"If tears were liquor, I'd have drunk myself sick," Mark Lanegan sings on "St. Louis Elegy," one of several chillingly effective downers on the enveloping
the first solo album since 2004 from the Pacific Northwest grunge tough guy. The Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age veteran has done excellent work with collaborators Isobel Campbell and Greg Dulli in recent years, and he maintains his minor-key winning streak on
, with his baritone sounding as formidable as ever as he pleads for mercy on "Harborview Hospital" and tries to shake off the "Phantasmagoria Blues," like a post-grunge Johnny Cash who can't escape his own past.
- Dan DeLuca
He's made a name for himself as one of Britain's quintessential sensitive singer-songwriters, but James Morrison isn't above rocking out - at least a little bit - while onstage. Touring in support of his third album,
the guitar-playing Morrison will be backed Monday by five other musicians and two supporting vocalists, a move that will undoubtedly ramp up his ballad-based sound. A huge star in England - both his debut album and his latest entered the UK charts at No. 1 - he remains a word-of-mouth favorite here in the States, with a fervent fan base. Known for distinctive, soulful vocals (which some dubbed "Stevie Wonder Lite"), the 27-year-old Morrison deliberately ramped up his soft-focus pop on the Bernard Butler-produced
He also has collaborated with some edgier acts recently, including Canadian songstress Nelly Furtado (on "Broken Strings") and UK diva Jessie J (on the soul/pop single "Up," about his strained relationship with his late father).
- Nicole Pensiero
Flux Pavilion didn't need to be featured on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "Who Gon Stop Me" to prove his worth. Yet the world's a better place for it, Flux's bankroll has grown, and that hit makes hearing Pavilion's plush, busy new single "Daydreamer" all the more exciting. Wolfgang Gartner's newest track, "Redline," reminds house lovers, new and old, what they liked about the sweeping dance music in the first place. And Rusko? This buddy of Diplo's and Mad Decent/Downtown label signee has followed up the hot dubstep-influenced pop of his first
album with this year's
a more richly diverse recording with bits of space-reggae ("Skanker"), Drambuie-soaked R&B ("Dirty Sexy"), and high-energy disco ("Thunder") tossed into his electro-fried salad. Don't bring your sunblock. You're going to want to feel the burn every which way.
- A.D. Amorosi