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Commentary: Jack Johnson, M.I.A., McCartney among best album releases of fall

The buzz about the presence pumpkin spice lattes has finally died down, only to be replaced by frantic cries about holiday flavors at Starbucks. The changing moods in coffee, along with the obvious blast of Christmas ads means the year is coming to a close, and several album releases have led up to this holiday season. Here are some of the best albums to hit the shelves this fall:

“From Here To Now To You” by Jack Johnson — Sept. 17

Really, nothing earth-shattering happens in Jack Johnson’s latest installment. What makes “From Here To Now To You” worth remembering is that it is comprised of the epitome of feel-good songs. It’s cute, it really is. The death of Johnson’s father is no longer most prominently on his mind (as it was in his past album 2010’s “To the Sea”), and the family man reversed back to what made him wonderful in “Brushfire Fairytales.” It’s not just a smattering of pretty thoughts on his family, though, it’s the whole album. Eighth track “You Remind Me of You” is classically made of a subtle lo-fi guitar and vocals and is simple, acoustic and to the point. The Hawaiian is content and happy and effortlessly makes an album of his complete satisfaction.

“NEW” by Paul McCartney — Oct. 14 

There are a myriad of witty puns about the “NEW” album by Paul McCartney being new and fresh. At 71 years old, McCartney returns to creating youthful love songs. “Alligator,” an ode to the perfect love, seems to be a reflection, and with about 50 years of time engrossed in the world of music, it seems there should be some amount of reflection in his songs. He’s listing off what he needs in a partner and in a person. Skip onto “On My Way To Work.” Soak in all the Beatles sounds there. The at-times subtle twanging guitar and McCartney’s vocals oozing in from days past create the illusion of all The Beatles back in the same studio, and it’s hard not to imagine that with the familiarity of his voice. With years of listening to his crooning love songs, “NEW” is another installment.

“Reflektor” by Arcade Fire — Oct. 28

Arcade Fire finds a graceful union between indie, dance and rock. Between the two CDs that make up “Reflektor,” the group takes on a smooth rhythm that can’t be subjected to a singular archetype of genres. “Awful Sound (Oh Eurydice)” wraps itself in starry, airy backing vocals, disguising the building crescendo into a Beatles-esque chorus line. With James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem’s help and influence, “Reflektor” takes on synthetic beats better than ever and melts seamlessly into the peaceful, overlapping voices of Win Butler and wife Régine Chassagne. That combination is exemplified in “It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus),” but just as listeners are left at the end of that song with quiet female vocals fading out, they are hit with an ‘80s bouncing synthetic beat in “Porno.”

“Night Time, My Time” by Sky Ferreira – Oct. 29

First studio album out, and little, barely legal drinking age Sky Ferreira turns some heads. “Night Time, My Time,” a synthpop-based album, surprised most everyone. Unexpectedly cohesive, few saw it coming as such a success. At times dark and hating in “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay),” and later hitting a semi-love song with “Heavy Metal Heart,” she jumps themes and topics while still keeping a pulsing, pop-rock beat throughout the entire album.

“Matangi” by M.I.A. — Nov. 5

The British rapper weaves layers on layers of sounds into “Matangi.” Pushed back from several earlier release dates, M.I.A. had some time to perfect it, and while some of the sound abruptly jumps and didn’t quite mesh the way it should have, it still blended everything from dance hall beats to Indian sounds to chimes with general success. While previous album “MAYA” honestly wasn’t what any fan wanted, “Matangi” was like the album no one thought would happen. Pushed onto the back burner by delays (and record company drama), she still retains all the oddities and idiosyncrasies that made fans fall for “Paper Planes.” Her voice is atypical, and the way she fuses layers isn’t generic with a near frantic frenzy in the beats she uses for “Bring the Noize” and “Warriors.”

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