 For Whom the U.S. Bank Tolls. After breaking in U.S. Bank Stadium (and its hit-or-miss concert quality reputation) in 2016, Metallica announced quite the lineup for two more nights in Minneapolis in 2024, including Pantera and a no-repeat set list.
Jon Bream, Star Tribune critic:
1 Minneapolis Sound tribute, Bunkers. A parade of Twin Cities musicians saluted the music of Prince, the Time, Jam & Lewis and others. When was the last time you heard a Lo-Key song live? Jamecia Bennett uplifted on Sounds of Blackness' "Optimistic" and "I Believe." Tony Christian and Marvin Gunn revved up Mazarati's "100 MPH" and St. Paul Peterson, Bobby Z and Dr. Fink did a Purple medley. Props to saxophonist David Eiland and bassist Art Haynes for playing all night, and Jeff Taube for producing this terrific tribute.
2 James Austin Johnson's Bob Dylan impressions, "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." The "Saturday Night Live" ace impressionist did Dylan singing "Jingle Bells" in four different periods — the 1960s folkie, "Nashville Skyline" crooner, "Time Out of Mind" mystery man and Rolling Thunder belter. He nailed each era.
3 Todd Rundgren and Daryl Hall, State Theatre. While headliner Hall seemed introverted and insular on a set of mostly deep solo tracks, Rundgren was generous on a rare set full of his classics and soul covers. At the end, they teamed up for fun, full-on duets.
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