"Talk That Talk"
Less an artistic expression than a full clip of steel-tipped pop hits, Rihanna's sixth studio release is a testament to her unique and prodigious talents. More so than her album-oriented globalist pop peers (Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé et al.), the Barbados-born star has a proven ability to translate her edgy-sexy style into a seemingly endless variety of permutations, resulting in more than a half-decade of radio dominance. With a T-1000's quicksilver ease, Rihanna here sculpts her gently accented lilt to fit the Calvin Harris-produced '90s dance joybomb "We Found Love" as readily as the raunchier, hard-edged club tracks like "Birthday Cake" and "Cockiness (Love It)," and stretches it for big ballads like "Farewell." It seems now that the only undoing of Rihanna might be that her continual success renders the very idea of her excellence boring.
Carter Tanton (formerly of Tulsa) has lately focused on supporting fellow artists like Marissa Nadler and Twin Shadow, but returns here with an elegant, multi-layered solo album that feels like a healthy cupboard-cleaning, sloughing off jangly gems like the R.E.M.-ish "Murderous Joy" and the Luna-esque "Fake Pretend."
"Big Bells & Dime Songs"
With its quietly masterful acoustic guitar and spare, creaky production, the debut record from Nashville native (and sometimes Brooklynite) Luke Roberts sounds caught between the dusty thump of early Phosphorescent and the fragility of a careworn José González. Roberts is possessed of a rusty J. Mascis croon, which he uses to apt effect on his tales of ordinary lives going off the rails, or being trapped by them and carried off over the horizon.
"50 Words for Snow"
The once and future queen of ethereal British pop returns to reclaim her crown.
"Break the Spell'
The "American Idol" alum delivers another helping of big, radio-friendly rock anthems.
"My Life II...The Journey Continues (Act 1)"
Mary J. Blige
The long-awaited sequel to MJB's devastating "My Life" finally arrives. Time to cry!