The Odd Couple
There’s no “Crazy Part 2” here, but Gnarls Barkley’s sophomore album is more rewarding than the debut. The peppy pity party “Charity Case,” the sunny ode to congenital sightlessness “Blind Mary,” and “Surprise,” a song about mortality’s inevitability sung over what sounds like an old Mamas and the Papas 45, will do just fine for hits.
Repeat listens will help you appreciate the album’s true highlights: “Run (I’m a Natural Disaster),” “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul?” and “A Little Better.” All of them sound like what you’ve always wanted from Moby: gorgeous, golden-age soul samples with lots of cool-sounding robot shit.
Be Your Own Pet
Buy the import. The folks at Universal decided three songs on this album are too awesome (i.e. “violent”) for American ears. Since they cut a goofball doo-wop song about stabbing an ex-best friend (the kick-ass “Becky”) and left in a serious-sounding song about cutting yourself to hurt others (the disturbingly kick-ass “Twisted Nerve”), I’m guessing they’re worried about taking the rap for a teeny-bopper school shooting. But not only are these songs some of the album’s best, this noisy, ultraviolent glam-punk has gotta be cathartic for all that perky-girl rage. Don’t worry about the Be Your Own Pet fans. If some pubescent girl is packing an automatic weapon in her Hello Kitty backpack, she’s probably listening to Hannah Montana.
The Black Keys
This is what awkward white-boy blues should sound like. The minimalist instrumentation and gloaming vocals achieve beautiful depression without attempting to jack the swagger and pain that only years of actual oppression can buy. Album closer “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” is the current frontrunner for prettiest suicide-inducing song of 2008, “Lies” finds a topic people of all races can piss and moan about, and “Strange Times” somehow manages to rock Led Zeppelin style without all the masturbation instrumentation.