The World is a Ghetto War
Select / Avenue

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"the world is a ghetto" is another impeccable source of earth-moving music. war included lee oskar's wide-ranging harmonica which danced around chanted vocals, snazzy horn charts and a latin-tinged bottom. war cut its ominous rhythmic power with beguiling melodies, from its lush seductive side with an equally atmospheric unflinching shot of social realism. when they sing "cisco kid" and "the world is a ghetto" on this album you'll never hear better music, anywhere.

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The Very Best of the Pogues The Pogues
Shout Factory!

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"the very best of the pogues" shows off the pogues as a rollicking, rowdy, drunken brawl of a band. let's face it, the pogues are a marvel, matching the tuneful spirit of traditional irish folk with poetic lyrics and a straight-to-hell punk attitude. and the one- and-only lead singer, shane macgowan, is the european tom waits. i spent my first 20 years in washington heights in northern manhattan, and the irish neighborhood, inwood, was two stops north on the the "a" train. and if you don't pick this album up i'll tell the o'koo brothers, who became cops, and they'll kick your ass.

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WomanChild C├ęcile McLorin Salvant
Mack Avenue

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"womanchild" is an incredible album about loneliness and love, by cecile mclorin salvant. the diva spots her beloved with another woman, then turns her sadness into a sparkling song, perfect for solo freakouts. classic stories, outfitted with black-ice organs, buily around shimmering guitars that go on for miles. jazz lullabies with a hushed melody that james taylor would kill to have written. she turns melancholia into the darkest, deepest blues humor. the songs have so much power in them--its emotionally crushing. as bruce once sang "she's all that heaven will allow."

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Finas Misturas Antonio Adolfo
AAM Music

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"finas misturas" is another great jazz album by the veteran pianist antonio adolfo and his band. he has created a steady, grooving sound with mysteries floating over craggy funk like some beautiful ghost.

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Clarity Zedd
Interscope

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"clarity" is another masterpiece by zedd. his indie-rock group harmonizes about silver bullets on top of classic rock guitars. the result: bizarro pop that's hard to shake. no one has worked harder than zedd to make pop more psychedelic in the recent past.

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John the Conqueror John the Conqueror
Pavement PR

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john the conqueror's self-titled debut album required great empathy and understanding in order to write and sing from the perspective of someone who hurts this bad.

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So Say We All David Francey
Red House Records

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"so say we all" is the tenth album by working class hero, david francey. and don't we need more artists like him, with the poverty we have where a few ugly rich guys abuse millions of poor souls. these are not escape songs. be sure of that. they're very ambitious. and i want to know if love is real, too. "so say we all" is lyrically clever, with so many hooks; every section of each song is a hit unto itself. this is a "must buy" album.

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I Predict a Graceful Expulsion Cold Specks
EMI / Mute

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"i predict a graceful expulsion" is a forerunner of an album by cold specks. their glory comes the vast outdoors, really rural sounding. we watch surreal little movies. there are no albums out there that cuts as deep.

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Taylor Made Melvin Taylor
Self-Released

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"taylor made--starring melvin taylor" is an album by the powerful blues/jazz guitarist melvin taylor where he plays and sings music that brings back memories. i got lost in every one of his songs.

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My Gift to You Davell Crawford
Basin Street Records / Soulspel Music

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"my gift to you" is the great davell crawford's first album in ten long years. he's called the piano prince of new orleans. and i'll tell you why. what makes him so special is the way he creates beautiful verses and choruses and lyrics that keep you wondering, knowing more great music is coming your way.

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the truth is Melissa Ferrick
MPress Records

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let's face it, when melissa ferrick created her "the truth is" album she must have felt that it takes a special kind of dark, twisted genius to raise the flag of surrender while raising a middle finger. no other album is so crazily epic, yet so jaw-droppingly gorgeous--not on the radio, not anywhere. now, everyone raise your glasses.

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The Very Best of Elvis Costello Elvis Costello
Polygram

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i remember, back in the '80s, when i was editor of the hair metal magazine, hit parader, the lead singer of van halen, david lee roth, told us that the reason music critics liked elvis costello so much was that we were as ugly as elvis. when we listen to "the very best of elvis costello," a double album, we still hear his smart mouth turn sexual and political troubles into musical outrage. his key to greatness has always been his passion. his wit, his blackguard, his morals, his poetry, his bitch, his celtic folk ranter, his grinning pop tunesmith, his radio sweetheart with a sullen punk stare. he's a true original whether he's rocking on out or just trying to look italian to his musical valium. he's got it all. and david lee, we're still waiting for the clown to take a break.

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Wolf's Law The Joy Formidable
Warner Bros.

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"wolf's law" is stolen by the joy formidable's lead singer, rhiannon "ritzy" bryan, who's empathetic crooning and ballsy orchectral-rock wallop, make high anxiety sound almost sublime. his howl over the the dirtiest sound, generates ungodly amounts of sexual electricity. a " must buy" album.

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The Complete Collection The Moving Sidewalks
Rock Beat

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"the complete collection" is a double album by the moving sidewalks, that didn't last very long, but gave birth to zz top guitarist/vocalist billy gibbons. they created unreal cool vocals that made you sweat for 3 minutes at a time, driven by surging riffs, like subway cars full of confusion and madness.

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Jesus Piece The Game
DGC / Interscope

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"jesus piece" is a delicious and freaky hip-hop album that is gleefully experimental. the game is a lyrically incredible artist. he's so angry, but he's really sweet at the same time.

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New Horizons Flyleaf
A&M / Octone

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"new horizons" is a rock album by flyleaf. but rock, like soul, is too limiting a term for this band. too often, it's been used to pigeonhole great singers. true rock, true soul, is how you address songs. it's what you say with a song--it can happen anytime, even in the turn of a phrase. in my book pavarotti is a great soul man. and flyleaf is a great rock band.

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Tell You What Jason Elmore & Hoodoo Witch
Underworld Records

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"tell you what" is the second release by jason elmore & hoodoo witch. the album is understated and confident, but dark. it alludes to the idea of people who are lonely. what are they looking for in each other? but this record is just like the first in that you can go around humming it for days.

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Renewal Kyle Pederson
Self-Release

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the album by the glorious pianist, kyle pederson, entitled "renewal," along with a fine group of musicians is like a prayer for transcendence in a wounded world.

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Full of Love Danny Wright
Wright This Way

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"full of love" is a glorious double album by danny wright. the man gets right down to what he's feeling. he is genuinely playing the truth.

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Tracer Richard Cornell
Ravello Records

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"tracer" is unlike most albums you'll hear, no matter where you are. richard cornell has created a very revolutionary work of art. his music breaks all the cobwebs in your mind, telling you, with chamber music, "hear i am, check the world out."

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Twelve Reasons to Die Ghostface Killah & Adrian Younge
Soul Temple / RED Distribution

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as if needing to polish his legendary status to a further ostentatious luster, ghostface killah and adrian younge's comic book inspired "twelve reasons to die" recently dropped with some gravity, pulling along with it an alternative version of the album as well as an actual comic. perhaps ghostface killah's loyal following may in fact prefer the alternative tape produced by apollo brown--of "dice game" fame--for its' powerful samples and classic beats. yet, the intentionally cinematic aesthetic of the original version draws you into a delirium, such that you get the impression that you should pop some kernels. the narrative and the kendo-masked dramatis personae on the album cover elicits some kind of mash-up of spaghetti westerns, tarantino, kurosawa, and jarmusch's ghostdog; although similar themes can be found in other works by wu-tang members, (poignantly, the rza, the executive producer on this record, produced the score for ghostdog), one might be forgiven for initially having any doubts in this uncanny intertwining. Still, the whole of the album is refreshingly cohesive--the raps flowing into the arpeggiated baroque keyboards like melting butter--such that even single-junkies should listen all the way through.

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