M. Ward

Hold Time |

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ALT-FOLK
After a stint as the male half of She & Him (opposite actress Zooey Deschanel) on last year's Volume One, M. Ward returns to his regular solo gig. And while it's not quite up to the level of 2006's Post-War, Hold Time is another fine collection of evocative alt-folk from the singer-songwriter. Highlights include the dreamy opener, "For Beginners"; "Epistemology," which boasts both a light rock chug and a hint of twang; and the haunting, if all too brief, title track. Ward reunites with Deschanel on "Never Had Nobody Like You," one of the album's most upbeat moments. Best of all, though, is his duet with Lucinda Williams, "Oh Lonesome Me," an aching, country-tinged ballad on which her raspiness provides a sharp contrast to his wooziness.

Tina Dico

A Beginning, a Detour, an Open Ending |

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REVIEWED BY IVORY JEFF CLINTON

ALTFOLK
This Danish singer-songwriter offers a uniquely packaged three-EP box set of new material. It's a solid collection of confessional folk songs, many recorded during sessions for 2008's more rock-oriented Count to Ten. A better home is found here for "Some Other Day," a pensive look at social apathy, and "He Doesn't Know," the touching love-lost highlight. Occasionally bordering on glum, the trilogy gets a welcome jolt on Disc 3 with the rockabillyish "Security Check."

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

>• She may not have had as many hits post-Eurythmics, but as illustrated by gems like "Why" on The Annie Lennox Collection, the quintessential diva has a rich body of solo work.

>BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Working on a Dream Recorded with the E Street Band, Dream continues the classic-Springsteen revival of 2007's Magic, from the rousing arena rocker "My Lucky Day" to the eight-minute gunslinger epic "Outlaw Pete."

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INDIA.ARIE

Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics On this sequel to 2006's Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship, Arie tackles both affairs of the heart and society. Her soothing sounds are like comfort food for the soul in these unsettling times.

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MELINDA DOOLITTLE

Coming Back to You This American Idol alum plays to her strengths as an old-school belter on her debut. Like a young Tina Turner, she can go from a slinky purr to a mighty, gospel-charged growl on these vintage R&B numbers.

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LATE OF THE PIER

Fantasy Black Channel Living up to the Brit hype, these English lads make their debut a rush of dance-rock grooves, squiggly synths and quirky vocals. Just try not jerking your body to a pulse-racing track like "Heartbeat."

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>• Still going strong 22 years after the Smiths, the British pop god, 49, has a new CD, Years of Refusal.

YOU ARE SUCH AN ICON OF BRIT POP. WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BRITISH ACTS TODAY?

I haven't had any interest in pop music since Herman's Hermits broke up. There didn't seem to be any point.

WHAT'S ON YOUR IPOD?

I don't have an iPod. I have a gramophone that runs on sand mixed with water.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE SMITHS AND SOLO SONGS?

"That's How People Grow Up" [on Years of Refusal] and "Girlfriend in a Coma." I love most of them. They're like lice-ridden WWII evacuee children to me: All they ask is to be loved.

WHICH OF YOUR SONG TITLES SUMS UP YOUR LIFE?

"Life Is a Pigsty" from Ringleader of the Tormentors. Life is a matter of making do, you see. It's all anyone does, in fact.

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TURNING 50 THIS YEAR?

Fifty is unfortunate because you smell of attics, can't get comfortable in bed and need help to reach the telephone. In truth, 50 is nothing.