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Gwen Stefani  - The Sweet Escape  -  -  - Interscope  -  - Sounds like: A No Doubt mash-up with hip- - hop elite -  - Short take: Stefani's got some street cred -  - No one doubted that No Doubt's Gwen Stefani had the - chops for a solo career. Always positioned out front in - the ska-alt act, Stefani successfully spread her wings - with her multi-platinum debut effort, Love. Angel. - Music. Baby. , which found the SoCal native entering - the dance floor competition with a hip-hop vibe. For her - sophomore effort, a more confident Stefani returns with - The Sweet Escape, featuring collaborations with - Pharrell and the red-hot Akon. She's ready to experiment - with yodeling (see the lead single "Wind it Up") and - experimental hip-hop vibes (The Neptunes-produced - "Yummy"). However, it's the alt-rock-anthem-in-waiting - "Early Winter" that ultimately will define The Sweet - Escape for decades to come. This just in: Stefani is a - bona fide solo success.  John Benson -
  • Gwen Stefani

    The Sweet Escape

    Interscope

    Sounds like: A No Doubt mash-up with hip- hop elite

    Short take: Stefani's got some street cred

    No one doubted that No Doubt's Gwen Stefani had the chops for a solo career. Always positioned out front in the ska-alt act, Stefani successfully spread her wings with her multi-platinum debut effort, Love. Angel. Music. Baby. , which found the SoCal native entering the dance floor competition with a hip-hop vibe. For her sophomore effort, a more confident Stefani returns with The Sweet Escape, featuring collaborations with Pharrell and the red-hot Akon. She's ready to experiment with yodeling (see the lead single "Wind it Up") and experimental hip-hop vibes (The Neptunes-produced "Yummy"). However, it's the alt-rock-anthem-in-waiting "Early Winter" that ultimately will define The Sweet Escape for decades to come. This just in: Stefani is a bona fide solo success. John Benson

Incubus   - Light Grenades  -  -  - Sony  -  - Sounds like: Alt rock sans retread, ego or - bullshit -  - Short take: Incubus knows what it's doing -  - The arc of rock band Incubus has been steep. Originally - a rock act with n-metal leanings, the California band - promptly discarded its Ozzfest fans for more of an alt- - rock approach with hit single success ("Wish You Were - Here," "Drive" and "Nice to Know You"). However, the - group appears to be always looking forward. While its - 2004 album A Crow Left of the Murder -  featured more of a rocking vibe, its latest and fifth - studio effort, Light Grenades, is all over the - place. What starts out as trippy ("Quicksand") and - progressive ("A Kiss to Send us Off") eventually slides - back to the band's old motifs, including the passionately - acoustic "Paper Shoes." Incubus is one of the more - interesting veteran alt-rock acts currently out there; it's - not hard to become blinded by Light Grenades. - John Benson
  • Incubus

    Light Grenades

    Sony

    Sounds like: Alt rock sans retread, ego or bullshit

    Short take: Incubus knows what it's doing

    The arc of rock band Incubus has been steep. Originally a rock act with n-metal leanings, the California band promptly discarded its Ozzfest fans for more of an alt- rock approach with hit single success ("Wish You Were Here," "Drive" and "Nice to Know You"). However, the group appears to be always looking forward. While its 2004 album A Crow Left of the Murder featured more of a rocking vibe, its latest and fifth studio effort, Light Grenades, is all over the place. What starts out as trippy ("Quicksand") and progressive ("A Kiss to Send us Off") eventually slides back to the band's old motifs, including the passionately acoustic "Paper Shoes." Incubus is one of the more interesting veteran alt-rock acts currently out there; it's not hard to become blinded by Light Grenades. John Benson

Eminem  - Eminem presents The Re-Up -  -  -  - Shady  -  - Sounds like: Shady Records' garbage can -  - Short take: Em's entourage bumbles along -  - Not too long ago, Eminem leaked an album of B-sides, - outtakes and other addenda called Don't Call Me - Marshall. Featuring every uncollected guest - appearance and one-off, it ran the course of its hype and - disappeared. Now, he's essentially pushing the sequel to - that album, a collection of projects in which he's only - partially involved. Featuring some new members of his - squad, like Ca$his and Bobby Creekwater (as well as - Obie Trice flogging his long-dead horse), the album is - merely some more interchangeable nobodies riding on - Em's coattails. It's little more than a hodgepodge - distraction to buy Em some time until his next solo - effort. Hey, Marshall: If we're just going to do some - dawdling anyway, why not hit us with the fun and hijinx - of a legit mixtape?  Matt Martin
  • Eminem

    Eminem presents The Re-Up

    Shady

    Sounds like: Shady Records' garbage can

    Short take: Em's entourage bumbles along

    Not too long ago, Eminem leaked an album of B-sides, outtakes and other addenda called Don't Call Me Marshall. Featuring every uncollected guest appearance and one-off, it ran the course of its hype and disappeared. Now, he's essentially pushing the sequel to that album, a collection of projects in which he's only partially involved. Featuring some new members of his squad, like Ca$his and Bobby Creekwater (as well as Obie Trice flogging his long-dead horse), the album is merely some more interchangeable nobodies riding on Em's coattails. It's little more than a hodgepodge distraction to buy Em some time until his next solo effort. Hey, Marshall: If we're just going to do some dawdling anyway, why not hit us with the fun and hijinx of a legit mixtape? Matt Martin

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