Unusual projects by familiar names seems to be theme of this week’s most compelling stream-able albums: We’ve got a new half-hour of soundtrack music by Air, a live record from Wire, and an unabashedly cheesy covers record by the one and only Paul McCartney. But don’t let all the novelty distract you from the pair of promising studio releases that are also free to preview this week — Shearwater’s Animal Joy and Band of Skulls’ Sweet Sour both seem destined to delight listeners this month. Explore your newest options for gratis at-work listening after the jump.
Air — Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Cinephiles, Hugo lovers, and Air fans should all be thrilled by this project — the French electronic duo’s original score for Georges Méliès’ most famous film, Le Voyage Dans La Lune (A Trip to the Moon). Created to accompany a restored version of the 1902 classic, the album is as sparkly, expansive, and spaced-out as you might hope. Guest vocals by Beach House’s Victoria Legrand and Au Revoir Simone are a welcome bonus. Give the soundtrack a listen at NPR, and be sure to check out the new print when it hits your city.
Wire — The Black Session
Those who have never seen post-punk innovators Wire live should clear some time to hear The Black Session, a gorgeous album recorded at a show in Paris last May. While the record skews heavily to the band’s recent material, from 2011′s Red Barked Trees, old-school fans won’t be disappointed by performances of classics from Pink Flag and 154, and the recording itself is razor-sharp. (OK, one small gripe: Nothing from Chairs Missing?) Stream it at Paste.
Shearwater — Animal Joy
Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday that Shearwater was only an intriguing Okkervil River side project? Eight albums later, Jonathan Meiburg’s band is a hugely popular indie-rock band, with a grand, orchestral sound and dramatic vocals that can’t help but draw attention. Upon first listen, Animal Joy is slightly more aggressive than what we’ve come to expect from Shearwater, which NPR’s Stephen Thompson attributes in part to hard-hitting percussionist Thor Harris. Hear it at NPR.
Band of Skulls — Sweet Sour
We’ve been loving Spin’s series of album previews paired with the artist’s commentary on each track. In the latest installment, the British trio Band of Skulls’ combination of melodic vocals and high-octane shredding are on full display for their fourth full-length, with frontman Russell Marsden describing the sound as “a little bigger, a little more dynamic.” Headbangers of all stripes, this one is for you. Check it out here.
Paul McCartney — Kisses on the Bottom
Here’s your Valentine from the Cute Beatle, a covers collection comprising 12 songs he loved as a kid in Liverpool and titled with wholesome naughtiness. You’ll hear McCartney croon through standards like “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon”; the results are exactly what you’d expect, so your tolerance for schmaltz and Beatlemania will likely dictate your response to this album. We’re going to skip it, but we can’t think of anything better for your dad to buy your mom for V-Day. Listen at the Guardian.