Pretty. Odd. |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

PUNK-POP

Panic at the Disco opens their second album with an apology: "Oh how it's been so long/We're so sorry we've been gone/We were busy writing songs for you," frontman Brendon Urie sings on the intro "We're So Starving." Clearly, this Las Vegas quartet realizes how crucial their follow-up to 2005's platinum A Fever You Can't Sweat Out is. And Pretty. Odd. does well to assure that they won't go down as some emo dudes who got lucky thanks to the MTV hit "I Write Sins Not Tragedies." Displaying a nice sense of whimsy, they've grown beyond emo, whether it be the Beatles-esque pop of "She Had the World," the Beach Boys sunniness of "When the Day Met the Night" or the Smiths-style melancholia of "Do You Know What I'm Seeing?"

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Northern Downpour," a ballad that is power-pop bliss

Funplex |

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DANCE-ROCK

Can you imagine any band on the planet being more fun to hang out with than the B-52s? On their first studio album in 16 years, the quirky quartet parties like it's 1989 (the year they released their bestselling album, Cosmic Thing). "I'm a pleasure seeker/Shoppin' for a new distraction," sings Kate Pierson on the title track and first single. And there are plenty of groovy distractions here, including "Keep This Party Going," on which they get vaguely political ("Take this party to the White House lawn/Things are down and dirty in Washington"), but not enough to stop the conga line.

DOWNLOAD THIS: "Pump," the pulse-racing, guitar-riffing opener

Mail on Sunday |

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RAP

No doubt Flo Rida's career has already peaked with his very first single, "Low" (featuring T-Pain), which spent 10 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard pop chart. Certainly there is nothing else on the Florida rapper's debut CD that comes close to matching the dance-floor high of "Low." Despite some filler, though, Mail delivers on more party jams like the second single "Elevator" (featuring and produced by Timbaland) and the reggae-tinged "Roll" (featuring Sean Kingston). But Flo Rida falters when he tries to get deep on tracks like "Still Missin."

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A companion to the documentary, this politically charged double disc, subtitled Songs That Inspired an Iraq War Veteran, features Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and Eddie Vedder.

DIONNE WARWICK Why We Sing
Warwick gets in the family spirit on this gospel CD, including duets with her son David Elliott and sister Dee Dee Warrick and production by son Damon Elliott. BeBe Winans joins in on the soul-stirring "I'm Going Up."

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THE BLACK CROWES Warpaint
It's been seven years since Chris Robinson and crew's last studio album. Which perhaps explains why Warpaint seems to have put a fresh coating on their southern rock. Bonus points for cool CD artwork.

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SHE & HIM Volume One
There is a low-key, lo-fi charm to this pairing of alt-folkie M. Ward with actress-singer Zooey Deschanel (Failure to Launch), who handles most of the vocals and wrote most of the tunes. But it could have used more of "Him."

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COUNTING CROWS Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings
The Crows' first studio album since 2002 soars with punchy pop-rockers for Saturday nights and aching ballads, with Adam Duritz at his tortured best, for Sunday mornings.

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The neo-soul priestess, 37, returns with New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War), her first full-length album since 2000.

ON HOW SHE SPENT HER TIME OFF I started a [supplementary] school in my home based on home-school principles. The school has seven children [including son Seven, 10, and daughter Puma, 3]. I became a second-degree Reiki practitioner. I worked on my herb garden, and I harvested so many herbs that I started an herb lab, and I [got] a holistic health practitioner's license.

ON BECOMING COMPUTER-SAVVY My son saw me singing songs into my phone and putting them on my voice mail. He goes, "Mom, you don't have to do that. All you have to do is use a microphone on your computer and open up this program GarageBand." I began doing that and wrote songs so quickly.

ON HER SON'S MUSICAL TALENT Seven and I practice our electric guitars together. He plays upright bass in his orchestra at school. He took piano [lessons] for four years. And he has a beautiful voice. He probably has the same eclectic tastes that his father [Badu's ex-boyfriend André 3000 of OutKast] has. I would say his father is all in his DNA!