Dave Koz & Friends
The 25th of December
(Concord)
If you’re looking for a jazz album for the holidays, this is a great one. As somewhat of a Scrooge, I was surprised that I began enjoying this one at the first track. It put me in the Christmas spirit. The timeless classics are well-performed, and Koz’s delivery on the saxophone is smooth and precise. The album features a different lead singer on every track, which keeps it fresh. Each voice is well-suited to each song. One of my favorites is the jazzed-up and uplifting version of “Do You Hear What I Hear?” featuring Gloria Estefan. It makes you feel like you just got all of your Christmas shopping done. The album ended with a surprising rendition of “All You Need Is Love,” featuring all of the participating vocalists. I like that they included it even though it isn’t typically a holiday song. Other good ones are “This Christmas,” “O Holy Night,” and the medley that starts with “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
Taylor Swift
1989
(Big Machine)
Taylor Swift’s move to focus on pop was not surprising. Most of her radio hits fit better in the pop category than in country. I think Swift’s early fans are still happy, and pop lovers will enjoy the new songs. I confess that I don’t switch the station anymore when one of her songs comes on the radio. I let go of my distaste when I realized that Taylor Swift is not going away anytime soon. It’s as if the hate only makes her more powerful. Most people might already be tired of hearing “Shake It Off,” but this album is solid. With almost 20 tracks, there are options. The lighthearted songs are short, simple and sweet, and they have a healthy bounce to them. Whether you hate her or love her, you must admit that she is doing it right. My favorites are “Style” and “Wonderland.”
Kiesza
Sound of a Woman
(Island)
Kiesza is amazing and addictive on this full-length album and the E.P. The album is riddled with strong tracks, powered by the vocals and kept alive by either catchy dance rhythms or sensual, soulful melodies. The pacing is well-done. Nothing is rushed, so you can just enjoy it or get up and dance ― it’s good for both. The piercing vocals truly stand out. They are haunting and crisp at the right moments and smooth and powerful in others. She has the perfect voice for dance music and R&B. I can’t get over how much I love her rendition of “What Is Love.” It shouldn’t make me this happy, but it does. Another good one that is on the slower side is “Losin’ My Mind,” with its simple melody. The title track is incredible and one of my favorites. Other good ones are “Cut Me Loose” and “Giant in my Heart.”
Dillon Francis
Money Sucks, Friends Rule
(Columbia)
This electronica album is a festival for the ears. If you like techno laced with R&B and pop-style vocals, you will love this. It’s incredibly danceable and upbeat ― a party on one album. If you need to wake everyone up at a party put this one in. You can tell that Dillon Francis is a fan of all genres by the mix of sounds he uses. He has been a music producer and DJ, so he is no stranger to experimenting. There a few surprises though. On “Love in the Middle of a Firefight,” I immediately recognized the voice of Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. It is more of an alternative-pop song, but it still fits in with the rest of the album. It’s a favorite for sure. Other notable tracks are “Get Low,” “Set Me Free,” and “Hurricane.”

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