CRITIC'S CHOICE

Sara Bareilles

Kaleidoscope Heart |

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REVIEWED BY IVORY JEFF CLINTON

POP

In 2007 the singer-songwriter rocketed from obscurity with her album Little Voice and the Grammy-nominated pop-rock gem "Love Song." How does she follow up on that? Impeccably. Bareilles' flair for colorful lyrics about romance is on display once again, particularly on the first single, "King of Anything," about an egotistical suitor who has "got the talking down, just not the listening." She uses her talent as a pianist to great effect on the upbeat highlight "Uncharted," an ode to perseverance, as well as the country-tinged "Gonna Get over You." Most engaging, though, is her crystalline voice, striking a perfect balance between power and pleasantness.

Interpol

Interpol |

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REVIEWED BY JESSICA HERNDON

ALT-ROCK

The New York rockers, known for their moody post-punk style, veer in a new, atmospheric direction on their fourth album. The trio (bassist Carlos D left after recording this album) are especially eerie and seductive on haunting goth highlights "Lights" and "The Undoing," on which singer-songwriter Paul Banks sings in Spanish. Though not as groove-worthy or lyrically poetic as their best hits, the upbeat first single, "Barricade," packs enough heat to make U2-for whom they'll open this fall-proud.

Robyn

Body Talk Pt. 2 |

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DANCE-POP

When life doesn't make sense, the Swedish singer declares on the synth-pop opener "In My Eyes," the cure is to "put our dancing shoes on and do it again." And on this album, she provides more of the necessary body-shaking tunes than she did on the not-so-sparkly Body Talk Pt. 1, released in June. (Pt. 3 is due later this year.) Her electro flair is at its best when teamed with M.I.A. producer Diplo on the sassy "Criminal Intent" and when she gives Pt. 1's "Hang with Me" a dreamy, pulsating makeover.

Little Big Town

The Reason Why |

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REVIEWED BY RANDY VEST

COUNTRY-POP

This Nashville quartet's tight harmonies are once again perfectly in sync on their fourth album. Witness the a cappella opening of "Why, Oh Why," a gospel-drenched lament about a dysfunctional relationship, or the rousing, revival meeting-influenced first single, "Little White Church." There are also top-notch lead vocals among the tracks, most notably Karen Fairchild's mournful delivery of the standout ballad "Shut Up Train," which perfectly conveys the heartache of losing that special someone who is, like freight cars rumbling past during a quiet night, moving on.

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

After tweeting about his obsession with the pop star's "Runaway Love" ("on my 17th listen 2day"), Kanye West released a thumping remix, also featuring the Wu-Tang Clan's Raekwon.

MARTY STUART

Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions

This is traditional twang at its best, courtesy of Stuart's raw vocals and a mix of new and old tunes, including the haunting "Hangman," cowritten with Johnny Cash.

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LYFE JENNINGS

I Still Believe

On his final CD, Jennings displays his knack for confessional slow jams. The touching "Mama" makes us hope he'll rethink his plan to stop recording.

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RANDY ROGERS BAND

Burning the Day

The country-rock heart-wrencher "Just Don't Tell Me the Truth" shines on an album that could use more diverse arrangements.

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JESSE HARRIS

Through the Night

Best known for penning hits for Norah Jones, Harris weaves a deftly varied musical tapestry with a mix of folk, bluesy rock and jazz.

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The "Pretty Good at Drinkin' Beer" singer, 36, shares his top odes to boozing

"GIN AND JUICE," SNOOP DOGG

I didn't grow up on a lot of his music, but I did hear that one. That's one of them songs that makes you want to dance too. It gets you up and rockin'.

"WHISKEY RIVER," WILLIE NELSON

He starts every show with it. It's one of my favorite songs. I'm a huge fan.

"POP A TOP," ALAN JACKSON

I always had thoughts of recording that song myself. It's up-tempo and it's a happy song-I don't want to be depressed when I'm having a beer.

"FRIENDS IN LOW PLACES," GARTH BROOKS

I don't know anybody in America that didn't love that song! That was one of his best, no doubt. I think I wanted to be him when I was 16.

The soulful singer, 31, returns with Maroon 5's third album, Hands All Over, and explains why he'll never go solo

ON THE LONGEVITY OF THE BAND

I feel fortunate surviving the Best New Artist [Grammy] curse-you win and are never heard from again. We didn't fall into any traps because we didn't feel it was proof of anything other than we were popular.

ON THE ACTION-PACKED "MISERY" VIDEO

[Working with model girlfriend Anne V, 24] was awesome. We had a team of stunt doubles, but a lot of the fake fighting we did ourselves.

ON HIS NEW CLOTHING LINE 222

I would typically cringe at a celebrity starting their own line [but it] reflects what I wear. It's basic and unpretentious-the right jeans and T-shirt always win.

ON GOING SOLO

Never. I don't want to be a solo artist-it's nerdy. Being in a band is so cool. I'm going to do my own things, but my anchor is Maroon 5.

JAY SEAN teams with rapper Nicki Minaj on the techno-pop jam "2012 (It Ain't the End)," from his Freeze Time CD, out Nov. 2. $1.29 at zune.net.

KT TUNSTALL mourns a fading romance with "Fade Like a Shadow," from her next alt-pop CD Tiger Suit, due Oct. 5. $0.99 at amazon.com.

OWL CITY uplifts with the inspirational "To the Sky," a breezy gem from-appropriately-the animated film Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole. $1.29 at iTunes.com.