I 'm hot and I don't care who knows it/ I got a job to do." So declares Prince, working himself up into a funky lather on "Black Sweat," the hip-gyrating highlight of his new CD. Recapturing his old "Kiss"-style swagger and irreverence ("You'll be screamin' like a white lady when I count to three: 1-2-3") over a ferocious groove, it's quite simply the baddest thing he's done in years. Of course, it's not totally unexpected. You could feel this coming after Prince's 2004 comeback album Musicology and hits-heavy tour of the same name restored him to his rightful throne. And 3121 shows that His Purple Highness has no intention of stepping down any time soon. Even better than its double-platinum predecessor, it boasts higher highs: The utterly irresistible "Lolita," along with "Black Sweat," gives this disc the best one-two punch he's had since "Gett Off" and "Cream." With its bright synth lines and tight rhythm guitar, "Lolita" is classic '80s Prince, though now that he's a Jehovah's Witness, he won't surrender to the nubile temptress who's "fine from head to pumps." Elsewhere, the scorching, electric-guitar-charged "Fury" takes him back to the funk-rock glory of the Revolution era, while the spiritually glowing "Beautiful, Loved & Blessed" pairs Prince with new protégée Tamar, a much better duet partner than Apollonia ever made. A couple of lesser slow jams, including the Latin-flavored "Te Amo Corazón," make 3121 fall short of the slam dunk it could have been. Still, there's plenty here to make you go crazy all over again.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Black Sweat"
If Only You Were Lonely
Ohio emo band Hawthorne Heights doesn't have so much to mope about these days. Building up a rabid fan base through constant touring and Internet communities like MySpace.com, the quintet notched nearly 800,000 sales of its independently released debut, 2004's The Silence in Black and White. This month the follow-up, If Only You Were Lonely, debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard pop albums chart, and the group launched a tour with Fall Out Boy and the All-American Rejects that should win over even more alienated adolescents. Unfortunately, Hawthorne Heights's second CD is middling at best, with overwrought rockers that make you wish these dudes weren't quite so in touch with their feelings. The disc veers from emo to "screamo," thanks to frontman JT Woodruff's grating wail on songs like "This Is Who We Are."
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Saying Sorry"
Other People's Lives
"Things are gonna change/ This is the morning after," announces Ray Davies at the beginning of his first official solo album. And while things are certainly different from his mop-top days as frontman of the Kinks, Davies, 61, can still really get you with his first-class songwriting, as displayed on these wry, well-sketched observations on Other People's Lives as well as his own life. Whether he's lamenting a lack of trust on "Creatures of Little Faith" or light-heartedly pondering "Is There Life After Breakfast?" Davies smoothly works out the kinks.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Is There Life After Breakfast?"
On his last album with the Ferdinandos, 2004's underappreciated While the Music Lasts, Jesse Harris emerged as the male answer to Norah Jones, with a little help from the Grammy queen herself. Here the singer-songwriter and guitarist goes it without Jones (or the Ferdinandos), but there are still plenty of Norah-like nuances—as well as shades of Paul Simon—on this intimate affair. The elemental Mineral finds Harris working in a trio setting with keyboards and percussion, creating a soothing mood on cuts like the lilting "No More"—perfect for breaking out the bath crystals.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Slow Down"
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
After another stint with the New Pornographers on last year's Twin Cinema, Neko Case gets back to her own alt-country territory. Her fourth solo studio disc is not exactly for the Carrie Underwood
crowd: It's a challenging, sometimes dark mood piece—no radio-ready ditties here—that rewards the patient listener with its evocative arrangements and Case's poetic sensibility. Although the singer-songwriter forgoes the obvious hooks, the CD is rich in details and layers that reveal themselves on repeated spins. On one standout track, "Dirty Knife," she weaves a grim tale of a descent into madness against an ominous backdrop of bowed bass and cello. Case also turns her haunting, Patsy Cline-esque voice to a reworking of the traditional folk song "John Saw That Number," while offering this striking confession on "Hold On, Hold On": "The most tender place in my heart is for strangers/ I know it's unkind but my own blood is much too dangerous."
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Dirty Knife"
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>Josh Turner, Your Man Turner seems to have really found his place in the continuum of country music on his very satisfying second album. His great, floorboard-rattling voice truly makes him the man.
Jaheim, Ghetto Classics Showing much love for the street, the R&B crooner comes across as a ghetto-fabulous Luther Vandross. His third CD boasts a classic-soul vibe with lush production that recalls the '70s Sound of Philadelphia.
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat The Rilo Kiley frontwoman gets a little help from some gospel-singing sisters on her solo debut, an alluring alt-country album wrapped in warm-and-fuzzy sentiments.
Jessi Colter, Out of the Ashes On her first country disc in 21 years, Waylon Jennings's widow shows that she hasn't lost her delicately bluesy touch, sounding better than in her "I'm Not Lisa" days.
In January their critically acclaimed album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not became the fastest-selling debut in British history. Now these under-21 indie rockers have stormed the States.
ON HOW THE BAND FORMED The quartet—singer-guitarist Alex Turner, 20, guitarist Jamie Cook, 20, bassist Andy Nicholson, 19, and drummer Matt Helders, 19—met growing up in Sheffield, England. Turner and Cook got guitars for Christmas in 2001, and the Monkeys were born the next year. "It was something to do, to talk about," says Turner. "A few of our friends had bands, but I had never been on a stage before in front of people."
ON THEIR RAMPANT SUCCESS "Maybe it was because we were at the right time. Or maybe we are really good," says Turner, whose group got signed to Franz Ferdinand's label, Domino Records, after building buzz with packed, crowd-surfing shows and fans sharing demo CDs through the Internet. "We just started playing London this time last year, never mind New York. Now we live on a tour bus and go home every now and again." And where exactly is home these days? All four still live with their parents.
ON ADJUSTING TO STARDOM "You realize how your perception of things turns around," says Turner. "When the Strokes played at Alexandra Palace [in London], the Libertines were there. Me and Andy went up to [the Libertines] and said, 'Can we take a picture with you?' I've still got that picture, me on one side and Andy on the other side, beaming. We hate that now when people do it to us, but I can't really complain because I've done it myself. It's like a reminder that it's such a merry-go-round."