A half-dozen cool things in music, from two points of view:

Anna Thorvaldsdottir, "Aerial." The Icelandic composer's album evokes the cold and otherworldly landscapes of her native country with large-scale orchestral pieces. Built around slowly shifting tonal centers that move more like glaciers than blizzards, the works are cinematic, haunting, often dissonant, and work just as well as the soundtrack to a Minnesota winter as an Icelandic one.

"Uncompromising Expression" by Richard Havers. There are books about the jazz photography of Francis Wolff, and books about the cover designs of Reid Miles, and even books about the history of Blue Note Records, but no single volume does as handsome a job of pulling together the culture of the iconic jazz label as Havers' book, published for Blue Note's 75th anniversary.

D'Angelo, "Black Messiah." The long-awaited follow-up to 2000's superlative "Voodoo" might not be as revolutionary as its predecessor, but D'Angelo is still a master of texture and feel, trading keyboard for thick slabs of rich guitar work and crafting something that feels less like a collection of tracks and more like a living organism inside your speakers.

Steve Mcpherson, Minneapolis

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Darlene Love, "Late Show With David Letterman." For her final rendition of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" on television (and 21st time on Letterman), she was in great voice, backed by a wall of sound and a cast of thousands, including backup singers Patti Scialfa and Lisa Fischer. Loved that Love climbed atop Paul Shaffer's piano in her gorgeous red holiday gown during the penultimate verse.

Garth Brooks crashes Justin Timberlake's concert in Nashville. JT was doing a version of Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" and Brooks came onstage in mid-song, upping the ante but never upstaging JT. Talk about strange bedfellows, but that song works in many places.

The Mavericks come clean, rollingstone.com. Rarely has a band been so open and forthcoming about a current member's drug problems as these guys are about Robert Reynolds.

Jon Bream, Star Tribune