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Iggy Pop

Préliminaires

Astralwerks

Buy if you like: Tom Waits, Serge Gainsbourg

From the first French syllable that comes out of his mouth on "Les Feuilles Mortes" to the final utterance of its closing reprise, Iggy Pop coolly defies expectations on Préliminaires, his 15th solo studio album. Loosely based on Michel Houellebecq's 2005 novel The Possibility of an Island, Pop's meditations on sex, death and going to the beach are wrapped up in café balladry, driven by acoustic blues guitar, soaked in strings or popping with synths. Only the pounding "It's Nice to Be Dead" brings the guitars and Ig-noise. Proving he's as much a world-weary singer as he is a screamer, Iggy channels his inner Serge Gainsbourg on the French numbers, wanders into Tom Waits terrain on "King of the Dogs" and sounds like William S. Burroughs on "A Machine for Loving," another song about a dog from the man who long ago wanted to be yours. — L. Kent Wolgamott

Tori Amos

Abnormally Attracted to Sin

Universal Republic

Buy if you like: Fiona Apple, the original Broadway cast recording of Wicked

Toriphiles expecting the good vibes and strong songwriting of 2007's American Doll Posse will here find their fiery chanteuse returning to the forgettable experimental/electronica digressions of albums like The Beekeeper. On these 17 tracks, Amos' quintessential sound suffers from nondescript songwriting, with the solemn "Welcome to England" coming closest to any previous Amos high-water marks. The upbeat "Not Dying Today" actually has a (gasp!) William Orbit-era Madonna sound. The problem is Amos' incessant desire for distance from her alt-rock roots. A perfect example is the ballad "Lady in Blue," which begins with a Broadway-esque stage performance before a strong guitar lead takes over too late. Ultimately, Amos' best bet is to concentrate on her strengths, creating anthemic rock-based tracks that bite, not bore. — John Benson

Chickenfoot

Chickenfoot

Redline Entertainment

Buy if you like: Van Hagar, AC/DC

Sammy Hagar may no longer be in the picture for Van Halen (if, indeed, that band is really back for any sort of extended run), but with Chickenfoot he seems to be reviving a bit of that late 1980s/early '90s legacy. Heck, the band even includes former Van Halen bassist Michael Anthony. And in guitarist Joe Satriani, Chickenfoot has a shredder who's certainly the equal of Eddie Van Halen, while Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith can match the rumble of Eddie's brother Alex. Musically, this debut shares much of the ham-fisted pedigree of Van Hagar tunes like "Poundcake" — in other words, fat and simple guitar chords, thunderous drums and a bit of guitar dazzle. It all works because most of the songs are plenty catchy and rock with conviction. It's not exactly musical rocket science, but when done well, it sure is entertaining. — Alan Sculley

  • Iggy Pop, Tori Amos, Chickenfoot

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