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Adele performs during the 54th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012 in Los Angeles.

Matt Sayles/AP

Title
Skyfall
Artist
Adele
Year
2012

The name's Adele – just Adele – and she chose to accept the mission of creating and singing the title theme to the new James Bond film, Skyfall.

The song, co-written with Rolling in the Deep collaborator Paul Epworth, is in the smoke-and-brass tradition of Goldfinger. The mood is minor-key and ominous, with Adele stoic in the face of a romantic and/or Chicken-Little catastrophe – "This is the end, hold your breath and count to ten / Feel the earth move and then, hear my heart burst again." The hit-maker's heart may burst, but her throat does not: She rounds down instead of spiking up, which is either sombre nuance or a vocal concession.

The track was recorded at London's illustrious Abbey Road Studios, with an orchestra that numbered 77 players. But who's counting.

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OTHER ESSENTIAL TRACKS

R&B/ROCK

But'n

Andre Williams, from Life (Alive Natural Sounds); streaming at http://soundcloud.com/pavement-pr/andre-williams-butn

The 76-year-old garage-soul legend who survived Ike Turner and various sleezy addictions has no time for proper contractions or those who in cut in line. The groove is riff-based and insistent. The guitar solo is wicked and weird. And those who are impatient to the point of rudeness are smacked down hard – "why don't you just stop but'n?"

BLUES: Be My Husband

Meshell Ndegeocello (featuring Valerie June), from Pour Une Âme Souveraine: A Dedication To Nina Simone; free download at http://www.girlieaction.com/music/meshell_ndegeocello/downloads/Be_My_Husband_feat_Valerie_June.mp3

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On her tribute to Nina Simone (translated as "For a Sovereign Soul"), Meshell Ndegeocello enlists guest singers including the intriguing folk artist Valerie June. The chorus is dreamy, but the verse is a seriously delivered country-blues request for an equal partnership. The end result: A wedding song for those no-nonsense brides-to-be.

POP/ROCK: Matterhorn

Jason Lytle, from the forthcoming Dept. of Disappearance (Anti-); streaming at http://www.npr.org/2012/10/07/162299665/first-listen-jason-lytle-dept-of-disappearance

A sad, cinematic song aims toward the sky and reaches its peak gently. "What's wrong with the safe and warm," the Grandaddy frontman asks, questioning audacious quests.  A mountain climber dies frozen on the way down – no second Alping for him.

ALT-COUNTRY: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

Mike Coykendall, from Chashing Away The Dots (Fluff & Gravy); streaming at http://vimeo.com/46945883

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On a haunting, one-chord version of a classic blue-struck ballad, Hank Williams' whip-poor-will bird flies low and lonesome. A frog-croak harmony and a touch of psychedelia produce a mesmerizing effect.

VIDEO / POP: All Your Gold

Bat For Lashes, directed by Noel Paul; streaming at http://www.batforlashes.com

Dressed in ying-yang black-and-white, the singer Natasha Khan dances purposely and starkly on dark beach, often flashing her expressive shoulder blades.  Khan's "someone that I knew before" could be Gotye, the singer-songwriter who is either honoured or litigious when it comes to song's the unabashed likeness to his Somebody That I Used to Know mega-hit.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More

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