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R.E.M. Accelerate
Warner Bros.
Sounds like: Rediscovering a heartbeat

Short take: Stipe and Co. rock again

Who knew that all it would take was a little respect its 2007 Rock Hall induction to get R.E.M. rocking again? As if shooting across the bow of the band's soft image (fortified by 2001's Reveal and 2004's Around the Sun), Michael Stipe and Co. jump out of the speakers on opening barnburner "Living Well is the Best Revenge." Peter Buck's strong guitar and bassist Mike Mills' backing vocals provide the ground support, while Stipe's bitterness attacks from above. It's a new day for R.E.M., which has seemingly rediscovered that its instruments can not only be plugged in ("Man-Sized Wreath") but also turned up with impunity. Furthermore, Stipe's lyrics are sharp (lead single "Supernatural Superserious"), introspective ("Hollow Man") and political ("Houston"). Whether a swan song or new beginning, Accelerate restores R.E.M.'s legend. John Benson

To download now:R.E.M. - Accelerate

Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State
00:02:59 Records
Sounds like: Rock and roll rehab

Short take: The Silver State wins ... barely

Ever wonder what would've happened if Bruce Springsteen went on a three-year bender and pulled an all-nighter, recording an album afterward? That's Matthew Ryan vs. The Silver State in a nutshell. From the seedy images of an ex-punk lover whose "mascara was born to run" in "It Could've Been Worse" to the Soozie Tyrell-esque violin backing on "Jane, I Still Feel the Same," Ryan's album owes a lot of its rock soul to E Street, though its drunken, depressive themes seem to have escaped from Townes Van Zandt's tour van. Ryan's rasp tends to get lost amid the stripped-down fuzz and feedback of erstwhile backers Brian Bequette and Doug Lancio, but when the whole equation comes together on the driving Replacements-style "Drunk & Disappointed," it makes you wonder if Ryan didn't just drop a dirty gauntlet at the feet of the baddest bands in the land. Jason Notte

To download now:Matthew Ryan - Matthew Ryan Vs. the Silver State

Neon Neon Stainless Style
Short take: Goofy fun from serious talent

Sounds like: '80s-styled hybrid wackiness

Neon Neon sees the pairing of Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys and electronic programmer Boom Bip (Bryan Hollon), most notable for his "organic" electronica. More or less, N.N. is the product of two serious artists goofing off. Rhys is allowed to have as much fun as he's willing to have (which is a lot), and Hollon follows right along with both complex and slamming beats, transferring his percussive abilities to the dance floor. "I Lust U," for instance, sounds ready-made for a Milanese basement club, yet completely in its element at the same time, pure frosting and wonderful for being so. Thankfully, the results still reflect both artists' knack for melody, making Neon Neon, like Gorillaz, 13&god and Gnarls Barkley, an almost completely successful hybrid of two fairly divergent and highly respectable artists. Matt Martin

To download now:Neon Neon - Stainless Style

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