Though it's been more than a decade since their last (live) album, Portishead remain as invitingly somber as ever. While the band's third studio album doesn't stray too far from the cloudy atmospherics that have earned this trio from Bristol a diverse and devoted following, its lack of novelty -- mainly due to the fact that in 2008 Third doesn't seem quite as surprising as their debut album, Dummy, did in 1994 -- shouldn't confound expectations either. Portishead specializes in unthreatening melancholy. (Notice how the alarms on the opening track, "Silence," sound more festive rather than ominous.) This lends their music an insular quality that's evocative without being dreary. Much of this can be ascribed to vocalist Beth Gibbons's frosty delivery. Gibbons can make lines as bluntly vulnerable as those that appear on "Nylon Smile" -- "Looking out I wanna know someone might care / Looking out I want a reason to be there / 'cause I don't know what I've done to deserve you / I don't know what I'll do without you" -- appear eerily serene. Of course, kudos must also be given to Geoff Barrow and Adrian Utley, who are both multi-instrumentalists and producers on the album, for their remarkable ability to create musical textures that are as delicate and substantial as a tiramisu. Note that the lead single for Third, "Machine Gun," is one of the more disappointing tracks on this album, which deserves to be listened to in its entirety. Still, listeners on the fence would do well to check out the songs "Hunter" and "Plastic" to hear the band at its best.

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.