Picks and Pans Main: Music

updated 03/14/2011 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/14/2011 01:00AM

Radiohead

The King of Limbs |

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

ALT-ROCK

The biggest complaint you could have about the new Radiohead album-sprung on their website with just four days' notice-is that it may leave you wanting more: With just eight tracks (compare that with 14 on 2003's Hail to the Thief), it feels maybe one or two cuts short. Certainly, though, they make every song count, placing King as a worthy successor to '07's In Rainbows if not in the regal domain of The Bends or OK Computer. Like with most Radiohead albums, its spell sneaks up on you upon repeat spins as you lose yourself in all of the layered atmospherics. The set unfolds with "Bloom," a trippy, almost mystical incantation that careens and caresses. The polyrhythmic structure of tracks like this and "Feral"-a mesmerizing, African-tinged thriller on which Thom Yorke uses his voice as a wordless instrument-finds Radiohead working in more of a jazz motif. Elsewhere, there are haunting ballads like "Give Up the Ghost," while the lush, lilting send-off "Separator" demonstrates just what sets Radiohead apart from every other band on the planet.

Lucinda Williams

Blessed |

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COUNTRY-ROCK

Add Lucinda Williams to the list of life's blessings that should be counted on the touching title track of her new album. Indeed, the singer-songwriter shows no signs of slowing the creative roll she has been on since 2007's West. Her latest, coproduced by Grammy winner Don Was, finds the tough-voiced Williams in a tender mood on ballads like the sweetly comforting "Born to Be Loved" and "Copenhagen," an elegy for her late manager. But another death-a friend's suicide-drives her into angry rocker mode on "Seeing Black," one of three cuts endowed with Elvis Costello on electric guitar.

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