Longest Day of the Year Collection (Promotion Has Expired)

Achtung Baby

U2
Reinventions rarely come as thorough and effective as Achtung Baby, an album that completely changed U2's sound and style. The crashing, unrecognizable distorted guitars that open "Zoo Station" are a clear signal that U2 have traded their Americana pretensions for postmodern, contemporary European music. Drawing equally from Bowie's electronic, avant-garde explorations of the late '70s and the neo-psychedelic sounds of the thriving rave and Madchester club scenes of early-'90s England, Achtung Baby sounds vibrant and endlessly inventive. Unlike their inspirations, U2 rarely experiment with song structures over the course of the album. Instead, they use the thick dance beats, swirling guitars, layers of effects, and found sounds to break traditional songs out of their constraints, revealing the tortured emotional core of their songs with the hyper-loaded arrangements. In such a dense musical setting, it isn't surprising that U2 have abandoned the political for the personal on Achtung Baby, since the music, even with its inviting rhythms, is more introspective than anthemic. Bono has never been as emotionally naked as he is on Achtung Baby, creating a feverish nightmare of broken hearts and desperate loneliness; unlike other U2 albums, it's filled with sexual imagery, much of it quite disturbing, and it ends on a disquieting note. Few bands as far into their career as U2 have recorded an album as adventurous or fulfilled their ambitions quite as successfully as they do on Achtung Baby, and the result is arguably their best album.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Greatest Hits

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers

Greatest Hits

Mötley Crüe
Mötley Crüe parted ways with Elektra in the spring of 1998, releasing their second compilation, Greatest Hits, on their own label that fall. Weighing in at 17 tracks, including two pedestrian new songs, Greatest Hits duplicates much of Decade of Decadence, featuring no less than eight songs -- "Looks That Kill," "Home Sweet Home" (original, not the Decade version), "Smokin' in the Boys' Room," "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Wild Side," "Dr. Feelgood," "Kickstart My Heart" (original, not the live version that was on Decade), "Primal Scream" -- that were on the previous collection. Considering all that overlap, you can be forgiven for thinking that the two compilations are interchangeable, but Greatest Hits actually has the edge, not just because it doesn't feature the silly "Anarchy in the U.K." cover, but because it features a greater selection of hits from their masterpiece, Dr. Feelgood, including "Without You," "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," and "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)," all of which weren't on Decade. It has its flaws, to be sure -- the sequencing is illogical, the newer songs are lame, and the original "Shout at the Devil" should have been featured instead of the atrocious Generation Swine re-recording -- but it's still the best overview yet assembled. [This compilation was also released with bonus tracks in 2009.]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Loud

Rihanna
At her best, Rihanna blends machinated artifice with softness and pathos. She often flits between these two opposites, but her 2010 album Loud strikes a near-perfect balance. Her previous album, 2009's Rated R, was a pessimistic response to a humiliating assault by onetime boyfriend Chris Brown on the eve of the 2009 Grammys. And it's easy to hear Loud as a dialogue with her former paramour, but the album sounds redemptive. It's full of songs about rough sex, like "S&M" and "Skin," but Rihanna sounds like she's embracing her own kinky pleasure, and she sounds angelic over the trance pop of "Only Girl (In the World)." If Rated R was defensive, then Loud strikes an introspective and regretful tone, sometimes with necessary violence on the dancehall-tinged "Man Down," other times with the codependent romance of "Love the Way You Lie." "Maybe I'm a masochist," she sings on the latter. Rihanna's sexual politics are undeniably complicated, but it wouldn't matter if Loud wasn't a great R&B/pop album.

Mosi Reeves, Google Play

Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager

Kid Cudi
Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon II was released in a year where rap album sequels were common, but unlike most of the competition, this sequel has a very strong link to its predecessor. It’s actually the outcome of the alt-rap star’s breakthrough debut as it deals with fame, and Cudi’s admittedly unwise way of handling it, liquid cocaine. As a result, you have to care quite a bit about this Mr. Solo Dolo character for Man on the Moon II to fully work its magic. Cudi’s opening line “You are now in the world that I’m ruining” is a spot-on warning as the album slowly spirals down into sourness and regret, but just like on his debut, the soundscape is spacy and far-reaching, making this interstellar therapy session a much more interesting transmission. At its best, it’s fascinating, like when rapper Cage and indie singer St. Vincent whirl in a paranoid black hole dubbed “Maniac,” while Cudi issues more warnings with “I love the darkness, yea, I’d like to marry it”. “Don’t Play This Song,” with Mary J. Blige, puts it even more bluntly with “Wanna know what it sounds like when I’m not on drugs?/Please, please don’t play this song” while the great “Wild’n Cuz I’m Young” tells snooping blogs they shouldn’t bother, he’ll tell his own story. Elsewhere, he seems admirably open to the idea of disgrace, but those who grow tired of the star’s indulgences will have to wait around for the out of place yet welcome numbers, like the Kanye West and rock guitar feature “Erase Me” or the dream pop influenced “Marijuana” which runs 4:20 for a reason. In the end, the lonely stoner of his debut seemed to have a wider appeal, but the contradictory, troubled artist presented here will give the Cudi faithful much more to ponder. Everything else is equal, so skeptically ease yourself in or take the full dive accordingly.

David Jeffries, Rovi

Recovery

Eminem

So Far Gone

Drake
No doubt about it, Drake blew up big time in 2009. The one-time TV actor (from Degrassi High: The Next Generation) hooked up with Lil Wayne a couple years previously, worked the mixtape and collabo circuit hard for a spell, and then suddenly hit with the song "Best I Ever Had." The song was taken from the So Far Gone mixtape and became, arguably, the top summer jam of 2009. After a ferocious bidding war, Drake ended up signing with Universal Motown (while keeping his affiliation with Weezy's Young Money and Cash Money intact), and they officially introduced Drake with the So Far Gone EP. The release included seven tracks from the mixtape and gave undeniable proof that the hype and noise surrounding the rapper were all justified. The productions (courtesy of members of Drake's Toronto-based crew) are nuanced and powerful, the hooks are huge, and Drake has lyrical skills and a vocal flow that make him one of the best young spitters on the scene. The twists and turns of his words keep the songs interesting on repeated listens, the equal amounts of inspired raunchiness and heart-felt introspection make for a truly well-rounded presentation, and most impressively, the youngster manages to keep up with his mentor on the three tracks Lil Wayne adds verses to. His rapping style owes some to Wayne's drawling and woozy delivery, but he also has some of Kanye's erudition, Jay-Z's bite, and plenty of contemporary R&B influence. In the end, though, the melding of the various influences means he comes up with something all his own. That the memorable, constantly surprising lyrics and smooth flow are laid on top of the rich productions and sticky hooks means that there are some jams here that will put the competition on their heels. Best I Ever Had is the instant classic, but the other six songs are just as impressive. The melancholy "Houstatlantavegas" and "The Calm" show Drake's sensitive side, "Successful" and "Uptown" are hard-edged pop-rap, "I'm Goin' In" gives a glimpse of Drake's hardcore credentials, and "Fear" wraps up the too-short EP with some nice symphonic soul-rap. When an artist is as talked about and hyped as Drake was in 2009, it's easy to write them off as an industry creation or some kind of fluke. So Far Gone shows that Drake is for real, and works as a tantalizing teaser for his first full-length record.

Tim Sendra, Rovi

Hell: The Sequel

Bad Meets Evil

Pink Friday... Roman Reloaded

Nicki Minaj
Left to her own devices, Nicki Minaj is undoubtedly one of rap's leading experimentalists. The opening six tracks of her sophomore album are mad scientist-brilliant, an unhinged machine gun spray of gender-confused, theatrical growls set to spastic layers of hopscotch rhythms. And then, ever so abruptly, the record resets itself as an act of pop conservatism as Nicki morphs into a Rihanna-like, Auto-Tuned cipher in the hands of chart-stomping producers like Red One (who's worked with Lady Gaga) and Dr. Luke (Katy Perry). Their europop formulas will certainly spin off a few radio hits but it's hard to view those as anything but underwhelming in the wake of the album's revolutionary first third. Roman Reloaded is a frustrating split screen of pop's beautifully twisted future and its increasingly dull present.

Andrew Nosnitsky, Google Play

Welcome Reality

Nero
Welcome Reality is London dubstep duo Nero’s first full-length album. Nero were part of the BBC’s Sound of 2011 poll in December 2010. The duo has had a lot of underground success, winning Best Dubstep Act at the 2010 Beatport Awards and even having a song included in The New Yorker magazine’s top songs of 2009. Welcome Reality was preceded by four singles, “Innocence,” “Me and You,” “Guilt,” and “Promises.”, Rovi

Tailgates And Tanlines

Luke Bryan
The third time around, Luke Bryan doubles down on his calling card: his inherent sweetness, the warmth he has as the country boy next door. Bryan is so genial that when he implores his country girl to “shake it for me,” there’s nary a trace of lasciviousness: he just wants to be sure she’s having a good time. This aw-shucks generosity resonates throughout Tailgates & Tanlines, a record that capitalizes on the relaxed professionalism of 2009’s Doin’ My Thing. Bryan’s bright setting plays as pop -- it’s too clean and crisp, too bereft of grit to ever be mistaken as something hardcore -- but his foundation is pure country, songs that are sturdy and unfussy, never bothering with sugary pop hooks. This is a slight shift from Doin’ My Thing, which was pop enough to have a OneRepublic cover fit within the context, but Bryan retains the shiny friendliness of his sophomore set and marries it to songs that are strictly country, whether they’re a lazy Sunday stroll like “Too Damn Young,” the country corn of “You Don’t Know Jack,” the farmtown anthem “Harvest Time,” the blues stomp of “Muckalee Creek Water,” or the open-road sprightliness of “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.” Much of this is modern in sensibility, anchored by subtle ties to the past, a deliberate move from Bryan both as a writer -- he had a hand in penning eight of the 13 tunes here -- and a performer, showing that he knows exactly what his strengths are: he’s not flashy yet he’s not boring, he’s laid-back and assured, a modern guy who knows his roots but is happy to be in the present, and it’s hard not to smile along with the guy as he sings.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Greatest Hits

The Who
Released in advance of the Who’s half-time appearance at the 2010 Superbowl, the 2009 Greatest Hits reworks the 2004 collection Then and Now: 1964-2000, retaining the basic structure of that compilation (including its then-new bonus track “Real Good Looking Boy”), trimming its 20 tracks down to 19 -- “I’m a Boy,” “See Me, Feel Me,” and “5:15” traded for “Pictures of Lily” and “Eminence Front,” the new “Old Red Wine” swapped for “It’s Not Enough” from their 2006 comeback Endless Wire -- but otherwise not changing much about the basic character of the album. This collection remains a solid overview of the Who’s basics, containing every one of the huge hits from “My Generation” to “Who Are You,” all sequenced chronologically. There are no surprises and no need to get this if you already own one of the many Who collections released over the years, but if Townshend and Daltrey’s Superbowl set piques some interest in procuring a Who hits album, this will surely satisfy.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Up All Night

Kip Moore
No one in country music ever went wrong singing about trucks, and that's exactly how Georgia boy Kip Moore made his way to the upper rungs of the charts, scoring high with his single "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" before he even had an album out. On his full-length debut, we can hear Moore's musical personality more fully fleshed out, and, among other things, Up All Night is an excellent illustration of the degree to which '70s/'80s heartland rock has informed modern-day country. Moore—who co-wrote every song on the album—makes it clear he's a stone-cold country boy with the lyrics in songs like "Beer Money," "Reckless (Still Growin' Up)," and the aforementioned truck track. But musically, once you take away the occasional pedal steel, there's little here that would sound out of place on a classic Bob Seger album, which is no liability whichever side of the rock/country fence you occupy.

Jim Allen, Google Play

The Legend Of Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash
The Legend of Johnny Cash is billed as the "first ever complete career spanning collection," which is true to a certain extent -- other collections cover territory from 1955 to 2003, but this is the first to contain everything from Sun to Cash's Rick Rubin-produced comeback recordings for American in the '90s and 2000s. Since the biggest complaint that could be lodged against the otherwise excellent 2005 box The Legend -- which, despite appearances to the contrary, is an entirely different compilation -- was that it contained none of these Rubin-produced records, it would seem like The Legend Of would be a bit of a godsend, but that's not necessarily true. If The Legend contained too little of Cash's American recordings, The Legend Of contains too many. At 21 tracks it would seem like this would contain most of Cash's signature songs, and while it does contain a great many of them, it's hampered by the whopping six songs devoted to his American recordings -- add to the mix the 1993 Cash-sung U2 cut "The Wanderer" and "Highwayman" by Cash's outlaw supergroup with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, and that's just a little under half of the disc devoted to music made after his prime. Not just that, but the music he made after he left Columbia partway through the '80s often does not sit well with his classic Sun and Columbia records -- as soon as the synths and big drums of "Highwayman" kick in, the feel of the music changes. While Rubin's work doesn't sound as completely foreign as the icy Euro-rock textures of "The Wanderer" -- as "Rusty Cage" and "I've Been Everywhere," the two selections from 1996's excellent Unchained prove, Rubin knew how to revitalize Cash's signature sound (tellingly, those are the only Rubin-helmed sessions where Cash was supported by a full band) -- there is simply too much of it here, particularly because the stark, monochromatic acoustic readings of "Delia's Gone" and "Give My Love to Rose" sound neutered compared to the versions Cash cut with the Tennessee Two. Also, such a heavy representation of these American recordings makes the collection lopsided, suggesting that these later works were as good, if not better, than the music that made his fame, fortune, and legend (a suggestion strengthened by the fact that Rubin is the only producer who gets a back-cover billing), which is not the case -- Cash's liveliest, deepest, and best music remains what he cut in the '50s and '60s. And while just over half of this compilation is devoted to that music -- all the big hits are hauled out once again -- there still is too much latter-day material for this to be an entirely accurate, satisfying collection (particularly with such big hits as "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," "Five Feet High and Rising," "Daddy Sang Bass," and "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," among other signature tunes, missing). That said, for a brief one-stop overview of Cash's career, this is pretty good -- comps that concentrate solely on the Sun and Columbia eras are more consistent, but this has most of the big singles, which will certainly fill the needs of those who want a compilation that covers a lot of ground.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Rubber Factory

The Black Keys
It's easy to think of the Black Keys as the flip side of the White Stripes. They both hail from the Midwest, they both work a similar garage blues ground and both have color-coded names. If they're not quite kissing cousins, they're certainly kindred spirits, and they're following surprisingly similar career arcs, as the Keys' third album, Rubber Factory, is neatly analogous to the Stripes' third album breakthrough, White Blood Cells. Rubber Factory finds the duo expanding, stretching, and improving, coming into its own as a distinctive, original, thoroughly great rock & roll band. With 2003's Thickfreakness, guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach and drummer/producer Patrick Carney delivered on the promise of a raw, exciting debut by sharpening their sound and strengthening the songwriting, thereby upping the ante for their next record, and Rubber Factory doesn't disappoint. Instead, it surprises in a number of delightful ways, redefining the duo without losing the essence of the band. For instance, the production has more shades than either The Big Come Up or Thickfreakness -- witness the creepy late-night vibe of the opening "When the Lights Go Out" or how the spare, heartbroken, and slide guitar-laden "The Lengths" sounds like it's been rusted over -- but it's also harder, nastier, and uglier than those albums, piled with truly brutal, gut-level guitar. Yet through these sheets of noise, vulnerability pokes through, not just on "The Lengths," but in a lazy, loping, terrific version of the Kinks' "Act Nice and Gentle." And, like their cover of the Beatles' "She Said, She Said" on their debut, "Act Nice and Gentle" illustrates that even if the Black Keys have more legit blues credentials than any of their peers, they're nevertheless an indie rock band raised with not just a knowledge of classic rock, but with excellent taste and, most importantly, an instinct for what makes great rock & roll. They know that sound matters, not just "how" a band plays but how a band is recorded, and that blues sounds better when it's unvarnished, which is why each of their records feels more like a real blues album than anything cut since the '60s. But they're not revivalists, either. They've absorbed the language of classic rock and the sensibility of indie rock -- they're turning familiar sounds into something nervy and fresh, music that builds on the past yet lives fearlessly in the moment. On a sheer gut level, they're intoxicating and that alone would be enough to make Rubber Factory a strong listen, but what makes it transcendent is that Auerbach has developed into such a fine songwriter. His songs have enough melodic and lyrical twists to make it seem like he's breaking rules, but his trick is that he's doing this within traditional blues-rock structures. He's not just reinvigorating a familiar form, he's doing it without a lick of pretension; it never seems as if the songs were written, but that they've always existed and have just been discovered, which is true of any great blues song. Carney gives these songs the production they deserve -- some tunes are dense and heavy with guitars, others are spacious and haunting -- and the result is the most exciting and best rock & roll record of 2004.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

American Capitalist

Five Finger Death Punch
For their third album, Five Finger Death Punch deliver another dose of crunchy, hard-hitting jams ready-made for the mosh pit. With its relentless heaviness and chugging riffs, American Capitalist captures the raw aggression of the era of post-Pantera groove metal, occasionally tempering the fire with some cleaner, more soaring passages that give listeners a brief respite before throwing them straight back into the action with a sonic barrage. While songs like the searing title track and “Menace” are punishing exercises in aggression, what’s most impressive are the (relatively) gentle songs like “Coming Down” and “Remember Everything,” where the bandmembers show that they can even make their ballads heavy. This kind of constant drive away from the more watered-down sound of a lot of their post-grunge contemporaries and toward metal is something that allows Five Finger Death Punch to stand out in a genre that’s easy to get lost in. If you’re a fan of bands like Sevendust and Mudvayne and you haven’t checked these guys out yet, now is the time.

Rocket Man: Number Ones

Elton John
Hard to believe, but there's never been a good single-disc overview of Elton John's biggest hits available in America until 2007's 17-track Rocket Man: Number Ones. (The British release added one track and was titled Rocket Man: The Definitive Hits.) He's had plenty of collections, including a good single-disc European set that circulated in the late '90s, but Rocket Man is the first to really offer a solid career-spanning overview as a single-disc set. Of course, even though this pulls number ones from various charts in the U.S. and U.K. there are big hits missing -- whether it's classics like "Honky Cat," which never reached the pole position in the U.S., or latter-day number ones like "I Don't Want to Go on You Like That," which did top the adult contemporary chart -- but it's hard to argue with what's here (with the possible exception of "Sacrifice," which does represent his late-'80s/early-'90s adult contemporary work but isn't one of his best hits). All the big songs -- "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," "Bennie and the Jets," "Daniel," "Crocodile Rock," "Philadelphia Freedom," "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?," "Your Song," "Candle in the Wind" -- are here, which will satisfy the casual fan for whom this is designed. Anybody who laments the absence of "Levon," "Someone Saved My Life Tonight," "Mama Can't Buy You Love," "I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues," or "I'm Still Standing" should turn to another compilation: this is not the set for them. But for the fan who wants a good sampling of Elton throughout the years, this is ideal.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Greatest Hitz

Limp Bizkit

Klusterf**k Ep

Tech N9ne
Over the past two decades, Kansas City's Tech N9ne has built an indie empire off his reliable combination of face paint, theatrics and highly virtuosic rapping. The Klusterfuk EP is the latest small entry into that legacy, and though it offers some interesting left turns in both guests and sonics—an unexpected collaboration with veteran Houston street rappers Aqualeo, some minor dubstep flourishes on "Blur"—it's basically just another excuse for him to do his Tech N9ne thing. It's a predictable formula at this point, but never any less than impressive. He raps well, he raps aggressively, he raps fast. Emotions get splattered in the process, but if you blink you'll miss 'em. So while the EP is just a short six tracks long, it doesn't feel at all slight. In fact, Klusterfuk might be the ideal size for the uninitiated looking to digest Tech's style.

Andrew Nosnitsky, Google Play

Beyond Hell / Above Heaven

Volbeat
A first listen to Danish "metal rockers" Volbeat's Beyond Hell/Above Heaven, reveals how completely they've consolidated all the elements they've experimented with since 2007's Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil: punk, roots rock & roll, rockabilly, heavy metal, death metal, country, and '70s hard rock. Power chords, hooky melodies, chanted choruses, lyric themes obsessed with the no-man's land that exists between -- and beyond -- good and evil, and the sense of hard partying recklessness simultaneously reflect influences as wide as Social Distortion, the Misfits, AC/DC, and Metallica, Judas Priest, and Exodus. Once more recorded and engineered by Jacob Hansen, Beyond Hell/Above Heaven extends the narrative that began on Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood with two more chapters in the saga via the tracks "7 Shots," and opener "The Mirror and the Ripper." The former is a perfect aural illustration of Volbeat's ability to integrate seemingly disparate elements by including banjos (courtesy of Rod Sinclair), bluesman Anders Pederson's slide guitar work, and the heavy metal axe chugging of Kreator's Mille Petrozza and Mercyful Fate-King Diamond six-string pyrotechnician Michael Denner. "Heaven and Hell" is pure AC/DC power riffage sent dimensionally askew by Henrik Hall's killer bluesy harmonica work that transforms the tune melodically into something that balances the Phil Spector-esque side of Glenn Danzig's melodic sensibilities (on the earliest Misfits singles) and late-'70s metal. This cut is followed immediately by the harder, darker, death metal of "Who They Are" that nonetheless carries within it an irresistible, nearly anthemic chorus. Likewise "A Warrior's Call," with its furious doom-and-gloom intro that gives way to a big, bad, strutting rock & roll stomper. "Fallen" recalls the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" in approach, yet is heavier still. The thrash end happens on "Evelyn," with guest vocals by Napalm Death's Mark "Barney" Greenway on the verses before Michael Poulsen adds his trademark lyricism in the chorus. (And this is to say little of the skittering punk-country of "Being 1," an irrepressible love song with teeth.) Any way you slice it, Volbeat, a skillful repository of so many lineage sounds, are their own thing: a band apart who are sophisticated, accessible, and utterly entertaining as songwriters and performers. Nowhere is this more true than on Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. [The album was also released with a bonus track, "Still Counting."]

Thom Jurek, Rovi

Surfer Rosa

Pixies
One of the most compulsively listenable college rock albums of the '80s, the Pixies' 1988 full-length debut Surfer Rosa fulfilled the promise of Come on Pilgrim and, thanks to Steve Albini's production, added a muscular edge that made their harshest moments seem even more menacing and perverse. On songs like "Something Against You," Black Francis' cryptic shrieks and non sequiturs are backed by David Lovering and Kim Deal's punchy rhythms, which are so visceral that they'd overwhelm any guitarist except Joey Santiago, who takes the spotlight on the epic "Vamos." Albini's high-contrast dynamics suit Surfer Rosa well, especially on the explosive opener "Bone Machine" and the kinky, T. Rex-inspired "Cactus." But, like the black-and-white photo of a flamenco dancer on its cover, Surfer Rosa is the Pixies' most polarized work. For each blazing piece of punk, there are softer, poppier moments such as "Where Is My Mind?," Francis' strangely poignant song inspired by scuba diving in the Caribbean, and the Kim Deal-penned "Gigantic," which almost outshines the rest of the album. But even Surfer Rosa's less iconic songs reflect how important the album was in the group's development. The "song about a superhero named Tony" ("Tony's Theme") was the most lighthearted song the Pixies had recorded, pointing the way to their more overtly playful, whimsical work on Doolittle. Francis' warped sense of humor is evident in lyrics like "Bone Machine"'s "He bought me a soda and tried to molest me in the parking lot/Yep yep yep!" In a year that included landmark albums from contemporaries like Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, and My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies managed to turn in one of 1988's most striking, distinctive records. Surfer Rosa may not be the group's most accessible work, but it is one of their most compelling. [A limited edition of the CD was released in 2007.]

The End Is Where We Begin

Thousand Foot Krutch
When Canadian rockers Thousand Foot Krutch walked away from their label deal to record their seventh but first independent album, it was the band's way of reclaiming the power to create the music they wanted to make. The razor-sharp result, The End Is Where We Begin—fueled by its progressive punk/hip-hop DNA fused with frontman Trevor McNevan's lyrical styling—has already become their fastest-selling release to date. And while die-hard fans debate whether this new, uninhibited beginning signals TFK's creative pinnacle, the Kickstarter-funded project bursts with the honest spirituality devotees have come to expect.

Melissa Riddle Chalos, Google Play