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Nick Lowe

Quiet Please ... The New Best of Nick Lowe

Yep Roc Records

Sounds like: A prime architect of post-Beatles British rock

Short take: Three discs, no low points

While true music lovers know Nick Lowe's songs by heart, civilians tend to throw him in with the late '70s New Wave crowd and overlook what came later. Here at last is a succinct compilation collecting all the twists and turns of his career, from an early awe-inspiring version of "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding" by his band Brinsley Schwarz to the recent "Hope for Us All" from At My Age. Compare '70s highlights like "Heart of the City" and "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass" to others in the hit parade back then, and it's no contest. Rockpile, his band with Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner, is represented by gems like "When I Write the Book" and "Play that Fast Thing (One More Time)." The third disc of classic videos and a 2007 concert makes this an early candidate for reissue of the year. Bill Bentley



Mama, I'm Swollen

Saddle Creek

Sounds like: Middle-aged malaise tackled with tuneful honesty

Short take: 2009's best indie album?

After exploring organized religion on 2006's Happy Hollow, Cursive frontman Tim Kasher remains inquisitive about his place in the world on this new album. The message that comes via Mama, I'm Swollen is that being middle-aged sucks. The singer isn't particularly pleased with the political landscape or, for that matter, the current music scene. With the palpable urgency of a character on 24 or Lost, the album opens with discordant guitar-fueled "In the Now," which finds Kasher declaring, "Don't want to live in the now / Don't want to know what I know." But the mesmerizing, dynamic "From the Hips" unabashedly tackles human existence with songwriting perfection ("I hate this damn enlightenment / We were better off as animals"). A veteran of the underground scene, Kasher turns his malaise into indie rock gold. John Benson


Rocco DeLuca and the Burden



Sounds like: Dobro and falsetto reach for the stratosphere

Short take: Songsmith for a new millennium

What makes an artist stand out? These days it's an original assault on the senses; the songs, singing, playing and production all have to command attention. That doesn't happen as often as it should, but when it does, look out. Rocco DeLuca sounds like he comes from another planet, which means he deserves our undivided attention. His music is a sensual hybrid of styles that never loses touch with his inner fire. A sense of gypsy blood runs through songs like "Lilja" and "Junky Valentine," the aura coming from an outer dimension. Co-producer Daniel Lanois never settles for less, so complacency gets nowhere near this music. There are hard edges met by sweet soulful tones, a sometimes surrealistic embarrassment of riches. When only the outr will do, DeLuca is waiting there for you. Have mercy. Bill Bentley

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