Picks and Pans Review: Quick Cuts

updated 06/29/2009 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/29/2009 01:00AM

>MOS DEF The Ecstatic Mos Def may have been better known as an actor in recent years, but his fourth solo album reminds us of what a dope rapper he is. It's a jazzy, intricate collage of textures and thoughts that plays like one seamless deejay mix.

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MICHAEL JOHNS Hold Back My Heart America, you got it wrong: Johns's debut proves he should have finished a lot higher than eighth on American Idol in 2008. Surprisingly soulful, with more bluesy grit than Taylor Hicks could dream of.

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ZEE AVI Zee Avi After being discovered on YouTube by one of the Raconteurs, this Malaysian singer-songwriter was signed to Jack Johnson's label, a good home for her airy folk-pop. At times, though, this debut floats by a little too easily.

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TAKING BACK SUNDAY New Again They ought to take back the title, because there's really nothing new about the fourth album from this quintet. Even so, it's a serviceable set of rockers such as the punk-spiked single "Sink Into Me."

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