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Paul Weller

Twenty-five years ago, Paul Weller would have smashed a pint glass in your face for calling him the punk version of Steve Winwood. But the analogy nearly fits. Both legendary English songwriters started out in blistering R&B-based bands and went on to dabble in groove-locked psychedelics and sultry rock. But while the latter-day Winwood sucks shit, Weller has been channeling a consistent torrent of vitality since his first solo album in 1992. Predictably, As Is Now rules. But that doesn't mean there aren't surprises: Recorded almost entirely live in an old barn, the tones are rustic and raw, and the vicious guitar pop of "Come On/Let's Go" sounds more like the Jam than the Jam's last album did. Effusing folk and funk in equal measure, As Is proves that Weller is still one of the most pissed, confused and nobly wounded souls to ever put plectrum to strings. Back in the high life? For all his past ups and downs, he doesn't look like he ever left.