"I've got to fall in another direction/ Accelerate!" sings Michael Stipe on the bracing, buzzing title track of R.E.M.'s 14th studio album. After forgetting how to rock following the departure of drummer Bill Berry in 1997, the trio cranks it up on Accelerate, their most amped effort since 1994's Monster
. The result is simply the best R.E.M. disc since 1992's classic Automatic for the People
. Accelerate hits the ground running with the opening assault, "Living Well Is the Best Revenge," as Stipe tears into his vocal with renewed vigor. You can just imagine him thrashing about to this one onstage. Even better are "Supernatural Superserious," the chugging, instantly catchy first single, and the soul-deep "Hollow Man," both of which stand up to about anything in the band's catalogue. Lean and mean, Accelerate clocks in at less than 35 minutes, its 11 cuts racing by so fast you can't wait to play it again.
If you thought that Kylie Minogue might pick up an acoustic guitar and share her most intimate feelings on her first album since beating breast cancer, think again. X
, her 10th studio disc (which came out overseas last November), finds Minogue doing the same kind of mindless, fizzy dance-pop that fans have come to expect. While failing to bring the type of sonic reinvention to the genre that Madonna
has, Minogue still delivers on guilty pleasures like the shimmery single "All I See," the pulsating, synth-driven "The One" and the deliriously giddy "Wow." Perhaps she's better off sticking with her bread and butter: "Cosmic," the lone ballad, falls flat.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "In My Arms," a sexy-sweet electro-pop delight
Moby's last studio disc, 2005's Hotel
, was built more for chilling at the W than for clubbing till the break of dawn. His latest returns the electronica meister to the dance floor, taking you on a journey through a night in clubland. Along the way there are hypnotic grooves and house rave-ups, Euro-disco and old-school hip-hop. But the party comes crashing to an end with some background ambient tracks that are a total buzzkill.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Live for Tomorrow," an atmospheric mix of soul and synths
For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS
At the recent South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, music industry insiders were buzzing about another soulful U.K. import, Duffy. The 23-year-old Welsh singer, whose debut album, Rockferry
, arrives stateside May 13, wowed crowds with her smoky vocals and jazzy vibe.
DANITY KANE Welcome to the Dollhouse
On the follow-up to 2006's self-titled debut, these Making the Band
ladies come up with the goods on the dance-pop single "Damaged." But mostly they give one new appreciation for the Pussycat Dolls.
The lucky fellas who cozied up to Danity Kane on Making the Band 4's
just-ended season turn out a decent debut. Ultimately, though, this R&B vocal group will make you long for the glory days of Boyz II Men and Jodeci.
JOSH GRACIN We Weren't Crazy
Before Carrie Underwood
, Gracin proved that American Idol
could pave the way to Nashville gold. Solid if unspectacular, his second album features country-pop akin to labelmates Rascal Flatts.
THE KILLS Midnight Boom
Not to be confused with the Killers, this cool boy-girl duo actually brings to mind the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, especially with Alison Mosshart on the mike on indie-rock numbers like "Tape Song" and "What New York Used to Be."
The '80s band behind "And We Danced" is back with Time Stand Still
, their first studio CD since 1993—and smaller hair.
ON THEIR LONG HIATUS "After 12-13 years of nonstop playing, we needed a break physically and mentally," says singer-keyboardist Rob Hyman, 57. "But it wasn't any kind of breakup. We stayed friends. I wish I could give you juicy stories, but we actually like each other."
ON BEING MIDDLE-AGED ROCKERS "We are truly trying to hold back the hands of the clock every day," says Hyman. "We're feeling that squeeze, but we're also having more fun than we ever did." Adds singer-guitarist Eric Bazilian, 54: "Every extra pound, every missing brain cell is going to get in the way now, so I put myself on a program so I feel like I've got all cylinders firing."
ON THEIR BIG-HAIR DAYS "My kids look at the pictures and mock me: 'Nice haircut, Dad,'" says Hyman. But, adds Bazilian proudly, "I stand by the music!"