Picks and Pans Review: Recent Raves

updated 08/25/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/25/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Life, Death, Love and Freedom
On one of his best albums in years, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer pairs up with Grammy-winning producer T Bone Burnett for a stark, stirring meditation on life, death, love and freedom.

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Nas may have decided not to use the N-word as the title of this CD, but it hasn't softened the impact of this hard-hitting look at the state of black America and race relations. The front-runner for best rap album of the year.

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Partie Traumatic
This new outfit comes on like a musical crossbreed of the Cure, the B-52's and Scissor Sisters on one of the hottest party discs of the summer. Best is "I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You."

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The Stoop
Putting a modern spin on '60s soul, singer Imani Coppola and programmer Adam Pallin come up with something special. They pour on the sass—and the brass—on some lyrically wicked girl-group throwbacks.

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