1) Kings of Leon, "Only by the Night" Lead singer Caleb Followill
always had a yowl and mutter like no other. His mush-mouthed cries on
the band's first three albums, churning over the group's neo-boogie
riffs, helped reinvent Southern rock. But for their latest work,
Followill cleaned up his act, singing with a diction that led him into
far more feeling. Aided by the band's catchiest music to date,
Followill made a crucial leap — from being just a guy lucky enough to
have a great voice to a guy who could use that gift to become a great
2) Joan as Policewoman, "To Survive" The woman born Joan Wasser stands at the vanguard of a new brand of art-song. A kindred spirit to artists like Jeff Buckley
and Antony, J.A.P. creates romantic tone poems, enlivened by her supple
flutter of a voice. Whether eerie or beautiful, ethereal or harsh,
Joan's music finds an eccentric way to cut to your soul.
3) Madonna, "Hard Candy" Finally, the ex-Mrs.
Ritchie stopped trying to educate the world with songs about starving
children, world politics and spiritual growth and relented to make the
disk fans wanted all along — one packed with pure, catchy dance-pop —
the best of its kind since her debut, in fact. Facing 50, Madonna threw
herself a kind of party record that doubled as the best present fans
could hope for.
4) Portishead, "Third"
The first album in 11 years from one of the pioneers of so-called
trip-hop is a holy terror of a thing, a brave collection of lacerating
sonic textures and harrowing vocal fissures that, in the end, carries
its own shocking beauty. More, Portishead's album provides one of the
few examples of a revolutionary group making even more jarring music in
middle age than they did in their furious youth.
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