The short version:
Tom McRae—Just like Blood: 6/10
Yann Tiersen—Les Retrouvailles: 8/10
Sarah Silverman—Jesus is Magic (Comedy): "very funny but too many misses"
Basement Jaxx—Crazy Itch Radio: 9/10
Enigma—A Posteriori: 6/10
Feel free to skip the text, but I highly recommend clicking the music links. There's some beautiful stuff in this round of albums.
Tom McRae's album Just like Blood is an album I bought for the first track. And, as tends to be the case, that's the best one on the disc. But, it's not bad... it's just not my normal cup of tea. I tend to like thick music with a lot going on at once. Tom McRae is a singer-songwriter (a term I had to look up on Wikipedia, being one of those phrases I'd heard a lot but wasn't really sure about), and as such his music does not have a lot of accompaniment. Anyway, the standout track is the first one, A Day like Today, which is exciting and different from the rest, with strings, a weird xylophone thing, and more. My other two favorite tracks, predictably enough if you've heard the CD, are Karaoke Soul and Stronger than You, both with strong, pop-friendly drums and bass. The rest of the CD is much more mellow, and while it's not bad, it's not what I usually am in the mood for. Ghost of a Shark is not one of my favorites, but it's a good example of what the rest of the CD is like if you heard those first three and decide you like them.
Next I moved onto Yann Tiersen's latest album, Les Retrouvailles ("meeting again"). Tiersen did the soundtrack to Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain (Amélie), one of my favorite movie soundtracks ever. It's very varied, interesting, pretty, and French—though much of the music that I associate with the French is actually based on the Amélie soundtrack. It's a nice album that tells a musical story, with lots of instruments and sounds that you don't hear too often, in soundtracks or otherwise. It's not a soundtrack, but it probably could be one—probably to a romantic film. Best tracks are Kala, La Boulange ("the baker?"), and Les Retrouvailles/La Jetée ("the pier"). You can listen at yanntiersen.com, though I wasn't able to get the RealPlayer clips to work. Definitely worth your time if you liked the Amélie soundtrack; you'll hate it if you didn't.
Sarah Silverman's Jesus is Magic was pretty amusing. It's available on DVD and CD; in retrospect I should have gotten the DVD, as some of the videos are amusing, and a comedy CD is not something that I tend to listen to frequently. I love Sarah Silverman's brand of horribly offensive comedy; something about a cute, innocent little woman dancing around in a nursing home singing "you're gonna die soon!" is hilarious. Essentially, it's a comedy routine with songs spliced in between bits. It seems even more silly to talk about comedy than music, so here are some samples—very much not safe for work: That's What I Do ("I was raped by a doctor, which is, um, so bittersweet for a Jewish girl") and I Love You More ("I love you even if it's not hip / I love you more than black people don't tip"). If you like those, listen to the whole album. Versus other comedy albums I've heard, there are more "misses," but she's got an interesting sense of humor that makes them worth it.
The new Basement Jaxx album Crazy Itch Radio is excellent and was worth the wait. Few albums you'll come across have so much stuff going on at once—this album is the polar opposite of the Tom McRae CD. The lovely but very short opening track is modeled after the final crescendo of a symphony, which is a pretty good clue of how the album is going to sound: over the top, wacky, hyperactive, and insane. Right after that you're thrown into Hush Boy, easily worth the price of the album itself... absolutely fantastic. After an irritating interlude is Take Me Back to Your House, also excellent. If those are too much, you might enjoy Smoke Bubbles from the second half of the album, which is a bit more relaxed.
This disc is a party for your ears, so at some point someone's gonna break something. The horribly annoying song Run 4 Cover is the point in the party where things just get stupid and out of hand and the cops have to come break things up; the rest of the album is a little less nuts, but still tame by no means. One miss out of a dozen tracks isn't bad—I highly recommend this album to anyone who enjoys dance music.
Finally, Enigma has a new CD out, A Posteriori. Enigma is a very pleasant blend of chillout and world and electronic music, and having been three years since his last CD, I've been looking forward to this one for a while. Unfortunately, it's not quite up to his previous work. I think the tracks are a little too similar and a little too generic; they're not interesting or new enough. It's still an okay album, but not what I was hoping for. If you're into his style, you'll still probably enjoy this. Check out the light and pretty Eppur Si Muove, the strange The Alchemist, and the even more bizarre finale Goodbye Milky Way, all good stuff.