Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones, “foreverly”, Reprise, ***
Now here's one nobody saw coming — Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong teaming with pop-jazz chanteuse Norah Jones on a re-creation of the Everly Brothers' 1958 country and roots exploration “Songs Our Daddy Taught Us.” Seems about as likely as ... oh, a Green Day album turning into a Broadway musical. The result is more than a pleasant surprise, however. Armstrong has always been more than just a punk shouter and Jones, of course, has demonstrated ample affinity for this kind of music. Their voices — Armstrong as Don Everly and Jones as younger brother Phil — blend well together. Minimal instrumental backing, with occasional touches of piano, harmonica, fiddle or pedal steel, gives these dozen songs a stark, rustic quality that keeps the focus squarely on the singing and the melodies.
One Direction, “Midnight Memories” (Syco/Columbia): **
With two straight No. 1 albums in as many years and a member (Harry Styles) who got headlines for dating Taylor Swift, this British boy band quintet rides into its third effort with a head full of momentum and sounds — not surprisingly — even more confident on these 14 tracks (18 on the deluxe edition). “Midnight Memories” leans a bit more rock than its predecessors from the “Baba O'Riley”-aping opener, “Best Song Ever,” to heavier fare such as the title track and “Better Than Words.” One Direction also sets its sites on the Mumford & Sons/Jake Bugg acoustic world with “Story of My Life,” “Through the Dark” and “Happily.” The arena-sized pop touches are here, too, but the overall diversity may surprise a few listeners (i.e. adults) who walk in wincing at the prospect.New & Noteworthy:
A Perfect Circle, “A Perfect Circle Live: Featuring Stone and Echo” (PCE): A four-disc concert box set featuring performances of each of the group's three albums from 2010, plus a more mixed 2011 live set in Colorado.
Alestorm, “Live at the End of the World” (Napalm): Scotland's “pirate metal” troupe, not to be confused with Halestorm, is caught live on stage in Melbourne, Australia, earlier this year.
Alt-J, “Summer” (Infectious Music): The British group recruits members of Mumford & Sons, My Morning Jacket, Odd Future and more to remix songs from its Mercury Prize-nominated debut album.
Blurry, “Lulls” (Butterscotch): The multi-instrumentalist's collaboration with producer Allen Farmelo yields a minimalist-concept set whose eight tracks are all titled “Lull.”
Danielle Bradbery, “Danielle Bradbery” (Big Machine): The debut set from “The Voice” Season 4 winner features “The Heart of Dixie” and plenty others the country crowd will likely gobble up.
Chris Robinson Brotherhood, “Betty's S.F. Blends” (Silver Arrow/Megaforce): Famed Grateful Dead taper Betty Cantor-Jackson curated this multidisc vinyl (and digital) live set from a five-night stand in San Francisco by the Black Crowes frontman's other band.
Clutch, “Earth Rocker Live” (Weathermaker): This double vinyl picture-disc set pairs the “Earth Rocker” album with a live companion of the songs in their album running order.
Jucifer, “There is No Land Beyond the Volga” (MRI Associated): More heavyweight metal from the sludgy Georgia duo.
NOFX, “Stoke Extinguisher” (Fat Wreck Chords): A six-song EP from the Southern California punk group follows its 2012 “Self Entitled” set.
Pitbull, “Global Warming: Meltdown,” “Meltdown EP” (Mr. 305/Polo Grounds/RCA): The Miami rapper adds five songs to his latest album, including collaborations with Ke$ha, Kelly Rowland and Michigan's Mayer Hawthorne. Available separately or packaged with the original album.
Puscifer, “What Is ...” (Puscifer Entertainment): This live DVD and accompanying soundtrack album from Tool/A Perfect Circle frontman Maynard James Keenan's other-other band offers plenty of laughs not always associated with his other groups.
Shearwater, “Fellow Travelers” (Sub Pop): The Okkervil River spin-off group's latest release is led by a cover of Xiu Xiu's “I Luv the Valley OH!!”
Tennis, “Small Sound” (Communion): The third album by the lo-fi indie rock troupe from Denver.
Various Artists, “Fifteen Shades of Blue Jazz” (Justin Time): Tracks by Diana Krall, Paul Bley, Pontiac's Hank Jones and others dot this jazzy cash-in on the “Shades” phenomenon.
Various Artists, “It's a Scream How Levine Demos the Rhumba: The Latin-Jewish Musical Story 1940s-1980s” (ISMP): From Tito Puente doing “Hava Nagila” to Larry Harlow's “Yo Soy Latino,” this scholarly collection will put a different spin on the Hanukkah dreidel this year.From The Vaults
The Animals, “The Mickie Most Years & More” (Real Gone); Big Star, “Playlist: The Very Best of Big Star” (Columbia/Legacy); Thelonious Monk, “Paris 1969” (Blue Note); Soundgarden, “Screaming Life/Fopp” (Sub Pop)Soundtracks
James Newton Howard, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Original Motion Picture Score)” (Universal Republic); Various Artists, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Original Score” (Decca)New Holiday Albums
Moya Brennan, “An Irish Christmas (2013 Edition)” (BEO); Anita O'Day, “Have a Merry Christmas with Anita O'Day” (RED)New Music DVDs
August Burns Red, “Rescue & Restore: Foreign & Familiar Edition” (DMGI); “Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me” (Magnolia); Black Sabbath, “Live ... Gathered in Their Masses” (Universal Republic)