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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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Alicia Keys

Whilst folk fondly recall Dirty Kurty's smack-rock suicide-note and Björk's first true forays into ridiculous frocks/experimentation, that whole MTV Unplugged racket was dogshit, really — all Seal, Eric Clapton, Hall & Oates, Page & Plant and, Jesus fucking wept, Kiss minus the makeup. When it died, God smiled. Yet, given that the evil seem to live forever, it was no shock-horror when the fascist yoof-kulcha channel rebirthed the brandname as Unplugged 2.0 in 2002.

The big surprise — a development so unlikely it seemed as though the Earth, she stood still — was that MTV somehow stumbled upon possibly the two best commercially-issued live recordings of the last decade, discs that did good for entirely different reasons. Jay-Z hooked up with the most incredible Roots band and delivered all the hits minus all the filler, then Lauryn Hill vomited a genius-like two-hour/two-disc confessional whose solo-acoustic-guitar strums, prolix lyrics, shed tears, and unhinged philosophizing played out like some weird mixture of an Oprah episode and a Cat Power gig. MTV then followed this with, uh, Shakira and Staind, whose awfulness apparently killed the concept cold.

Now, in the ought-five, Unplugged has been born anew for the third time, via the fertile musical womb of pianowoman Alicia Keys, though the format is barely recognizable in this presentation. Rather than an acoustic set nestled amidst a tiny crowd, this is just the regular Alicia Keys concert spectacular — replete with electric bass/analog organs/45 backup singers/etc. — on a faraway stage in front of an impersonally huge crowd. Whilst there's some mighty makeout moments that make out great — "If I Ain't Got You," "Unbreakable," a jamboree finale with Mos Def and Common on the guest list — there's, quite sadly, no influence of the environment, none of the "intimacy" that makes this shit great, like the individual in-the-crowd conversations you can hear in the Jay-Z jamboree, or, for that matter, in The Roots' non-unplugged live-rolling classic "Do You Want More?!!!??!" It is, rather, just another bloated arena show. And the next time an arena show is amazing will be the first.

by Anthony Carew

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