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CD Reviews: Paul McCartney, The Big Sleep and more

"Kisses on the Bottom" Credit: "Kisses on the Bottom"

'Kisses on the Bottom'
Paul McCartney
3.5 stars
There's something so adorable about the way Paul McCartney sounds like a schoolboy in love throughout "Kisses on the Bottom." Of course, Macca has his reasons. He's still a newlywed, after all, having married East Hampton transportation executive Nancy Shevell in October. But "Kisses on the Bottom" sounds unlike any other McCartney album because of the song choices and their simplicity. His breezy version of the Harold Arlen classics "It's Only a Paper Moon" and "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" set the bar for the album - bright, stripped-down, mostly acoustic interpretations, tinged with New Orleans jazz and matched nicely by McCartney's earnest, unadorned delivery. With his original "My Valentine," McCartney walks right up to the line between poignant and sappy without crossing it, thanks to some well-placed acoustic guitar. "Kisses on the Bottom" is a pleasant, well-crafted trifle, an enjoyable little distraction that delivers a lovely time. It's essentially the soundtrack to the romantic comedy playing in McCartney's head - and there's nothing wrong with that.

'Tramp'
Sharon Van Etten
3.5 stars
It was clear from the fragile, ice-and-thorns folk of her debut, '09's "Because I Was in Love," that Sharon Van Etten was a singer worth seeking out, and she rewarded early adopters with the release of "Epic" the following year, a brief, itinerant breakthrough album wherein she embraced a rockier full-band aesthetic that, frankly, sounded even more fantastic. Her latest, the triumphal "Tramp," was recorded in the Ditmas Park garage studio of the National's Aaron Dessner (who also produced the album), and it feels like a brush with artistic self-actualization. Burning with newly discovered confidence and anger, Van Etten's exceptionally versatile voice feels like a gathering storm on the roiling "Serpents," and doles out heartache in precise increments in the rueful "Magic Chords." Like the damaged love of which she sings so sweetly, Van Etten's music holds beauty and darkness in equal measure.

'Nature Experiments'
The Big Sleep
2.5 stars
On their third full-length set, the Brooklyn-based rock duo of guitarist Danny Barria and bassist Sonya Balchandani further define their sense of finely machined fury, crafting an album of aircraft-grade drone and noise rock that rarely fails but, with its random collection of styles, feels a bit too varied (or perhaps just experimental).

Quick Picks

‘Le Voyage Dans La Lune'
Air
The French electronic duo return with a sleepy-eyed score to the classic 1902 film from director George Méliès (most recently idolized in director Martin Scorsese's "Hugo").

'Be the Void'
Dr. Dog
The seventh album of weird, woolly retro rock from the shaggy/sweet Philadelphians.

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