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Plastic Beach


Buy if you like: Moby, Orbital

Electro/hip-hop/soul/pop bubbles and simmers in some of the tightest, most melodic songs the Gorillaz have produced. The cartoon quartet's third album has a world-falling-apart concept, about a place built from junk of civilization that's floated to the South Pacific. It works, if you pay attention. The collaborators this time include soul legend Bobby Womack, who goes up against Mos Def's rhyming on the '70s-rooted "Stylo;" Snoop Dogg rapping on "Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach;" and Lou Reed's unmistakable "singing" over a hip-hop beat on "Some Kind of Nature." The song "On Melancholy Hill" sounds like it came from the synthesized '80s, and there's chilled-out electronica that takes Moby one better. We get sweet pop balladry too — and it's all smartly produced. There's no instant hit like "Clint Eastwood," but this is still the most satisfying Gorillaz yet. — L. Kent Wolgamott


Everybody Was in the French Resistance ... Now!

Fixin' the Charts, Volume 1

Cooking Vinyl

Buy if you like: Madness, Ben Folds

As frontman and songwriter in Art Brut, Eddie Argos has proven himself one of rock's funniest lyricists. If anyone can take the piss out of pop songs, he's the guy. This side project with Blood Arm's Dyan Valdes provides good-natured cheeky replies to songs by artists ranging from Avril Lavigne ("Girlfriend") to Bob Dylan ("Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"). "Billie Jean" (here called "Billie's Genes") becomes a story about learning the identity of a long-gone father — and being glad he didn't stick around. It's all delivered in Argos' declamatory style, but — with the exception of the rockist "Superglue" (a response to Elastica's "Vaseline") — Art Brut-style punk guitars are replaced by a more baroque keyboard-centered pop sound. The setting works well for the pop smarts Argos and Valdes bring to this album, resistance to which is futile. — Alan Sculley


The Texas Tornados

Esta Bueno


Buy if you like: Sir Douglas Quintet, Freddy Fender

Freddy Fender and Doug Sahm have gone to that supergroup in the sky, but the one they left behind sounds good as ever. Doug's son Shawn fills his dad's big cowboy boots alongside legends Augie Meyers and Flaco Jiménez, plus original sidemen Speedy Sparks, Ernie Durawa and Louie Ortega. This mix of new and previously unreleased tracks captures the spirit of these Tex-Mex icons. Highlights include five songs Fender recorded shortly before his death (including "Another Shot of Ambition"), and the closer, an unreleased Sahm track titled "Girl Going Nowhere." "My Sugar Blue" is an old Meyers tune spiced with fantastic squeezebox riffs from Jiménez. They could have skipped the oom-pah songs ("In Heaven There Is No Beer"? Really?), but it's hard to quibble with added excuses to hear Jiménez play. — Lynne Margolis

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