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Juanes

P.A.R.C.E.

Universal Latino

Buy if you like: Ruben Blades, Caetano Veloso

This latest album from 17-time Latin Grammy winner Juanes was denied the top spot on Latin music charts last month, thanks to fellow Colombian artist Shakira. No matter, really, since the former Ekhymosis frontman is clearly in this for the long haul. P.A.R.C.E. continues the pop-rock icon's refusal to abandon his native tongue, a smart move given how Rubén Blades' English-language Nothing but the Truth was anything but his best. Not that Juanes is beholden to any one tradition: Traces of Tropicália, reggae and even Arabic melodies find their way into "Yerbatero," "Quimera" and "Regalito." (Note that these last two tracks appear only on the "deluxe" edition.) Other standouts include the moving "Y No Regresas," a slow-burning ballad that pays off with an undeniably infectious chorus. While P.A.R.C.E. definitely has its melancholy moments, Juanes still manages to strike a perfect balance between the slick and soulful, with very few missteps along the way. — Bill Forman

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Jamie Foxx

Best Night of My Life

J Records

Buy if you like: Justin Timberlake, T.I.

Like the press release says, Best Night of My Life follows "the same winning formula of infectious R&B ballads and club bangers" as Foxx's previous bestseller, Intuition. Exactly. It's a formula, one that this time features cameos by rap celebs from Justin Timberlake and T.I. (both on the catchy anthem, "Winner") to Soulja Boy, Ludacris, Wiz Khalifa, Rick Ross and Drake. It's a mix of smooth crooners and boasting raps that are meant to bounce out of massive four-wheeled sound systems. There are slow songs, like "Sleeping Pill," "Gorgeous" and "Rejoice." And there's the exuberant, Jackson 5-like "This Will Be (Intro)," showcasing Foxx's formidable R&B voice, which would be even more awesome without all the Auto-Tuning. Refreshingly though, he skips the misogyny and actually sings a little about love amid the sex and Patrón references. And the positive messages of the aforementioned "Winner" and "Gorgeous" score him extra points. "Freak" is kinda cool, too. Ladies, look out. — Lynne Margolis

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Broken Records

Let Me Come Home

4AD

Buy if you like: Editors, Blue Nile

When Broken Records' debut album came out in 2009, the talented Scots were favorably compared to Arcade Fire and the Levellers, mostly due to their use of violin, cello, trumpet, accordion and the obligatory glockenspiel. But with Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian) at the production helm, Let Me Come Home submerges any folk pretensions well beneath its moody rock atmospherics. "A Leaving Song" suggests a more contemplative, less overtly deranged Nick Cave, "The Motorcycle Boy Reigns" can compete with the best Interpol, and only the string-laden "Home" fully revisits the band's acoustic roots. Frontman Jamie Sutherland has spoken of the band's recent obsession with early R.E.M., which shows in Ian Turnbull's murmuring guitar drones and drummer Andrew Keeney's insistent backbeat. Sutherland's haunted vocals, meanwhile, recall the hushed croon of fellow Scot Paul Buchanan, whose Blue Nile similarly blended poetic nuance and pop smarts. — Bill Forman

  • Juanes, Jamie Foxx, Broken Records

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