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Mogwai, Manchester Orchestra, and Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie

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Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1

Rock Action Records

File next to: Don Caballero, Warpaint, Explosions in the Sky

Mogwai has developed a reputation for releasing year-end EPs and CDs that remix the Glasgow band's most recent studio efforts. While some previous collections, like Mogwai Fear Satan, would slip into dance-floor somnambulance, 2012's A Wrenched Virile Lore was a double-CD of essential and memorable remixes. Music Industry 3, Fitness Industry 1, falls halfway between those poles. While two of the newer songs and two remixes are typical Mogwai instrumentals, the opening original, "Teenage Exorcists," is among the small percentage of Mogwai tracks to feature vocals, along with appropriately eerie lyrics. The closer is a stunning remix, by Berlin pianist Nils Frahm, of their Rave Tapes song, "The Lord Is Out of Control." All in all, this latest year-end bonus treats fans to an unexpected feast. — Loring Wirbel

Manchester Orchestra

Manchester Orchestra


Favorite Gentlemen/Concord Music Group

File next to: Mansions, My Morning Jacket, Modern Baseball

Andy Hull has had to balance the arena rock and introspective folk sides of his Atlanta band since 2004, while being fully cognizant that Manchester Orchestra attracts as many Deadheads as Taking Back Sunday fans. At times, the balance was near-perfect, as on 2012's Simple Math. But 2014's Cope album was a disappointing sludge rocker that bore little of Hull's weary country-tinged vocals or the band's acoustic nuances. At year's end, the band released an acoustic re-imagining of Cope called Hope. It's hard to believe tracks like "Top Notch" and "Indentions" are the same as those on Cope, because the songs on the newer album rank among the band's best. The lesson is not to shy away from hard rock influences; it's that subtle changes in arrangement and presentation can radically change how a song is perceived. — Loring Wirbel

Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie

Willie Nelson and Sister Bobbie

December Day: Willie's Stash Vol. 1


File next to: Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson

This thoroughly enjoyable album brings together 18 previously unreleased recordings by Willie Nelson and his sister, Bobbie. The album, some of which also features members of Nelson's band The Family, combines Willie originals and well-known standards. It opens with a rollicking version of Irving Berlin's "Alexander's Ragtime Band," anchored by Bobbie's rolling piano and Mickey Raphael's harp. Bobbie's piano remains the lead instrument throughout; it's even prominent on Django Reinhardt's "Nuages." Willie, meanwhile, is in fine vocal form, whether singing a trio of Berlin songs, a touching "Mona Lisa," or self-penned obscurities like the autobiographical "Amnesia." Willie and his older sister have been playing together for seven decades and, together in Family, for four. Their connection is clear and sympathetic, making December Day a very special record. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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