From the Corner to the Block


Hurricane Katrina pushed production back on this album for three years, but it’s a good thing the white funk gods of New Orleans didn’t rush it. Featuring a different MC on each track, from the Coup’s Boots Riley to Gift of Gab, it’s hot from the get-go, and swelters as the tracks carry on. Galactic was arguably in an instrumental slump since the departure of Houseman. They’ve reinvented themselves here into a funk-hop machine that’s got the soul to finally take them to the next level. —Stratton Lawrence


Shannon Whitworth

No Expectations


After leaving the Biscuit Burners in 2006, Whitworth returned home to Brevard, N.C., and spent the winter and spring teaching pottery and writing songs. The down time treated her well. This collection of songs, delivered with her silky smooth vocals and clawhammer banjo playing, shows off both her lyrical ability and musical prowess. —Stratton Lawrence


Lindsay Holler & The Dirty Kids

Love Gone Awry


Forlorn and rockin’, Holler’s six-song EP is a half-hour joyride of emotion. Hearing Holler’s tales of sorrow, you might flinch, but you’ll enjoy it. She is. —Stratton Lawrence


Arctic Monkeys

Favourite Worst Nightmare

(Warner Bros.)

Few bands have been the beneficiaries of as much hype in the months leading up to their debut as the Arctic Monkeys. The Strokes and Kings of Leon both come to mind, and both bands released debuts that certainly matched expectations. But whereas the Strokes followed with a lackluster sophomore effort that featured lazy songwriting and overly polished production and the Followill boys crafted a follow up that was creatively and emotionally more mature than their debut, the Arctic Monkeys from Sheffield, England, answered with a resounding, “Piss off.” And that’s what makes these young punks so refreshing. Favourite Worst Nightmare is even more snide than their debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not; it’s chock full of funny put-downs and kids are stupid jabs like its predecessor, but this time that snot-nosed criticism is balanced by, gasp, a bit of tenderness (“Flourescent Adolescent,” “505”). And yet despite all of their herky-jerky tendencies, these English brats find a way to craft some of the finest Brit-pop around. —Chris Haire


Queens of the Stone Age

Era Vulgaris


Any fan of Josh Homme knew the moment had to come — he would release a Grade-A stinker. Maybe it would be with Queens of the Stone Age. Maybe the Eagles of Death Metal. Maybe it would be the latest Desert Sessions grab bag. The guy is simply too productive to keep a near-perfect track record. And then it happened. Both QOSTA’s Lullabies to Paralyze and the EODM’s Death by Sexy were as limp as Rip Taylor’s wrist. Which is why QOSTA’s Era Vulgaris is an unexpected surprise. —Chris Haire


Black Lips

Good Bad Not Evil


Roky Erickson is alive and well. Yes, I know the 13th Floor Elevators mastermind is back on the road after a few decades spent coping with a deep-fried brain and more psychological problems than Sybil. But when it comes to making music that sounds like the Elevators during their glory days. The Black Lips do “flower punk” better than anybody. With Good Bad Not Evil, the Black Lips craft Nuggets-style garage rock that is one part rip-off and one part blood-splattered autopsy report on the death of the Sixties (“Navajo,” “It Feels Alright”). Few bands make retro music that is this faithful and utterly disrespectful at the same time. —Chris Haire


Fall Out Boy

Infinity on High


Whether you love Fall Out Boy or hate them, there’s no denying that Infinity on High is what the Chicago quartet’s major-label debut should have been. It’s a well-crafted, mature-sounding rock record, heavy on the melody with a healthy dose of spiteful lyrics. Once you get beyond Pete Wentz as poster boy, you’ll find that the music actually isn’t as terrible as you want it to be. —Leah Weinberg


New Found Glory

From the Screen to Your Stereo: Part 2 (Drive-Thru)

The Coral Springs, Fla., quintet topped their recent cover of “Glory of Love” — and more. With cameo appearances galore (including a killer rendition of “King of Wishful Thinking” from Pretty Woman), From the Screen to Your Stereo: Part 2 is a movie lover’s and a NFG lover’s dream come true. —Leah Weinberg


Levon Helm

Dirt Farmer


It’s a miracle that The Band’s dogged Arkansan vocalist/drummer is able to sing at all, much less make an album as authentically Old South and genuinely heartwarming as Dirt Farmer. The song selection dates back to old traditionals Helm used to sing with bandmates Rick Danko, Robbie Robertson, Garth Hudson, and Richard Manuel while giving center stage to one of the most distinctive voices, of any generation, to ever holler the blues. —Michael Andrews


Bo Diddley

I’m A Man: The Chess Masters 1955 – 1958

(Hip-O Select)

Lord have mercy, Bo Diddley may not get around as well as he used to, but the self-proclaimed “Originator” is still rockin’ the joint like a pier six brawl! This double-disc collection compiled much of Diddley’s better-known Chess output, as well as lesser-known slices of sheer distorted genius. What do Rudy Ray Moore’s party records, Captain Beefheart’s gravel growl, and Tom Waits’ worldly take on blues and R&B have in common? Shoot fire, man, you know it’s Bo! —Michael Andrews


Bettye LaVette

Scene of the Crime

(Anti -)

Mercurial soul woman Bettye LaVatte has been railroaded, shanghaied, and hung out to dry by the music biz, and she’s not about to let anyone forget it. Since making a comeback in 2004, LaVette has been on an undeniable hot streak. Scene of the Crime paired Ms. Bettye with Athens, Ga., rock ‘n’ roll Renaissance men the Drive-By Truckers for an album long on soulful grit and short on unnecessary apologies. —Michael Andrews


The White Stripes

Icky Thump

(Third Man/Warner Bros.)

At one point, it was easy to wonder if the White Stripes’ explosive garage blues sound would grow stale over time. But Icky Thump suggests that Jack White is creative and resourceful enough as a songwriter to keep the White Stripes sounding vital and fresh. —Alan Sculley


The Apples In Stereo

New Magnetic Wonder

(Yep Roc)

The Apples return to their more eclectic and fanciful mode with the year’s best pop album — a kaleidoscopic, energetic and hugely catchy collection of tunes that repeatedly thrills, fascinates — and most importantly, rocks. —Alan Sculley





Maya Arulpragasam’s first album Arular was an intriguing, hypnotic piece of work, but its gritty dancefloor suggestions and minimal construction engaged more on an intellectual level than on an emotional one. With Kala, however, she took things out of the head and into the heart, upping the dance floor instigations and pop-star vamping while maintaining a delightful mash-up of globe-trotting sounds and politics. —Chris Hassiotis


Of Montreal

Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?


Bandleader Kevin Barnes sat down amidst a Scandinavian depression and opened his veins all over his songwriting, and the result is a disarmingly personal and compellingly psychedelic album that celebrates both the absurdities of song structure and the tremblings of human frailty. —Chris Hassiotis


Osvaldo Golijov


(Deutsche Grammophon)

Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov sets a poem about the tidal forces of the sea by Pablo Neruda, and draws on his South American and Jewish roots. Like a German oratorio meeting an Argentinian tango, choral blasts alternate with Gypsy beats, as if Golijov were attempting to balance the cosmic ecstasy of faith and the rhythmic agony of the mundane. —John Stoehr


Stile Antico

Music for Compline

(Harmonia Mundi USA)

Recalling the seriousness of faith found in the English Renaissance, “Compline” was the name given to that period at the end of the daily monastic calendar. Music that accompanied liturgical services was private, reflective, and hopeful. Hence, hymns, antiphons, motets, and psalms are sung with elegant beauty and intimate intensity. It’s truly marvelous how the clear voices of this a capella choir blend and resonate. —John Stoehr