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Track Record

  • This CD cover image released by Glassnote Records shows the latest release by Two Door Cinema Club, "Beacon." (AP Photo/Glassnote Records)
  • This CD cover image released by Sugar Hill Records shows the latest release by Kathy Mattea, "Calling Me Home." (AP Photo/Sugar Hill Records)
  • This CD cover image released by Reach Records shows the latest release by Lecrae, "Gravity." (AP Photo/Reach Records)
  • Cook of Chet
  • Kathy Mattea

beacon

Two Door Cinema Club

Glassnote, $7.99

Two Door Cinema Club blasted onto the airwaves in 2010 with its debut “Tourist History.” The group’s wistful and perfectly constructed ditties about youth and love lodged them firmly in the indie set and spread optimism through the hearts of losers and geeks with a positive love song, “Something Good Can Work.”

With its second album “Beacon,” the Northern Ireland trio keeps that flame alive. The band continues its shoe-gazing style but with added twists. There’s an electro spin on some of the tracks, showing the boys are capable of concocting more than guitar riffs, and they’ve gained more swagger since the release of their debut.

Precision is key with Two Door Cinema Club songs and they never miss a beat throughout “Beacon.”

First single “Sleep Alone” pulsates with a steady drumbeat and is melancholic and full of yearning as Alex Trimble sings, “Hold me close/I’ve never been this far from home.” And “Handshake” is interestingly punctuated with an electronic pulse throughout.

The record doesn’t have as many standout songs as “Tourist History,” but still sees the band heading in an interesting indie disco direction and shows they did not slip into the second-album doldrums.

THE BOOK OF CHET

Luciana Souza

Sunnyside, $12.99

Brazilian-American singer Luciana Souza has made up for a three-year maternity break from recording by simultaneously releasing two CDs that explore the different but occasionally overlapping musical worlds in which she feels right at home. “Duos III” is the finale in a series of recordings of classic Brazilian songs that pair her with guitarists from her native country, while “The Book of Chet,” inspired by trumpeter-vocalist Chet Baker, is her first release devoted exclusively to American standards.

Baker is an appropriate choice because he was among the 1950s’ West Coast cool jazz players whose introspective, detached style influenced bossa nova creator Joao Gilberto. Souza did not try to replicate Baker’s sound by adding a horn player, but instead uses spare, simple arrangements played by a trio of guitarist Larry Koonse, bassist David Piltch and drummer Jay Bellerose.

Souza does not add any explicitly bossa nova flavorings to this collection of slow-tempo love ballads from Baker’s repertoire — such as “The Thrill Is Gone” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well”— as she did to rock songs on her “The New Bossa Nova” album. She shuns the vocal pyrotechnics favored by some jazz singers — only occasionally embellishing a song like “The Very Thought of You” with some wordless vocalizing. She prefers a whispery, intimate singing style — also common to bossa nova — that captures the vulnerability and sadness in Baker’s music.

Unlike the black-and-white “The Book of Chet,” “Duos III” is a splash of bright colors full of contrasting moods and tempos — from Dorival Caymmi’s fast-paced “Doralice” to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s haunting “Chora Coracao.” She is reunited here with Romero Lubambo and Marco Pereira, who appeared on her 2002 and 2005 Grammy-nominated “Duos” albums. She also records for the first time with guitarist-composer Toninho Horta, who engages in tender vocal interplay with her on his own song “Pedra da Lua.”

There’s a common thread to both albums, produced by her Grammy-winning husband Larry Klein. Whether singing in English or Portuguese, Souza focuses intensely on the lyrics and melody to bring her listeners closer to the core story of each song.

gravity

Lecrae

Reach Records, $10

Christian rapper Lecrae doesn’t fit the typical mold of a gospel artist. His arms are covered with tattoos, he normally sports his hats tilted to the side and often wears slightly sagging pants.

Don’t let that be a distraction. The Houston native is a true talent with a unique ability to deliver thought-provoking messages on life without sounding like a Bible-thumping preacher. His rap approach has earned him praise by many in hip-hop, from veteran rapper Bun B to Lupe Fiasco.

On his sixth album “Gravity,” Lecrae delivers a strong piece of work. He’s not afraid to rap about his past mistakes, supplying inspirational rhymes filled with Christian values backed by well-produced secular hip-hop beats.

One of the best songs on the 15-track album is the DJ Khalil-produced “Mayday,” featuring rapper Big K.R.I.T. and 2011 American Idol contestant Ashthon Jones. Big K.R.I.T. is impressive on the soulful song, and Lecrae insightfully raps with substance: “Now I found true religion and it’s not inside no denim/and the overpriced shades will never give you vision.”

Lecrae attempts to educate about the pitfalls of street life on the high-energy “Violence.” On “Confe$$ions,” he raps that having an abundant amount of money doesn’t always equal happiness.

Other standout tracks are “Free From It All,” featuring Mathai, “Walk With Me,” with Novel, and “Tell the World,” including Mali Music.

calling me home

Kathy Mattea

Sugar Hill, $9.99

The album opens with a forlorn fiddle, feverish and fidgety until it finally settles on a D.

With that, the tone is set.

Bluegrass rarely gets more bluesy than on “Calling Me Home.” This is mountain music, sorrowful and restless and struggling to make sense of its surroundings and the way they’ve changed.

In 11 well-chosen covers, West Virginia native Kathy Mattea sings eloquently about the complicated relationship between the people of Appalachia and the land they’ve long loved but also abused. It’s a place where the roots are deep, and the scars are, too.

Residents of the region have often sung about such things, but seldom better than Mattea does here. Her commanding alto gracefully bears the weighty subject matter, whether she’s singing about wildlife or the afterlife.

Most of these songs are also about coal, to one degree or another. Included are tunes by revered mountain music songwriters Hazel Dickens, Alice Gerrard and Jean Ritchie, along with fine contributions from such contemporary artists as Larry Cordle and Laurie Lewis. Stuart Duncan and Bryan Sutton lead a stellar cast of musicians backing Mattea.

While the album grabs the listener from that first fiddle lick from Duncan, the finish is also something to savor. A trio of concluding tunes serves as a lovely benediction by extolling the beauty of faith, the earth and music.

— Associated Press

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