1 = Skip it
5 = Try it
10 = Buy it
Jenny the (Mostly Ex-) Party Girl
Mother of two boys, works in the compliance department of an investment bank. The Smiths, Squeeze, R.E.M., and the Cure are all-time favorites. Abba is popular around the house. Went to see Feist recently at Hammerstein. Kenny the Williamsburger
Twenty-one-year-old student works part-time in the photo industry. The first album he remembers falling in love with was The Carnival by Wyclef Jean. Current favorites include Lil Wayne, Animal Collective, and Juana Molina. Fred the Deep-Thinking Dog Walker
Former Letterman writer and creator of VH1’s Best Week Ever. Father of teenage son. Loves Leonard Cohen, Wilco, and Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde. Still acquiring new tastes, including Santigold, the Hold Steady, and Girl Talk.

Kelly ClarksonAll I ever wantedThe American Idol winner returns to her “roots” with a batch of slick and crunchy rock songs that burnish her image as the flirty prude of pop music. Reminds me of something I might hear, and enjoy a little bit, at the Gap. I can appreciate Kelly’s kick-ass voice, but I have a hard time getting past the teeny-bopperness of her overall sound and lyrics. Still, there are some fetching tunes here, like the explosive “I Do Not Hook Up,” though nothing as good as “Since U Been Gone,” from her second album. Rating: 5Best track:
“All i ever wanted”
This girl can sing. Which is a nice contrast to the robo-child voices of other fledging pop idols. This record is angsty, uplifting, and a good example of safe and satisfying, crowd-pleasing pop-rock. Rating: 8Best track:
“Don’t Let Me Stop You”
On this record, she sounds a bit like a prisoner of her own formula, singing, “We were never meant for do or die,” and churning out the sound of “Since U Been Gone” without the originality. But when she’s good, you actually do want to say, “Now, that’s what I call music.” Rating: 7Best track:
“My Life Would Suck Without You”

Dan DeaconbromstThe Baltimorean is the leading practitioner of nerd-chic electronic dance music—wild sonic collages with sunny melodies and unpredictable beats. This gave me a headache the first time I listened to it. Made me think I’m too old for it, which I probably am. But I started to hear the genius of it, and my 13-month-old boy totally dug it, clapping and shrieking with glee. Rating: 7Best track:
“Red F”
This dizzying electronic album creates a synth-heavy world I wish I could live in forever. Its layered walls of “ones and zeros” sounds make me want to go run fast or something. It’s just plain fun and great for the whirring-pinball-blip crowd. Rating: 10Best track:
“Red F”
To paraphrase Wittgenstein: “If a dog could talk, we still wouldn’t understand what he was saying.” This is a “dog could talk” record. I don’t know exactly what’s going on here—the music violates every form I’m comfortable with, but I totally fell for it anyway. Rating: 9Best track:

MetricfantasiesFront woman Emily Haines seems to be the whole package—a powerful, sharp-sweet voice; art-school-honed chops; stunning looks. This is the fourth album from the Toronto rockers. The singer has an amazingly dreamy quality to her voice, and she also has a dirty mouth. I like it. The production walks right up to the line of being too polished but doesn’t cross it. The songs are catchy without being too cute. Rating: 9Best track:
“Satellite Mind”
This reminds me of Long Island girls with star tattoos and pierced navels. They look like fierce punk-rock chicks from a distance, but upon closer inspection you see the cake-flavored lip gloss and sparkly Converses and realize they’re just boring. Rating: 4Best track:
“Satellite Mind”
The album had me at the opening of the song “Twilight Galaxy”: “Did they tell you/You should grow up/When you wanted to dream?” Metric is the Canadian Yeah Yeah Yeahs—more polite, cleaner, and (to my taste) more lovable! Rating: 8Best track:
“Satellite Mind”

Booker T.potato holeThe legendary Memphis soul man and leader of Stax Records’ in-house band returns with a batch of groovy instrumentals, backed up by Neil Young and the boys from the Drive-By Truckers. What’s not to like about clean power chords (“Pound It Out”), gentle, mellifluous organ overlays (“Space City”), and easy, laid-back rhythms (“Reunion Time”)? Makes you feel like you just stumbled into a cool, dark bar on a blazing-hot day. Rating: 8Best track:
“Space City”
When it’s time to retire and I’m at my daughter’s country wedding in Tennessee … this is the band I want taking requests from the exhausted bridal-party patrons. Potato Hole boasts a “might be better live” vibe, but these delightful dad-rock instrumentals still make me smile.Rating: 7Best track:
“Space City”
Funky and powerful. The killer version of Tom Waits’s “Get Behind the Mule” made me long to hear Waits singing to it. Booker’s Hammond B3 has never sounded cleaner and more expressive, the Truckers channel their inner Exiles on Main St, and this might be the better of the two Neil Young albums out this year. Rating: 8Best track:
“Get Behind the Mule”

Phoenixwolfgang amadeus phoenixThe supersmooth French pop act is the toast of global hipsters like Sofia Coppola. But don’t hold that against them. I listened to Phoenix while walking to work on a dreary, rainy Monday and found it to be the perfect pick-me-up. The whole album vibrates with energetic, addictive melodies. “Lisztomania” is a crazy-good song and made me thankful someone invented the repeat function. Rating: 9Best track:
A cheery band that sounds like the by-product of a one-night stand between the Killers and a bottle of Paxil. But don’t mind my sass—this is sweet stuff. Rating: 7Best track:
Impossible to resist the swing-for-the-fences energy of a band with something to prove. Phoenix is the perfect “step it up” soundtrack: a danceable, listenable joy. This is the album I’ve gone back to the most often of this batch.Rating: 9Best track: