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Three citizen critics with varying musical tastes offer competing takes on noteworthy recent albums.


1 = Skip it
5 = Try it
10 = Buy it

Illustrations by Olivier Kugler.  

Tina the Real-Estate Agent
Grew up rockin’ to REO Speedwagon and Genesis before “graduating” (her word) to Bad Brains, Sonic Youth, Public Enemy, and the like. Used to frequent the Knitting Factory on Houston Street; now married and living in Brooklyn.

Fred the Venture Capitalist
Invests in Web start-ups; lives downtown with musically opinionated wife and children. Favorite concerts: Van Halen at the Garden in 1978, the Flaming Lips at Hammerstein Ballroom last year. Currently high on Kings of Leon.

Melissa the Internationalist
Works for NGOs and, in her spare time, travels in search of spicy food. Supplements the indie rock of her adolescence (Yo La Tengo, Elliott Smith) with excursions into African pop and globalized D.J.’s like Manu Chao.

Back to Black
Amy Winehouse
Motown-philic second album from the U.K. singer, whose throaty throwback-soul stylings and boozy nightclub antics have delighted British music fans and tabloid editors in equal measure.

TINA: I’m reasonably certain I won’t be the first person to note what a great voice Amy Winehouse has. But gee, people, she has a great voice! Her phrasing is assured and surprising, and she has some of that damaged skinniness that worked so well for PJ Harvey. This girl should be a star! That said, the unrelenting Motown sound gets a little kitschy, like it’s a concept album.
Rating: 6
Best Track: “Back to Black”

FRED: The whole album has a great sixties soul sound, and some great singles, though I think Amy Winehouse will eventually think about the hit “Rehab” the way Tobey Maguire thinks about Spider-Man. It’s going to define her, and though it’s a terrific song, it’s not clear if she’ll be able to move beyond it.
Rating: 8
Best Track: “Some Unholy War”

MELISSA: A doo-woppy creation that taps into more than one base urge. Amy Winehouse reminds me of Lauryn Hill minus the socially responsible Zion business. It sort of makes me want to slow-dance with someone else’s husband.
Rating: 8
Best Track: “Rehab”

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