Brian Wilson, That Lucky Old Sun (EMI Records). Ever since Brian Wilson terminated his self-imposed hermitage and started performing again, the residual effects have shown. Here Wilson confronts his arrested development by creating an optimistic love letter to California filled with newfound confidence, beautiful harmonies and the same innocent, boyish optimism that defined the Beach Boys' early days.
— Brandon Daviet
Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (WEA/Reprise). Lewis's latest vacillates wildly in terms of styles and quality. The disc kicks off with "Black Sand," one of her weakest numbers, and the Elvis Costello duet "Carpetbaggers" is jarringly off-kilter. But "Pretty Bird," "The Next Messiah" and "Jack Killed Mom" are among her quirkiest, most enjoyable tunes to date. Agony and ecstasy, available in a matched set.
Taj Mahal, Maestro (Heads Up International). Marking his fortieth year in the game, Taj Mahal delivers a strong mix of reggae, blues, world music and his own brand of folk-rooted fare. Notable tracks include "Further on Down the Road" (with Jack Johnson), "Black Man, Brown Man" (with Ziggy Marley) and a hot take on the Willie Dixon/Bo Diddley number "Diddy Wah Diddy."
— Nick Hutchinson
Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Dazzle Ships (Virgin Records). OMD's re-mastered 1983 classic, Dazzle Ships sounds prescient in its use of samples and sound collage. Much of the early new wave hasn't aged very well, but this album sounds surprisingly modern. With current trends in electronic music as they are, this gem of yesteryear is more relevant than ever.
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The Replacements, Tim (Sire/Rhino). According to liner notes included in the second batch of Replacements reissues, the band's final discs — 1989's Don't Tell a Soul and 1990's All Shook Down — were better than originally thought. After a fresh listen, that's a no-sale. But 1987's Pleased to Meet Me and, especially, 1985's Tim remain classics made of equal parts sloppiness and songcraft. They're irreplaceable.
Stereolab, Chemical Chords (4AD). With lyrics that could be entries in a Situationist, anti-imperialist journal, this latest offering from Stereolab combines the band's signature lounge pop with its usual incisive social commentary. Hypnotically lush, "One Finger Symphony" hints at darker sonic territory, and "Pop Molecule" is edgier than the groop has been in several years.