Sound advice 

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k.d. lang & the Siss Boom Bang

Sing It Loud

Nonesuch Records

Buy if you like: Wilco, Shelby Lynne

In the beginning, lang channeled the spirit of Patsy Cline, naming her band the Reclines. Coming from Canada's prairies, she had an unfettered enthusiasm, unrestrained by any musical considerations other than her own. With a voice that could melt rocks, she hit notes no one knew existed, leaving listeners slack-jawed. Sing It Loud is by turns gorgeous, seductive, questioning and mysterious. Her new band, Siss Boom Bang, approaches the music with fresh ears: They fill songs with considerable power, blend into the ozone with uncanny charm, or just make a cushy bed for lang's vocals to lie in. Best of all, these are some of lang's best originals. "The Water's Edge," "Sugar Buzz," "Habit of Mind" and "Sorrow Nevermore" will hopefully be sung by her for many years, right next to "Constant Craving" and other classics she's created along the way. — Bill Bentley

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TV on the Radio

Nine Types of Light


Buy if you like: Gang of Four, Peter Gabriel

TV on the Radio burst on the scene in 2006 with intriguing sounds. Using edgy electronics, artful synthesizers, and assertively programmed beats to accompany the multi-octave vocals of Tunde Adebimpe, the group's electro-pop was abstract and angular, yet melodic and addictive. This fourth album may be its most intoxicating, enriching the sonic detail and heightening the overall impact. Even a song that starts out with a truly oddball melody ("Second Song") ultimately builds to a powerful finish, while tracks like "Keep Your Heart" and "You" are imbued with genuinely warm vocal melodies. On other standouts like "No Future Shock," "New Cannonball Blues" and "Caffeinated Consciousness," TV on the Radio rock forcefully behind kinetic beats and catchy hooks. If you haven't yet tuned into this band, there's no better time to start. — Alan Sculley

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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Here We Rest

Lightning Rod Records

Buy if you like: Rhett Miller, Ryan Adams

This is not easy listening; the imagery of down-and-out characters living disappointing lives is hardly uplifting. Yet, it does make for remarkably pleasurable listening. Jason Isbell, a former Drive-By Trucker, is prodigiously talented, with a singular ability to write thought-provoking, literate lyrics and deliver them in a direct, clear tenor that traces to Jackson Browne. Equally at home on the gorgeously sad solo ballad "Daisy Mae" and the Memphis-blues/Muscle Shoals-soul-influenced "Heart on a String," Isbell explores northern Alabama territories that don't harbor the same cynicism that permeated Truckers tunes. Fear and perhaps loathing, yes, but leavened with the bayou blues of "Never Could Believe" as well as hefty doses of fuzzed Southern-comfort slide guitar, jazz piano, bluegrass breaks and, yeah, maybe even flickers of hope. — Lynne Margolis


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