2014 Grammy Stars

I Knew You Were Trouble.

Taylor Swift

Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe

Kendrick Lamar

Ain't Messin 'Round

Gary Clark Jr.

The Heist

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Pure Heroine

Lorde

Unapologetic (Explicit Version)

Rihanna
One year after Talk That Talk, Rihanna revs up her reign with some of her most entrancing material to date on seventh album Unapologetic. Led by hit single "Diamonds," she ventures through a variety of ballads, party tracks and collaborations: "Loveeeeeee Song" with Future, "Stay" with Mikky Ekko, "Numb" featuring Eminem, and then there's Chris Brown jamming out like Michael Jackson on "Nobody's Business"—a song you might be mad at if it weren't so good. "Jump," which borrows the chorus from Ginuwine's "Pony," finds RiRi bold as ever: "When you fuck them other girls I bet they be wondering why you always call my name"; while on "Love Without Tragedy/Mother Mary," she breaks free from the sentiment of the album's title and is most daring as she repents: "You took the best years of my life/...I pray that love don't strike twice."

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

Same Trailer Different Park

Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves could easily be contemporary country's next big thing. She's a sharp, detailed songwriter with a little bit of an edge, and while it's tempting to think of her as another coming of Taylor Swift, say, she's got the kind of relaxed sureness about what she's doing as a songwriter and performer that puts her closer to a Miranda Lambert. On her first nationally distributed album, Same Trailer Different Park, she definitely sounds more on the Lambert side of things, with a sparse, airy sound that lets her lyrics shine, and she'd as soon use a banjo in her arrangements as a snarling Stratocaster. From her debut single, the marvelous "Merry Go 'Round" (which is included here as the third track), Musgraves showed an intelligent, careful writing style that is as pointed as it is poignant, and even though the song seems to skewer small-town country life, it does it without malice or agenda, and is really more just telling it true than anything else, a trait that ought to be treasured in Nashville but usually isn't. Nashville wants one to tell it true as long as that telling conforms to the template, which Musgraves isn't likely to do. "Merry Go 'Round" might be the best song here, but there are others that are nearly as good, like the lilting, wise opener, "Silver Lining," the implausible "Dandelion" (one wonders how she manages to make such a winning song out of such a metaphor, but she does), and the gutsy (and again, wise) "Follow Your Arrow," all of which feature clear-eyed observations, unintrusive but appropriate arrangements, and a certain flair for telling it like it is and making it sound like bedrock, obvious wisdom. Musgraves has a sense of humor, too, and all of these traits add up to make Same Trailer Different Park more than a collection of songs just aiming for the country charts.

Steve Leggett, Rovi

Night Visions

Imagine Dragons
Even though Night Visions has several repackaged tunes from Imagine Dragons' previous EPs, including the instantly appealing breakthrough hit "It's Time," the band's debut LP is a confident, commercially savvy collection of energetic hooks, crunchy electro beats and glossy synthesizers. With sweeping choruses and booming bass, it's big-sounding party rock, but the savvy, kitchen-sink production of Alex da Kid makes other would-be singles like "Bleeding Out" and "Tiptoe" as interesting as they are overwhelming. Even though under all the layers there are occasionally pockets of pure cheese ("With the beast inside, there's nowhere we can hide," Dan Reynolds sings on "Demons"), the scope of the band's full-length debut leaves a big impression.

Nate Cavalieri, Google Play

The 20/20 Experience

Justin Timberlake

Magna Carta... Holy Grail

JAY Z

Random Access Memories

Daft Punk
Random Access Memories is the fourth studio album from French electronic dance duo Daft Punk. The highly anticipated return of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Hoemm-Christo sees them collaborate with some legendary musical names. Nile Rodgers, Giorgio Moroder, Paul Williams, Todd Edwards, and many more contribute to an intrinsic and retro-influenced record that heralds another fascinating chapter in the group's influential history.

Aneet Nijjar, Rovi

Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend
Following the success of their sophomore album, Contra, Vampire Weekend released their highly anticipated third full-length, entitled Modern Vampires of the City. The record had been kept tightly under wraps since writing began in late 2011, and the four-piece discreetly hit the studio with producer Ariel Rechtshaid (We Are Scientists, Plain White T's, Usher) in their native New York. Lead single "Diane Young" illustrates the group in full flow, interjecting a rasping bassline and trashy drums to their crisp indie rock sound.

Scott Kerr, Rovi

True Believers

Darius Rucker

To Be Loved

Michael Bublé
To Be Loved is the eighth studio album from Canadian crooner Michael Bublé. Featuring a mix of classic covers ("You Make Me Feel So Young," "Have I Told You Lately," "To Love Somebody") and special guest appearances from Reece Witherspoon, Bryan Adams, and the Puppini Sisters, this is a charming return to form for the popular singer and will surely delight his legions of fans. It also includes the original composition "It's a Beautiful Day."

Aneet Nijjar, Rovi

Clarity

Zedd
In the span of a few years, Anton Zaslavski was inspired by Justice to make electronic dance music, reached out to Skrillex and remixed "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," became an in-demand producer of remixes and original material, and signed to mainstream label Interscope. His remixes for the Black Eyed Peas and Lady Gaga, combined with production for Justin Bieber's Believe and singles like "The Anthem," "Shave It," and "Spectrum," made the German musician, still in his early twenties, a rising star in EDM and pop. Zaslavski's rapid ascent says more about his talent and creativity than the lack of skill and imagination required to make dance music. He was the drummer in a metalcore band, but he has definitely found his calling here. Clarity's lone pre-Interscope track is "Shave It," retitled "Shave It Up," made more musical with an all-strings coda, and yet shortened to a brisk 3:11. The song's grand and extended conclusion makes an early-in-the-album statement, however ostentatious, that Zaslavski can compose circles around the majority of EDM producers and do so in a concise fashion. He also knows how to construct an album. This plays out like it was developed and arranged for the sake of repeated listening rather than a quick fix for listeners in need of a rush. That said, there are plenty of peak moments that reflect the immediacy and desperation of adolescent relationships, like the stadium-ready title song (featuring Louisa Rose Allen, aka Foxes) and the fully developed modern pop of "Spectrum" (fronted in a boyish, bright-eyed manner by Matthew Koma). The instrumentals tend to be relatively restrained, but most of them are more attractive than the songs featuring big-name vocalists Ryan Tedder and Ellie Goulding. Zaslavski's not quite in a field of his own yet. "Stache" shamelessly displays the producer's indebtedness to key Justice influence Daft Punk -- it might as well be subtitled "Aerodynamic 2K12" -- but he's getting there. Anyone who appreciates well-crafted dance-pop should probably keep up with him.

Girl On Fire

Alicia Keys
Since her multi-platinum hit As I Am, Alicia Keys has doggedly stuck to an emphatic, piano-based sound. Her Girl on Fire has a few concessions towards pop trends, like the Jamie xx-produced "When It's All Over," but she mostly delivers those big, torchy moments for which she's famous, as with the titular track with Nicki Minaj, "Tears Always Win" and "101." Despite a clunker or two like "Not Even the King," Keys confirms that she's one of the best at mixing personal reflection with universal themes, whether it's motherhood ("Brand New Me") or love ("Fire We Make," a duet with Maxwell).

Mosi Reeves, Google Play

The Civil Wars

The Civil Wars

13 (Deluxe Version)

Black Sabbath
13 is the 19th studio album from heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath, arriving nearly 20 years after 1995's Forbidden. Produced by Rick Rubin (Slayer, Metallica) and featuring the vocals of Ozzy Osbourne for the first time on a Black Sabbath studio album since 1978's Never Say Die!, 13 is a blistering return that includes the single "God Is Dead?"

Greater Than

Tye Tribbett

Blak And Blu

Gary Clark Jr.
Gary Clark, Jr. has been hailed by a number of critics as "the New Hendrix," which seems to be the fate of any guitarist who combines blues and rock styles at a considerable volume (particularly if they cover "Third Stone from the Sun"). While that's a blurb that may look good in Clark's press kit, it rather misses the point; Clark isn't a visionary, game-changing artist like Hendrix, but instead he's a canny singer, songwriter, and instrumentalist who has learned from the past and present, fusing them into a style that's distinctive and exciting if not necessarily revolutionary. Warner Bros. is also pitching Blak and Blu as Clark's "groundbreaking debut album," when in fact it's just his major-label debut, with four indie releases preceding it, making the confidence and ambition of this set a bit less remarkable. But if Gary Clark, Jr. isn't likely to change the way we look at rock & roll or rewrite the aesthetic of the electric guitar, he "is" one of the most interesting talents to come out of the contemporary blues scene in quite some time. On Blak and Blu, most of Clark's tunes are solidly rooted in the blues, but he's also folded in hearty servings of hard rock, funk, retro-soul, and even a dash of hip-hop, and the way he lets the flavors mix is a big part of what makes this album work so well. There's an undertow of Northern Soul on the dance-friendly opener "Ain't Messin' Round," "Travis County" is a no-frills rocker that recalls the Stones in fifth gear, "The Life" finds Clark moving back and forth between singing and rapping in a streetwise tale of drug addiction, "Numb" recalls the punk blues attack of the Black Keys and the White Stripes in its fuzzed-out blast, and the title cut samples both Gil Scott-Heron and Albert King as Clark melds conscious themes with blues backdrops. While the typical modern-day guitar hero goes out of his way to throw his dexterity in your face at every turn, here Clark shows off a tougher and more primal style, and though his chops are certainly good, he keep his solos concise and his attack muscular throughout. And if his songwriting is a bit uneven, he has an inarguable talent with both lyrics and melodies, and he's a good-to-great singer, sounding soulful and honest on every cut. Blak and Blu's production (by Rob Cavallo and Mike Elizondo in collaboration with Clark) is too polished and processed for its own good, but if this album isn't likely to change your life, it will make an hour of it a lot more interesting, and there's no arguing that Gary Clark, Jr. is a talent strong enough to match his record company's hype.

Mark Deming, Rovi

Vida

Draco Rosa
After an encounter with mortality, one tends to take stock of life with a sense of gratitude and renewed purpose. Robi Draco Rosa goes one better on Vida, his first recording after winning a battle with cancer. A quick look at the track listing, and one might think of this as a greatest-hits comp. And it is; but with so many twists and turns, and everything ambitiously re-arranged and re-recorded, that it becomes a dazzling new entry in the artist's already significant catalog. Rosa assembled a tremendous cast of guests from many parts of the Latin music world to re-record his hits. They include the current crop of Latin superstars, from Shakira and Juanes to urban artists such as Tego Calderón and Calle 13, bachata all-stars such as Romeo Santos, and even Latin rock & rollers Maná. To shrink the generational as well as genre boundaries, he also recruited legends such as Juan Luis Guerra, Rubén Blades, and José Feliciano. His contemporaries are also here: Ednita Nazario, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, and even more. The overall tone of the set is simultaneously celebratory and reflective. The arrangements are full of elegant touches and surprises; they showcase the heart of these songs while opening them wider. Check the muted trumpet break in the soulful, easy-grooving "Penélope," with Maná, or the tropical breakdown in the last half of "Paraíso Prometido (Hay Que Llegar)," with Anthony. "El Tiempo Va," with Blades, is thoroughly re-imagined; it contains elements of old-school son and cancion -- with thoroughly modern production -- and features a sonorous cello, shimmering Rhodes piano, poignant 12-string, and deeply sensual singing. "Blanca Mujer," with Shakira, melds classic Latin pop, modern Latin soul, and folk forms including the ranchera, but once more, they are woven together in an entirely seductive and graceful manner. "Brujeíra," with Calderón, weaves grimy funk, hard rock, and trip-hop textures and there's a killer flamenco intro in the otherwise steamy, nocturnal, "Cómo Me Acuerdo," with Alejandro Sanz. Vida was one of the most anticipated Latin albums of 2013; it more than lives up to the anticipation. Classified as a Latin pop album, it will no doubt be acclaimed as such. But that's far from the whole story: Vida transcends genre limitations. It will appeal to virtually anyone who appreciates great songwriting, arranging, production, and, most of all, inspired performances. Rosa may have assembled this fine cast in order to celebrate life, but in doing so he has delivered what will undoubtedly be one of the best popular recordings of 2013. Period.

Thom Jurek, Rovi

My Favorite Picture of You

Guy Clark

Overcomer

Mandisa

Treinta Días

La Santa Cecilia

Get Up!

Ben Harper With Charlie Musselwhite

I Want Crazy (Encore)

Hunter Hayes

I Need

TGT

Lego House

Ed Sheeran

Unorthodox Jukebox

Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars has said that Unorthodox Jukebox represents his freedom, and it lives up to its title as Mars moves through genres and eras, veering mostly into retro soul. The follow-up to his Grammy-winning 2010 debut Doo-Wops & Hooligans opens with the '80s pop-influenced "Young Girls" and lead single "Locked Out of Heaven." "I got a body full of liquor with a cocaine kicker and I'm feeling like I'm 30 feet tall," Mars indulges on "Gorilla," an animalistic sex jam. "Natalie" and "Money Make Her Smile," about a gold-digger and stripper respectively, follow in that gritty tone, while the retro-disco "Treasure" paired with "Moonshine" play out like a cinematic love story.

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

The Blessed Unrest

Sara Bareilles

good kid, m.A.A.d city

Kendrick Lamar
Hip-hop debuts don't come much more "highly anticipated" than Kendrick Lamar's. A series of killer mixtapes displayed his talent for thought-provoking street lyrics delivered with an attention-grabbing flow, and then there was his membership in the Black Hippy crew with his brethren Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock all issuing solo releases that pleased the "true hip-hop" set, setting the stage for a massive fourth and final. Top it off with a pre-release "XXL Magazine" cover that he shared with his label boss and all-around legend Dr. Dre, and the "biggest debut since Illmatic" stuff starts to flow, but Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would be a milestone even without the back-story, offering cool and compelling lyrics, great guests (Drake, Dr. Dre, and MC Eiht) and attractive production (from Pharrell, Just Blaze, Tabu, and others). Here, Kendrick is living his life like status and cash were extra credit. It is what makes this kid so "good" as he navigates his "mad" city (Compton) with experience and wisdom beyond his years (25). He's shamelessly bold about the allure of the trap, contrasting the sickness of his city with the universal feeling of getting homesick, and carrying a Springsteen-sized love for the home team. Course, in his gang-ruled city, N.W.A. "was" the home team, but as the truly beautiful, steeped-in-soul, biographic key track "The Art of Peer Pressure" finds a reluctant young Kendrick and his friends feeding off the life-force of Young Jeezy's debut album, it's something Clash, Public Enemy, and all other rebel music fans can relate to. Still, when he realizes that hero Jeezy must have risen above the game -- because the real playas are damned and never show their faces -- it spawns a kind of elevated gangsta rap that's as pimp-connectable as the most vicious Eazy-E, and yet poignant enough to blow the dust off any cracked soul. Equally heavy is the cautionary tale of drank dubbed "Swimming Pools," yet that highlight is as hooky and hallucinatory as most Houston drank anthems, and breaks off into one of the chilling, cassette-quality interludes that connect the album, adding to the documentary or eavesdropping quality of it all. Soul children will experience déjà vu when "Poetic Justice" slides by with its Janet Jackson sample -- sounding like it came off his Aunt's VHS copy of the movie it's named after -- while the closing "Compton" is an anthem sure to make the Game jealous, featuring Dre in beast mode, acting pre-Chronic and pre-Death Row. This journey through the concrete jungle of Compton is worth taking because of the artistic richness within, plus the attraction of a whip-smart rapper flying high during his rookie season. Any hesitation about the horror of it all is quickly wiped away by Kendrick's mix of true talk, open heart, open mind, and extended hand. Add it all up and even without the hype, this one is still potent and smart enough to rise to the top of the pile.

Red

Taylor Swift
It's not insignificant that one of Taylor Swift's key influences is Shania Twain; both have a passion for pop that ultimately outranks their crush on country. And just as Twain released a pop-centric version of her album Up!, Swift's Red marks her definitive move to mainstream pop. Among the co-producers and co-writers are Max Martin and Shellback, the Swedes who hit big with everyone from Katy Perry to Britney Spears, and the decidedly pop-focused approach of songs like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and the title track make it clear that Swift has more than Nashville on her mind. The steel guitar swoops and acoustic axes on closing cut "Begin Again" create one of the few overtly country moments here, but Red is really the sound of Swift shifting to pure pop mode.

Jim Allen, Google Play

Nothing Was The Same

Drake

The Truth About Love

P!nk
"Blow Me (One Last Kiss)," the lead single from Pink's sixth studio album, is a catchy anthem about reaching a breaking point after "a shit day," while the chorus on "True Love" (featuring Lily Allen) plainly states: "You're an asshole but I love you." That edgy authenticity is what's made Pink's defiant pop stand apart from her peers, and on her latest album she's packing more punch than ever. While "Slut Like You" and "Here Comes the Weekend" with Eminem are weak links, Pink's performance is especially commanding on "Where Did the Beat Go?" and on ballads "Beam Me Up" and "The Great Escape." On the title track, she divulges "The truth about love is it's nasty and salty/ it's the regret in the morning/ it's the smelling of armpits"—her storytelling raw, angsty and as challenging as we expect it to be.

Laura Checkoway, Google Play

Blurred Lines

Robin Thicke

Love and War

Tamar Braxton

+

Ed Sheeran
+ is the debut studio album by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, released on 9 September 2011 by Asylum Records and Atlantic Records. The album marks Sheeran's commercial breakthrough, having previously released five EPs independently. Jake Gosling produced the majority of the album, with additional production by American hip hop producer No I.D.. Upon release, + debuted atop of the UK Albums Chart with first-week sales exceeding 102,000 copies The album performed well on the US Billboard 200, peaking at number 5, selling 42,000 copies. The album is the highest debut for a British artist's first studio album in the US since Susan Boyle's I Dreamed a Dream.
Media interest surrounding + was fuelled significantly by its two preceding singles—"The A Team" and "You Need Me, I Don't Need You"—which peaked at number one and number four on the UK Singles Chart respectively. "Lego House" was released on 11 November 2011 as the album's third single and emulated the chart success of its predecessors, peaking at number five in the UK. Three further singles were released throughout the year; "Drunk", "Small Bump" and "Give Me Love", all of which charted within the top 25 of the UK Singles Chart. It was met with generally mixed reviews from music critics.

~ Provided by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%2B_(album)) under Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

Side Effects of You

Fantasia

Love In The Future

John Legend

Paradise

Lana Del Rey
Even after selling nearly three million copies of her debut album worldwide, Lana Del Rey still faced a challenge during 2012: namely, proving to critics and prospective fans that Born to Die wasn't a fluke. In that spirit, Del Ray released Paradise, a mini-album close to Christmas, that finds her in perfect control of her voice, much more assured than she was even one year ago, and frequently capable of astonishing her listeners with a very convincing act. As for the sound, it should be familiar to fans of Born to Die, with strings that move at a glacial pace, drums that crash like waves in slow motion, and additional textures (usually electric guitar or piano) that are cinematic in their sound and references. There's really only one difference between Born to Die and Paradise, but it's a big one. Instead of acting the submitting, softcore, '60s-era plaything, here she's more of a wasted, hardcore, post-millennial plaything. She even goes so far as to tell her audience that she likes it rough (in words that earn the parental advisory sticker), to ask whether she can put on a show, and at her most explicit, proffering a simile that compares the taste of an intimate part of her anatomy to Pepsi. The inclusion of a cover, "Blue Velvet," is not only a perfect match for her style, but also a hint that she can perform up to better material. Still, all of this is merely the material for her continuing popularity and attraction. She puts it better here than anyone else, with another simile: "Like a groupie incognito posing as a real singer, life imitates art."

John Bush, Rovi

Yeezus

Kanye West

The Marshall Mathers LP2

Eminem

A Color Map of the Sun

Pretty Lights

Hesitation Marks

Nine Inch Nails

The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2

Justin Timberlake

Three Kings

TGT

Blunderbuss

Jack White
With no band, a bum marriage and no scene on which to hang his hat, there's a certain loner catharsis in Jack White's first solo effort, as if now, at long last, he's free to get some things off his chest. Over the fusion of garage rock and yesteryear Americana, Blunderbuss is a bristling rant that comes cheek-to-jowl with bruised men who suffer at the hands of wicked women. It's too simplistic to imagine that White's bitter muse was the recent end of a six-year marriage; between simple riffs, White's message eviscerates the concept of love itself. It can happen with a primitive bash ("Sixteen Saltines"), a flourish of piano ("Hypocritical Kiss") or barbed jabs of distorted guitar, but White rarely strays off message: love kills.

Nate Cavalieri, Google Play

3.0

Marc Anthony

Four The Record

Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert struck gold with her third album, Revolution, which sent two songs to the top of the country charts. Four the Record looks to continue her winning streak, mixing sassy country-pop with a handful of rustic, bluegrass-influenced songs. Despite writing most of the music on her previous records, Lambert only pens six songs on this disc, looking to outside songwriters like Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, and Pistol Annies' bandmate Ashley Monroe to provide the remaining eight. Even so, a moving duet with husband Blake Shelton on “Better in the Long Run” proves she’s still willing to keep things within the family., Rovi

Better

Chrisette Michele

Mechanical Bull

Kings Of Leon

Settle

Disclosure

The Next Day

David Bowie
Starting in 2002, David Bowie released two excellent albums in quick succession with old friend Tony Visconti (the brooding Heathen and the more rocking Reality) that showcased a refreshed and reinvigorated artist. Neither of these were the reputation-changers they deserved to be but funny how emergency heart surgery and a decade spent out of the public eye reverses the blasé attitudes of both public and press.

Taken as a complete experience, The Next Day comes off as a rebellion against everything in current pop. The album was recorded very quickly, without fuss (which, truth to tell, is the usual Bowie way of working) and the songs don't outstay their welcome. Instead of riding on endless grooves provided by industry insiders, Bowie once again works with Visconti and gathers old friends on songs that have a jagged, live-in-the-studio feel. Records may just be promos for monster, money-making tours now but Bowie isn't doing concerts. The internet gives us non-stop celebrity culture, but Bowie isn't talking—so there aren't any interviews with the warm, witty Cockney to contrast against the regal, iconic alien.

Spiky and agitated without coming off as bitter, the album hurtles out of the gate with the title track, slows down on the caustic "Dirty Boys" and jumbles celebrity and mortality on "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)." The majority of the songs here are lean rockers, with Station to Station's Earl Slick juggling the lead guitar slot with David Torn. Sometimes the songs brush past previous works (is that the drum intro to "Five Years" ending "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die"?) but this is an album about the rush to a future we know isn't going to end well for any of us. The elegiac love song "Where Are We Now?" treats memories like the walking dead and holds on to loved ones in the here and now. David Bowie doesn't pretend to have any answers with The Next Day but he still pushes ahead because that is what artists do -- they create. Instead of leaving you feeling empty, listening to this dark album is a strangely satisfying, enlivening experience. – Nick Dedina, Google Play

- Nick Dedina, Google Play

...Like Clockwork

Queens Of The Stone Age
Featuring the sprawling, riff-strewn single "My God Is the Sun" and guest appearances from the likes of Elton John and Alex Turner, …Like Clockwork is the sixth studio album from Queens of the Stone Age, following 2007's Era Vulgaris. With Josh Homme's trademark cool vocals and high-octane guitar lines backed by the powerful drumming of Dave Grohl, …Like Clockwork is an album full of invention and attitude., Rovi

Burning Lights

Chris Tomlin
As the composer of celebrated modern worship anthems like "Our God," "How Great Is Our God," "Jesus, Messiah," "I Lift My Hands," and "Holy Is the Lord," Chris Tomlin has enough Dove and Grammy awards to simply rest on his laurels, press execute, and produce endless collections of paint-by-numbers praise jams that will eventually work their way into ministry halftime shows the world over. Burning Lights, his eighth non-Passion event studio album, which features collaborations with Lecrae, Christy Nockels, Kari Jobe, and Phil Wickham, stays true to the worship leader's penchant for crafting immaculately rendered slabs of inspirational modern rock that crib from Brit-pop, AOR rock, and folk, but they hardly sound phoned in. Lyrically, CCM is hardly a demanding genre, as it relies on familiar phrases and themes that are endlessly recycled and refurbished, but Tomlin has a way of delivering hyperbole without the glazed-over patina of some of his peers, due in large part to his rich, even-keeled voice and temperate delivery. His knack for conjuring up instantly engaging melodies has elicited another solid set of praise-based earworms with highlights coming from the rousing opener "Awake My Soul," which features a soulful hip-hop/sermon midsection courtesy of the aforementioned Lecrae; the string- and choir-laden closer "Shepherd Boy"; a stirring, arena-ready update on the traditional hymn "Crown Him with Many Crowns"("Crown Him [Majesty]"); and the album's official first single, "Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)," which found its way onto CCM radio and into churches months before Burning Lights' official release.

James Christopher Monger, Rovi

Trouble Will Find Me

The National
Brooklyn indie rockers the National release Trouble Will Find Me, their sixth studio album and follow-up to 2010's critically acclaimed High Violet. Produced by the band's guitarist twins Aaron and Bryce Dessner and featuring the powerful build of "Demons," Trouble Will Find Me is once again evidence of the National's ability to captivate the listener from beginning to end, with the help of emotive lyrics delivered in Matt Berninger's trademark baritone style.

Daniel Clancy, Rovi

Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Explicit Version)

Various Artists
Quentin Tarantino's new love letter to exploitation cinema, Django Unchained conflates spaghetti Westerns with the lurid plantation heat of slavery potboilers like Mandingo. Like nearly all of his soundtracks, he mixes snippets of dialogue from the movie with new songs, which in this case includes Rick Ross' defiant "100 Black Coffins," Anthony Hamilton and Elayna Boynton's hopeful "Freedom" and John Legend's surprisingly gritty "Who Did That to You?"; new and old incidental music from Ennio Morricone and Luis Bacalov; and vintage pop chestnuts like Jim Croce's "I Got a Name." The oddest thing here is "Unchained," a mashup of 2Pac's "Untouchable" and James Brown's "The Payback," as if one blaxploitation brother were speaking to another.

Mosi Reeves, Google Play

En Peligro De Extinción

Intocable
Reacting to the increasingly "pop" slant of the Latin pop music charts, Intocable proudly declare themselves an "endangered species" on this 2013 release. To avoid extinction, they fight back with guitars, the firm downbeat of live drums, and other rock & roll sounds from the North that seem to be vanishing off the regional charts. Numbers like "Cómo Se Fue Ella" and "Culpable Fui (Culpable Soy)" stand tall with the veteran band's strongest material, but it's best to start with the big hit "Te Amo (Para Siempre)" or the opening "Nos Faltó Hablar," since both are easy and attractive entry points for this satisfying and nostalgic album.

David Jeffries, Rovi

Disarm The Descent

Killswitch Engage
Though their (second) self-titled album found Killswitch Engage reintroducing themselves as a more accessible, albeit still plenty frenzied, metalcore band, their sixth album, Disarm the Descent, feels as though they're reintroducing themselves not to the audience, but to one another. Returning to the band after the departure of Howard Jones in 2012, original vocalist Jesse Leach finds himself once again picking up vocals duties after parting ways with the group in 2002. Though Leach was a part of the band during their formative years, over a decade has passed since then, and while the performances by all parties involved here are certainly solid ones, they don't quite capture the raw power of their earlier work. In the time since Leach left the fold, Killswitch Engage have matured into a tighter, more refined band than they were for Alive or Just Breathing, and while Leach has certainly grown as a singer in the intervening years, the album doesn't quite recapture that sense of catharsis the band possessed back then. This isn't to say that the album is bad -- in fact, it's quite solidly constructed, an almost watertight specimen of technical acumen -- but that fans expecting this album to be a full-on time machine back to 2002 might be a bit disappointed. What the album might lack in muscle, however, it makes up for in speed, often feeling like a throwback to the days of thrash's blistering technicality, but where past album rampaged, this one merely races. At the end of the day, defining the exact shade of Disarm the Descent's melodic aggression might be splitting hairs, the most important thing for Killswitch fans is that while the band might be adjusting after a shake-up like losing a singer, they've still managed to create another riff-fest that, while not a throwback to their older sound, has them continuing down their current path without much trouble.

Gregory Heaney, Rovi