Before 2014 is fully relegated to history, I want to highlight a wide range of amazing titles I’ve been enjoying over the past month or so.
Title: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Watertower Music)
Composer: Howard Shore
You might like if you enjoy: Howard Shore’s “Lord of the Rings” soundtracks
Tell me more: While readers know me best as a music writer, I actually began my fledgling writing career in college writing about both music and film. So it’s no wonder I have had a long-time love of compelling soundtracks. The special edition of Academy Award-winning composer Howard Shore’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” is the best soundtrack I heard in 2014. The good news for fans of all things Middle Earth is the expanded two-disc special edition boasts bonus and extended tracks, expanded liner notes and a beautiful fully-illustrated color booklet.
Even apart from supporting the epic Peter Jackson-directed film, Shore’s music is powerful and moving. The second disc in particular (including “The Fallen,” “Ravenhill” and “The Return Journey”) boasts some of Shore’s most sweeping work. Information: TheHobbit.com.
Tell me more: Only 22, Texas native Chase Bryant is already a talented singer-songwriter and pro guitarist making a name for himself on the contemporary country scene. His self-titled 2014 five-song EP showcases all his strengths, notably on the infectious country rocker “Wayfarer Weather,” reflective “Jet Black Pontiac” and infectious “Little Bit of You.” Information: ChaseBryant.com.
Tell me more: Few bands that emerged in the late 1960s or 70s fused art rock, melodic pop and progressive rock as successfully as England’s Supertramp. The band’s 1974 commercial breakthrough “Crime of the Century” was issued late last year in a beautiful 40th anniversary deluxe edition that features the remastered original eight-song album on one disc, and a previously-unreleased March 1975 concert from London’s Hammersmith Odeon on the second disc. The collection features both studio and live takes of Roger Hodgson’s wonderful “Dreamer” and Rick Davies’ “Bloody Well Right.” Information: Supertramp.com.
Tell me more: Whether performing beautiful harmonies-anchored acoustic folk songs or virtuoso instrumental material, Canadian trio the Sweet Lowdown shines. On the group’s latest release “Chasing the Sun,” Amanda Blied (guitar, vocals), Miriam Sonstenes (fiddle, vocals) and Shanti Bremer (banjo, vocals) put their formidable powers as top-tier musicians into the service of the bluegrass-minded “River Winding Down,” blazing instrumental “April 29th,” Celtic ballad “Leaving” and other wonderful originals. Information: www.thesweetlowdown.ca.
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