Warner Bros.

Gary Clark Jr. performs at the Bridge School Benefit Concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre on Saturday, Oct. 20, 2012, in Mountain View, Calif.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Artist name: Gary Clark Jr.
Album title: Blak and Blu
Record label: Warner Bros.
Songs to download: “Bright Lights,” “The Life”

It has been truly incredible to watch Gary Clark Jr.’s career take shape over the last 10 years. From starting out at open-stage blues jams to playing the first Austin City Limits Music Festival fresh out of high school, the 28-year-old singer/songwriter’s tenure in the music industry has been a series of ever-growing peaks.

Tuesday will mark yet another high point for the blues/soul guitarist: his major debut Blak and Blu reaches stores nationwide courtesy of Warner Bros. Records.

Leadoff track “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” serves as an introduction, with a buoyant horn section and a ‘60s Revolver groove asserting that this will not be a traditional blues album. Clark’s honey-drenched vocals glide over a wall of electric guitar buzz and tambourine clatter, producing a sound that is far more in line with the Black Keys than B.B. King.

“When My Train Pulls In” follows, one of a handful of songs previously released on one of Gary’s three independently produced CDs. Here Clark flexes the guitar muscles that have made him such a can’t-miss live performer over the years, thrusting a metallic, Neil Young-esque one-note solo through a significant portion of the song’s 7:45 run time.

The best tracks on Blak and Blu, however, are the newer songs. It would have been easy for Clark to go into the studio, rip through an album’s worth of blues and let Warner Bros. do the rest. Instead he follows his instincts into the realms of contemporary R&B (“Blak and Blue,” “You Saved Me,”), old-school rock ‘n’ roll (“Travis County”), doo-wop (“Please Come Home”) and even adds a touch of hip-hop on “The Life,” one of the strongest cuts on the record.

The rest of the album swings back and forth between hard-driving blues and smooth, marketable R&B. Its eclecticism could be a strength or weakness in terms of album sales; time will tell how the general public will react.

To be fair, Blak and Blu is not perfect. The lyrics don’t always live up to the level of musicianship on display, and occasionally some of Clark’s experiments lack a sense of purpose (random baby noises at the end of the title track for example). But the sound is consistently engaging while maintaining credibility in the spheres of music’s past, present and future.

At the very least it appears that Clark has emerged as a new force in organic popular music, something that is always a welcome sight and sound to fans of the genre.

Artist name: The Doors
Album title: The Doors, Live at the Bowl ‘68

Record label: Elektra
Songs to download: “When the Music’s Over,” “The End”

This CD/DVD release captures the legendary LA band fresh off a European tour and back in their hometown at the height of their popularity. Jim Morrison makes it all the way through the entire set without getting arrested or passing out, somewhat of a rarity for the time period.

Artist name: Titus Andronicus
Album title: Local Business

Record label: XL
Songs to download: “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter,” “In a Big City”

The New Jersey-based indie-rock quintet’s third album is a continuation of their literate, punk-inflected sound. Standout tracks include the pictorial “Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter” and Modest Mouse-influenced lead single “In a Big City.”

Artist name: ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead https://andyouwillknowusbythetrailofdead.bandpage.com
Album title: Lost Songs

Record label: Superball Music
Songs to download: “Up to Infinity,” “Heart of Wires”

The Austin art-rock ensemble release a set of 12 lyrically dark, politically-infused songs on their 11th studio album. The album is a reaction to the perceived “apathy to real world events that has plagued the independent music scene now for over a decade,” frontman Conrad Keely said.

Printed on Tuesday, October 23, 2012 as: Clark's major debut joins new picks

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) reaches for his wand during the battle of Hogwarts against his nemeses, Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hall

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

For just short of a decade now, Warner Bros. has been making one of the biggest, most successful gambles in cinema history. When “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” released in November 2001 with a talented ensemble cast led by three unknowns, it could have just as easily failed as it did succeed. Even more impressive is that the sprawling cast made it to the end of the series, eight movies and almost a decade later, relatively intact. The most vital part of the “Harry Potter” franchise is that, somehow, they stuck the landing. The final film is the best of the series — a moving, emotional payoff for all that’s come before it.

Picking up exactly where the last film left off, “Deathly Hallows: Part Two” takes place almost entirely in a single day, starting off with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) robbing the wizarding bank, Gringotts, before they return to Hogwarts for the climactic battle against Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes).

And what a battle it is. The buildup to the confrontation is almost as epic as the battle itself and both sequences are impressive, sweeping bits of filmmaking. Lots of characters finally get their moment in the spotlight, and crowd-pleasing scenes fly left and right. Climactic scenes involving Neville Longbottom (Matthew Lewis) and Mrs. Weasley (Julie Walters), lifted almost word-for-word from the book, will get the most praise. But it’s also immensely satisfying to watch Maggie Smith’s Professor McGonagall taking steps to reclaim Hogwarts from the slimy Severus Snape (Alan Rickman) and to witness Harry finally become a hero.

Unfortunately, some characters do get the short end of the stick because of either a demand for runtime or the film’s story. A few major figures are killed off-screen and Robbie Coltrane’s Hagrid, one of the most integral characters of the first few films, has less than five minutes of screen time.

For every character who gets shorted, there’s another who shines. Rickman’s Snape gets an extended flashback sequence that explains his backstory. And it’s perhaps the most emotional of the film’s many climaxes, paying off one of the most subtle and devastating character arcs of the entire series. Fiennes has obviously been having a great time as well, filling Voldemort with gleefully villainous malice. He gives his strongest performance yet here, alternating between terrifying confidence as Voldemort grows more powerful and uncertain fear as Harry grows closer to defeating him.

Director David Yates also does magnificent work. After entering the franchise with “Order of the Phoenix” and directing every subsequent film, Yates has played a large role in steering the franchise in a darker direction and his visuals have never been stronger than in this final film. Cinematographer Eduardo Serra, who also worked on “Deathy Hallows: Part One,” makes Hogwarts look as dangerous as it is comforting and finds an indelible beauty in the destruction of the location the franchise is built on.

If the final “Harry Potter” film has one flaw, it’s the runtime. Clocking in at 130 minutes including credits, it’s the shortest film by a wide margin, and that’s a shame. Even though the film moves at a breakneck pace and the battle of Hogwarts consumes a solid 90 minutes, no one would complain about having more time with these characters, using supporting characters through the final showdown or giving the audience more resolution than the silly epilogue. It’s rare to want a movie to be longer, but in this case, after 10 years of buildup, a bit more at the end would only be icing on an already delicious cake.

Even so, plenty of strong moments will leave any fan with goosebumps — small details such as how Yates waits to use John Williams’ iconic theme song until Harry has returned to Hogwarts or Harry’s response to a threatening speech from Snape. With an expectedly huge box office, Yates and screenwriter Steve Kloves could have easily coasted on these final films, but they give the film their all.

With this, the last of the “Harry Potter” films, Warner Bros. has to be sighing with relief. Not only did they make eight films, each of them satisfying in their own way, they ended the franchise on its strongest note, thanks in no small part to Yates and Kloves, both of whom have played major roles in making the franchise work as well as it does. “Deathly Hallows: Part Two” is filled with moments the series has spent a very long time earning. It’s the wizarding war film that many of us have been waiting for since the final book was released. The film, and the franchise as a whole, is an undeniable achievement. The rare film adaptations could stand up to the books that preceded them since they are such a cultural touchstone for our generation.

Printed on 07/14/2011 as: 'Deathly Hallows: Part 2' shines, proves successful end to series