Conor Oberst

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

ALT-FOLK
Masterminding Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst was essentially a solo artist hiding behind the guise of a band. So it should come as no surprise that Oberst's first official solo disc—on which the singer-songwriter is backed by the Mystic Valley Band—sounds an awful lot like a Bright Eyes album. As such, it's a very good one, on a par with 2007's Cassadaga, if not quite up to the level of 2005's I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning. Oberst is at his alt-folkie finest on cuts like the bluesy rouser "I Don't Want to Die (In the Hospital)" and "Souled Out!!!," which imagines a heaven at capacity. On the heartbreaking highlight, "Lenders in the Temple," he sings, "If I loved you, well that's my fault." Bright Eyes or not, he's still got the same sharp, lyrical vision.

22 Dreams

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ALT-POP
As the leader of both the Jam and the Style Council and then as a solo artist, Brit pop god Paul Weller has done a little of everything. And he covers more musical territory than most would in an entire career on this ambitious, sprawling set (which debuted at No. 1 in the U.K. last June). Full of imagination, if not focus, the 21-track (why not 22?) collection swings from psychedelic folk and retro-'60s soul to jazzy sophisto-pop and an out-of-nowhere tango turn. There's even a spoken-word number to go along with some dreamy instrumentals.
DOWNLOAD THIS: "Invisible," a soul-baring ballad

For more information on where to find our Download This picks, go to people.com/downloadthis

The soundtrack to the new documentary feature about five high school seniors plays like a crash course in alternative pop and rock, with acts like Black Kids, the Ting Tings and MGMT.

THE LAURIE BERKNER BAND
Rocketship Run
The queen of kids' music is back with her first CD in six years, and with Susie Lampert and Adam Bernstein hitching along, it's a fun ride. Somewhere Frank Sinatra is tapping his toes to her version of "Fly Me to the Moon."

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BUDDY GUY
Skin Deep
On a gritty-good album of original material, the 72-year-old blues veteran gets some help from fellow guitarists Eric Clapton, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi. But no doubt Guy is still the man here.

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AMY RAY
Didn't It Feel Kinder
Her third solo outing finds the Indigo Girl bringing plenty of passion to the music and the messages on songs like "Who Sold the Gun," about Virginia Tech, and "She's Got to Be," a soulful look at loving the woman inside.

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O.A.R.
All Sides
O.A.R. may stand for "Of a Revolution," but there's nothing revolutionary here—just solid pop-rock that sounds like everyone from matchbox twenty to Maroon 5. O.A.R. keeps things pretty MOR.

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The rapper, 30, and the rocker, 45, compete to see who can live greener on the new reality show Battleground Earth, premiering Aug. 3 on the Planet Green network

WHAT SURPRISED YOU ABOUT EACH OTHER?

LUDACRIS: People stereotype him as just being crazy all the time. And he is crazy. But there are times when he is just really humble, cool and down-to-earth.

TOMMY: Aw, that's cool, man. I think we'll be friends a long time. He's a very smart and passionate guy. And he's a badass rapper.

WHAT DID YOU GUYS HAVE IN COMMON?

LUDACRIS: Passion for all genres of music.

TOMMY: Wait till you see the final episode of the show. Chris and I got to play drums together.

LUDACRIS: And he has rhythm. That was big.

TOMMY: I'm half black.

WHO PARTIES HARDER?

LUDACRIS: He parties way harder than I could ever imagine. I need more hours of sleep than Tommy.

TOMMY: A lot of times I would try to get his ass out!

WHAT ARE YOUR EVERYDAY GREEN TIPS?

LUDACRIS: When you're brushing your teeth, turn the water off. That's very simple. And [shorten] your shower time by five minutes.

TOMMY: Well, I just don't shower, so I save a ton of water!