Various artists, “La La Land: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Interscope)
You can’t have a visually arresting modern movie musical without an aurally dazzling set of songs. So for every fantastical bit of film energy from “La La Land” writer/director Damien Chazelle, there’s an equally rousing tune to go with it from the flick’s composer, Justin Hurwitz, with lyrics from musical theater’s hottest team: Justin Paul and Benj Pasek.
The tale of two stardom-hungry showbiz kids (Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling) in various stages of love and support for the other in Los Angeles is guided, at first, by a let’s-put-on-a-show razzle-dazzle of brass and reeds. When fragile-but-lovely vocalist Stone and gal pals Callie Hernandez, Sonoya Mizuno and Jessica Rothe get to singing “Someone in the Crowd,” it’s a fresh-faced stomper in the tradition of “West Side Story’s” “I Want to Live in America.”
As the Gosling portion of “La La Land” involves his frustration with being a deep jazz pianist in a pop jazz world (the latter represented, oddly enough, by John Legend and his slick fuzak “Start a Fire”), numbers like “City of Stars” have a cool Cali-jazz feel à la Bobby Troup. The upbeat piano prance of “Another Day of Sun” sums up “La La Land” handsomely: “a Technicolor world made out of music and machine / It called me to be on that screen.”
A.D. Amorosi, Philadelphia Inquirer
Brian Eno, “Reflection” (Warp)
Ambient-music pioneer Eno once wrote that he considers it possible “our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: ‘You mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?’”
With his seventh album in the past seven years, Eno is making his boldest attempt yet to create what he has described as a third category of music, generative, to join the two we know now — live and recorded. Using algorithms and increasingly powerful portable technology, generative music, he argues, will allow listeners to hear music that creates itself anew all day, or night, long, changing according to time, mood, weather or other variables.
The traditional album version of “Reflection” is a 54-minute single track that, much like the ambient music Eno has been making since the late 1970s, uses looping meditative passages that change with slow variations. But an app-based version of the project, available on iTunes, creates what Eno calls “an endless and endlessly changing version of the piece of music,” playing from the algorithms he fine-tuned while listening over weeks to the music the system created.
“It’s a lot like gardening,” Eno wrote of the process in promotional materials for the project, which he accomplished with the help of Peter Chilvers, a longtime collaborator. “You plant the seeds and then you keep tending to them until you get a garden you like.”
Eno, as a futurist, has often accompanied his music with political pronouncements. And with the release of the new album, he posted his thoughts about the end of 2016 on Facebook, in a widely shared post. In it, he theorized that the tumultuous political developments of the past year might not mark the beginning of a period of decline, but the end of one that he believes has been underway for 40 years, marked by concentration of wealth and the growth of an ideology that has “sneered at social generosity and championed a sort of righteous selfishness.”
“Last year people started waking up to this,” Eno wrote, adding: “I think we underwent a mass disillusionment in 2016, and finally realized it’s time to jump out of the saucepan. This is the start of something big. It will involve engagement: not just tweets and likes and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action, too.”
RANDY KENNEDY, New York Times
• Dale Watson and Ray Benson, “Dale & Ray”
• Dropkick Murphys, “11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory”
• Gone Is Gone, “Echolocation”