'Food and Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 1'
Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco follows his unexpected No. 1 album "Lasers" with a direct appeal to the critical, socially minded flow that made him a name to watch in 2006. There aren't any clear standouts here, but Fiasco's freedom to discuss taboo topics, and to bite the hip-hop hand that feeds him, is refreshing in the current party-line atmosphere, and his tricky flow, especially on the controversially sourced "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)." Look for part 2 later this year.
The eighth solo album from Aimee Mann finds the singer-songwriter in predictably, almost disappointingly solid form. The bearer of exquisite sadness during her era of collaboration with producer Jon Brion, which yielded the memorable "Magnolia" film soundtrack, Mann is of a brighter bent these days. But the resolutely mid-tempo numbers here are notable mostly for the maddeningly serene texture they exude. Neither happy nor sad - Mann's lyrics might reflect her fascinations with the fumbling mess of everyday life, but if you're already there, what's the point?
'Kill My Blues'
CORIN TUCKER BAND
Corin Tucker, formerly of the nervy, guitar-driven Sleater-Kinney, has returned with her namesake band for a rock-solid second album that doles out thrills on a minute-by-minute basis. From the politically minded opener "Groundhog Day" to the disco-fried punk of the catchy "Neskowin," the slashing, yowling Tucker is a blown-open fireplug of vital rock force.