Picks and Pans Main: Music

updated 09/20/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/20/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

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.

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