Grandaddy, "Sumday" (V2)|
A tortured and beautiful assessment of mans bumpy relationship with machines that wobbles along the edge of an emotional canyon, but never falls in. Swatches of vintage electronics gurgle behind Jason Lytles fresh lyrical perspective.
Basement Jaxx, "Kish Kash" (Astralwerks)|
Meshell Ndegeocello may be the one crooning the cocksure lyric "I want to make you dance/Im going to get to you," but the message is pure Basement Jaxx. "Kish Kash" narrows the gap between dance music and rock by stewing these genres with healthy doses of bhangra, dub, and R&B.
Belle & Sebastian,
"Dear Catastrophe Waitress" (Rough Trade)|
Belle is gone, Sebastian is oddly happy and confident, yet the Glasgow seven still manage another sparkling display of cynical, orchestral pop. Any doubts that this is the smartest band on the planet should be squelched with a single listen of the title track.
Radiohead, "Hail to the Thief" (Capitol)|
Not exactly the "OK Computer 2" that the band hinted at, but lovely in its own way. "Hail to the Thief" feels like a much deserved cleansing breath after the twin demons of "Kid A" and "Amnesiac." The serpentine melodies of "Backdrifts" and "2+2 = 5" circle and sway gently with Thom Yorkes delicate moan.
Erland Oye, "Unrest" (Astralwerks)|
The Kings of Convenience frontman takes a road trip around the globe to collaborate with electroclash bands from Berlin to Barcelona. The result is a musical travelogue that explores Oyes fascination with electronic music without sacrificing subdued harmonies.
Annie Lennox, "Bare" (J Records)|
An intensely personal midlife therapy session. While Lennox is clearly struggling with dark topics, the record soars more often than it depresses.
OutKast, "SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below" (Arista)|
Pharrell Williams aside, hip-hop favors gangsta posing to cutting-edge production, which makes the freewheeling "SpeakerBoxxx/The Love Below" stand out from the pack like a pair of tight purple hip-huggers.
Rufus Wainwright "Want One" (Dreamworks)|
Wainwrights previous efforts varied wildly between downtrodden and chemically happy. Here he finds a more consistent path by reflecting on his turbulent recent history. "Want One" is destined to be labeled his detox disc, but it should be known as the album where he became comfortable in his own skin.
Peaches, "Father[expletive]" (XL/Beggars)|
Canadian electro-rocker Merrill Niskers erotic cabaret is a delight of white girl, potty-mouthed raps and electronic throbs. This album finds a more confident Peaches holding her own against a Joan Jett sample and a live Iggy Pop.
Puffy AmiYumi, "Nice" (Bar/None)|
The ruling princesses of J-pop create an album that sounds like Cheap Trick on a sugar trip. Silly and completely addictive.