Heavyweight hits and happy Christmas
3 Doors Down
The Greatest Hits/Universal Republic
Despite being America’s version of Nickelback in the sense that over the years many of the band’s songs sound like carbon copies of each other, the release of 3 Doors Down’s The Greatest Hits is a welcome sight for those who’ve enjoyed the radio rotators over the years, but have never bought any of the albums. All of the big songs are here, “Kryptonite,” “When I’m Gone,” “Here Without You,” “Away From the Sun,” and “It’s Not My Time,” and for the most part the list makes a lot of sense. One surprising omission is “Citizen Soldier.” After achieving a certain level of notoriety with the song’s accompanying National Guard-themed video, one might have expected that track to make an appearance in this collection as well. But this is a minor quibble. As with most legitimate hits collections, it spans roughly 10 years or so of material, though it largely only encapsulates the years where the band shone brightest, 2000-2003, due to the strength of its popular releases The Better Life and Away From the Sun.
Maggie McClure & Shane Henry
First Thing on My Christmas List/Self-Released
The audience for Christmas releases generally falls into two categories: love them or hate them. There’s no in between. Well, husband-and-wife musicians Maggie McClure and Shane Henry have not only created an enjoyable Christmas-themed record, but there is a good chance they will convert even the most stolid of loathers. McClure’s gorgeous vocals mix well with Henry’s soulful crooning, and whether they are singing sweetly about longing for each other more than anything else for Christmas on the title track, or simply wanting a kiss from each other on the mid-tempo “Kiss,” the sweetness and fun of these tracks shines through. Even when they get serious, as they do on the piano ballad “When I’m Home,” the sincerity is so pure you can’t help but nod along with them as they sing about the other person being “home” to them. As holiday albums go, this one is a peach.
Heavyweight EP/Frankenfish Records
It’s no accident that singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata has become such an indie darling over the course of her nearly decade-long career. With eight releases of her own and collaborations with heavyweights such as Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz and Ryan Adams among others, Yamagata is a diverse indie artist. On the Heavyweight EP, much of the rock, piano pop, and blues sensibilities that have permeated previous records are missing, but the results are equally grand. Heavyweight is filled with piano ballads (“Heavyweight”), acoustic ditties (“Keep Going”), and shuffling numbers that focus on the ups and downs of love and relationships. Yamagata’s gravelly-yet-resonant vocals on tracks like “Has it Happened Yet” mirror her songs’ inner strength, and the soulful piano ballad “It’ll Do” sounds like it belongs in a smoky jazz lounge. The release is a nice segue for whatever Yamagata has planned next.