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Duffy
Rockferry
Mercury Records / Release date: May 13
Sounds like: Amy Winehouse with a heart of gold
Short take: Retro pop vocal debut of the year?

Welsh wunderkind Aimee Anne Duffy possesses a voice that cuts to the heart of romantic regret and world-weary resignation. Expansive as it is vulnerable, it demands cinemascopic musical settings: canyonesque reverb and swooping, tearful strings. Fortunately, this is just the treatment Duffy receives on her debut album, thanks, in part, to the production finesse of ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler. With its languid climb to an explosive third-verse climax, the title track could be some great lost Lee Hazlewood song. "Mercy" is a dance craze shakedown that wouldn't be out of place in Aretha's catalog. Duffy is most often compared to Dusty Springfield, but her voice also carries echoes of Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt ... all the great ladies of sorrow who succor our lonely, late-night vigils. Alan di Perna
To download: Duffy


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Robyn
Robyn

Cherrytree Records
Sounds like: Britney tripping at a Stockholm rave
Short take: Showin' a lot more than love

When last much of America saw Swedish pop songstress Robyn, her video for "Show Me Love" was playing over Beverly Hills, 90210's credits. My, how she's grown. Robyn has been riding the European success of this album which debuted in the States this week for the last three years on the strength of the hard, electronic Teddybears/Mad Cobra cover "Cobrastyle," disco anthem "With Every Heartbeat" and a synth-heavy collaboration with The Knife on "Who's That Girl." She strays into BritneyTimbaLake territory on "Crash and Burn Girl," but recovers on the campy "Konichiwa Bitches." It's when she sings, "It's a cruel thing / You'll never know all the ways I tried" on the soaring, heart-rending "Be Mine!," however, that we realize her work has been stuck in customs for too long. Jason Notte
To download: Robyn


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The Roots
Rising Down

Def Jam
Sounds like: They got game, again
Short take: The real hip-hop gangstas rise up

When you exist under an alternative rap label, anything you do will be perceived as outside the mainstream hip-hop world. However, it's the battle for notoriety and respect within their community that fuels The Roots, who recently released their eighth studio album. While the 15-track Rising Down feels familiar, that's a compliment to ?uestlove and his Philadelphia band mates. Highlights include the in-your-face, old-school-sounding "@ 15" and "75 Bars (Black's Reconstruction)," which acts as the cornerstone of the album. When Black Thought delivers, "I'm in a class of my own / If I got beef with you / You're the last one to know," you can feel his street cred is in good standing. Even though the album may be negative in spirit, you'd better believe Rising Down finds The Roots moving up. John Benson
To download: The Roots, Mos Def & Styles P

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