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Lorde, Glen Hansard and R. Kelly 

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Lorde

Pure Heroine

Universal Music

File next to: Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding

Now that the 17-year-old New Zealander is on everyone's year-end swoon lists, grumps are asking if the world needs another Lana Del Rey, this time on Prozac. Such dismissals aren't fair. Most teen musicians under recording contracts usually aim at tweeny-bop ethereal dance, but Lorde is almost as relevant as Jake Bugg, albeit light on the politics. Her dreamy delivery borrows from languorous Lana and several Grimes-style electronic musicians. Those who find "Royals" or "Tennis Court" insufferable may favor the more substantive lyrics in "Ribs" or "Team" — what Taylor Swift might write if she was into minimalist abstract sound. While proper credit should go to co-writer Joel Little and engineer Stuart Hawkes, this debut is so impressive that in five years, Lorde might be as advanced as the 23-year-old Laura Marling. Provided she doesn't implode first. — Loring Wirbel

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Glen Hansard

Drive All Night

Anti/Epitaph

File next to: Jeff Buckley, Van Morrison

Irish singer-songwriter and erstwhile Once star Glen Hansard presents a fine coda to his 2012 solo album, Rhythm and Repose, with this EP. Built around an appropriately full-blooded reading of Bruce Springsteen's epic ballad, "Drive All Night," Hansard turns in a typically raw and emotive vocal performance, joined by Eddie Vedder on backing vocals and featuring the late Clarence Clemons' nephew Jake Clemons on saxophone. The three accompanying tracks are more subdued, but no less fascinating — "Renata" is a soulful folk-rock number featuring Hansard's Once co-star Markéta Irglová, "Pennies in the Fountain" is a shadowy, mystical ballad, and "Step Out of the Shadows" is a robust, a cappella epitaph. A portion of the proceeds from Drive All Night benefits Little Kids Rock, a charity dedicated to preserving music education in public schools. — Collin Estes

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R. Kelly

Black Panties

RCA

File next to: Jeremih, Usher

In the interest of full disclosure, my fascination with R. Kelly extends mostly to his audacious and, apparently, unintentionally hilarious "hip-hopera," Trapped in the Closet. Much like that video series, Black Panties is so over-the-top and ham-fisted it plays like satire. But is it? Is Kelly sincere when he compares... uh... something to an Oreo on "Cookie"? It's honestly difficult to determine motives when the sexuality of this album is so comically overt — Kelly is literally playing a woman like a cello in one cover shot. The technical and musical elements here are secondary to the thematic material, and as such, you probably already know if you want to hear it or not. All the same, even if you're curious in a facetious sense, it's hard to hail an album with a track called "Throw This Money on You" as a postmodern masterstroke. — Collin Estes

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