Emotional Breakthrough


Breakthrough |

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Not as bubbly as on her double-platinum debut, 2007's Coco, Colbie Caillat undergoes a bit of an emotional shift on her second disc. She's still pining for lasting love, but she's now pairing her smooth delivery with a new edge. "Go on and leave my love out on the street . . . Better believe I'm fearless," she proclaims on "Fearless," the R&B-tinged, Kara DioGuardi-cowritten highlight. And on "Droplets," a duet with Jason Reeves, she assumes the role of heartbreaker. Maintaining the airy beach tone and sing-along quality that made us fall for her in the first place, Breakthrough, produced mostly by her dad, Ken Caillat (Fleetwood Mac's Rumours), is a satisfying way to spend the last days of summer.

Persona |

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After two jazz-pop albums, Queen Latifah adopts a different musical Persona on her latest, playing to fans of R&B, pop, reggae and hip-hop, the genre that first made her famous two decades ago. Although Latifah leaves the rapping to Busta Rhymes on the synth-laced ballad "Hard to Love Ya," she proves to still be a formidable emcee on the soulful standout "People" (featuring Mary J. Blige) and "Over the Mountain," a gripping ode to personal triumph. Meanwhile, her singing—sometimes a little too subdued—is best showcased on the Princely pop-rocker "Cue the Rain."

Ellipse |

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You wouldn't expect someone who wore actual shrubbery in her hair at the '07 Grammys to make cookie-cutter pop. On her latest, Imogen Heap employs video-game sound effects, an Indian-influenced melody and what sounds like a jack-in-the-box—all in one song. While many arrangements are just too far-fetched, her androgynous voice continues to astound, especially on the romantic standout "2-1."


>• The upcoming horror flick may cause nightmares, but its soundtrack is an alternative lover's dream, with new tracks from Panic! at the Disco, Cobra Starship and Dashboard Confessional.

>SMOKEY ROBINSON Time Flies When You're Having Fun Robinson can still create a quiet-storm mood even if some of the songs drag. Best is his sumptuous cover of Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why."

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BRENDAN BENSON My Old, Familiar Friend Making a solo detour from the Raconteurs, Benson displays some killer power-pop instincts. Take that, Jack White.

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MATT HIRES Take Us to The Start On the opening cut of his debut, Hires requests, "Honey, Let Me Sing You a Song." With his folky pop and aching croon, how could you deny him?

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THIRD EYE BLIND Ursa Major It's been six years since the last Third Eye Blind album, but don't expect any major developments from the pop-rockers. Still, this is a solid comeback effort.

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The dance-punks have blasted into the Top 10 with "Good Girls Go Bad." We chatted with frontman Gabe Saporta, 29.

ON SINGING "GOOD GIRLS" WITH LEIGHTON MEESTER I was like, "Um, this is Blair Waldorf. I'm just some scummy dude. I'm not going to tell her what to do." But Leighton was awesome. I'm a huge Gossip Girl fan. I got into it [after] one of our fans brought me the first-season box set. I started blogging about how I loved it.

ON LABEL HEAD PETE WENTZ He's been my friend forever. We started out together. Fall Out Boy went through the roof, but my old band didn't work. Pete is still the same dude. And he and Ashlee are a great couple. When I hang with them, it's all love.

ON WRITING WITH KARA DIOGUARDI I didn't know who Kara was. She hadn't been on American Idol yet. The label told me she's a top-line writer. I was like, "What? She's a topless writer?" But we totally vibed.

ON PREFERRING GOOD GIRLS OVER BAD I've always liked innocent girls. Not because I want to corrupt them, but because I feel like they'll wash away my sins.