Keane

Night Train |

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ALT-POP

After revving up the pace on 2008's Perfect Symmetry, Keane stays in high gear on Night Train. But while the Brit trio's fourth album revisits the '80s synth-pop bounce of its predecessor, there are a couple of new curves along the way. The chief twist? Enlisting Somalian-born hip-hop artist K'Naan for two tracks. He drops his rhymes on the first single, "Stop for a Minute," adding funky flavor to Keane's piano-driven pop. Even better is "Looking Back," a "live it forward" anthem that, in addition to K'Naan's chill guest rap, features a thumping beat and a horn part lifted from the Rocky theme "Gonna Fly Now." Elsewhere Japan's Tigarah turns up on a bubbling cover of the Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Ishin Denshin (You've Got to Help Yourself)" that shows just how far Keane has come from gloomy to giddy.

Melissa Etheridge

Fearless Love |

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ROCK

Melissa Etheridge's 10th studio album reunites her with John Shanks, who played guitar with her before going on to become a Grammy-winning producer for everyone from Kelly Clarkson to Miley Cyrus. With Shanks behind the boards, Etheridge sounds energized on Fearless Love (although the disc loses steam toward the end). She comes out strong with the first four tracks, starting with the bracing title tune, which Etheridge attacks courageously. Then there's "The Wanting of You," a Springsteen-esque rocker, the aching power ballad "Company" and "Miss California," on which she takes fierce aim at Prop 8.

Nikki Yanofsky

Nikki |

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JAZZ-POP

On "First Lady," one of six songs she cowrote on her debut, 16-year-old Nikki Yanofsky gives props to "dear Ella" for her inspiration. Indeed, this Canadian jazz-pop prodigy-who performed during the Opening and Closing Ceremonies at the Vancouver Games-seems to be possessed by the swinging spirit of Miss Fitzgerald. Just check out her dynamic delivery, complete with nimble scat attack, on the Ella fave "You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini)." On another one of the standards, Billie Holiday's "God Bless the Child," her robust vocal brings to mind a young Christina Aguilera. Too bad most of the originals don't measure up to Yanofsky's big voice. Still, she's a major new talent.

FOR DOWNLOAD PICKS INFO, GO TO PEOPLE.COM/DOWNLOADTHIS

>• It takes some real hard rockers to bang heads with Iron Man. They don't come any harder than AC/DC (right), which fills this disc with classics like "Highway to Hell" and "Back in Black."

>RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu

Wainwright creates a beautiful intimacy with just voice, piano and some deeply personal lyrics. Best is the heartbreaker "Sad with What I Have."

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SHELBY LYNNE

Tears, Lies, and Alibis

As she veers toward twang after the torch of 2008's Just a Little Lovin', the Grammy winner keeps it raw on songs where the ache goes down deep.

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MGMT

Congratulations

An adventurous journey into dreamy, '60s-spiked psychedelia, the second MGMT album deserves even more kudos than 2007's Oracular Spectacular.

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MERLE HAGGARD

I Am What I Am

At 73, the country legend possesses an ease with himself that lends a grizzled grace to tunes such as the unapologetic title track.

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>• If there were ever any doubt that the punk trio's 2004 opus was born to be a rock opera, then there is no longer. Opening on the Great White Way April 20, the musical adapted from the album brings those songs (plus some from 21st Century Breakdown) to vivid life. The new cast recording shows just how well they survive the show-tune treatment.

>SARAH MCLACHLAN returns in feel-good fashion with "Loving You Is Easy," from The Laws of Illusion, due June 15. $1.29 at amazon.com.

REGINA SPEKTOR uses her soprano and piano to benefit Doctors Without Borders on a quiet cover of Radiohead's "No Surprises." $1.29 at iTunes.com.

M.I.A. lets loose on "Born Free," a frenetic electro-rocker previewing her still-untitled third disc, due June 29. $1.29 at iTunes.com.

>• The American Idol season 7 finalist, 23, has a new self-titled album and a new wife, Mandy Mayhall.

ON HIS IDOL PICKS THIS SEASON

Crystal Bowersox is my favorite. Also, I like Casey James a lot. He's a great singer and guitar player; really cool.

ON HIS PREWEDDING SERENADE

We have a tradition in Colombia (where his parents are from): You serenade the bride at midnight before the wedding. So me and all my uncles snuck in her house and sang love songs to her.

ON HIS HONEYMOON

We spent a week at Atlantis in the Bahamas and saw Justin Bieber perform. Then I was playing some blackjack, turned around, and it was Justin in the casino. I was like, "Are you allowed to be in here?"

>• It takes some real hard rockers to bang heads with Iron Man. They don't come any harder than AC/DC (right), which fills this disc with classics like "Highway to Hell" and "Back in Black."

>RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu

Wainwright creates a beautiful intimacy with just voice, piano and some deeply personal lyrics. Best is the heartbreaker "Sad with What I Have." [

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]

SHELBY LYNNE

Tears, Lies, and Alibis

As she veers toward twang after the torch of 2008's Just a Little Lovin', the Grammy winner keeps it raw on songs where the ache goes down deep. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

MGMT

Congratulations

An adventurous journey into dreamy, '60s-spiked psychedelia, the second MGMT album deserves even more kudos than 2007's Oracular Spectacular. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

MERLE HAGGARD

I Am What I Am

At 73, the country legend possesses an ease with himself that lends a grizzled grace to tunes such as the unapologetic title track. [

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  

]

>• If there were ever any doubt that the punk trio's 2004 opus was born to be a rock opera, then there is no longer. Opening on the Great White Way April 20, the musical adapted from the album brings those songs (plus some from 21st Century Breakdown) to vivid life. The new cast recording shows just how well they survive the show-tune treatment.

>SARAH MCLACHLAN returns in feel-good fashion with "Loving You Is Easy," from The Laws of Illusion, due June 15. $1.29 at amazon.com.

REGINA SPEKTOR uses her soprano and piano to benefit Doctors Without Borders on a quiet cover of Radiohead's "No Surprises." $1.29 at iTunes.com.

M.I.A. lets loose on "Born Free," a frenetic electro-rocker previewing her still-untitled third disc, due June 29. $1.29 at iTunes.com.

>• The American Idol season 7 finalist, 23, has a new self-titled album and a new wife, Mandy Mayhall.

ON HIS IDOL PICKS THIS SEASON

Crystal Bowersox is my favorite. Also, I like Casey James a lot. He's a great singer and guitar player; really cool.

ON HIS PREWEDDING SERENADE

We have a tradition in Colombia [where his parents are from]: You serenade the bride at midnight before the wedding. So me and all my uncles snuck in her house and sang love songs to her.

ON HIS HONEYMOON

We spent a week at Atlantis in the Bahamas and saw Justin Bieber perform. Then I was playing some blackjack, turned around, and it was Justin in the casino. I was like, "Are you allowed to be in here?"