The short version:
KT Tunstall—Tiger Suit: 8/10
Hooverphonic—The Night Before: 4/10
Shakira—Sale el Sol: 6/10
Scissor Sisters—Night Work: 8/10
Jack Wall—Mass Effect soundtrack: 6/10
Newsboys—Born Again: 6/10
Robyn—Body Talk: 8/10
I've been very pleased with KT Tunstall's third album Tiger Suit. Her last album Drastic Fantastic made it seem like she was trying to adapt her singer-songwriter style to more pop sensibilities but wasn't really sure how. She figured out how. Tiger Suit is much more radio-friendly than either of her previous two albums but has all of the charm and fun of her first album: branching out without selling out. It's a good brand of smart pop, and I can recommend it to anyone who liked KT Tunstall's first as well as some people who might not have liked her previous work but might enjoy it now that it's just a bit more flashy. Glamour Puss, Uummannaq Song, and Difficulty are my favorites here.
One of my long-time favorite bands Hooverphonic from Belgium just put out another disc after replacing their lead singer with someone who looks and sounds an awful lot like their last singer. The Night Before isn't that good, though. Their last album was sort of an alternative-rock album which felt weird from a trip-hop band, and this one is even more awkward and bland. I hope they make a retreat and get back more of their old soul and style, because I don't think I want to buy another CD like this. Anger Never Dies, The Night Before (video), and Identical Twin are the best tracks on here, but it's all pretty skippable.
Shakira's got another mostly-Spanish CD, Sale el Sol. It's decent. Generally her voice sounds better in her Spanish songs, but many of the songs here just aren't that strong. By far my favorite on the album is Rabiosa, and while it's present in both Spanish and English I actually prefer the English version simply because the guest vocalist Pitbull is much better than El Cata on the Spanish version. I've listened to one of Pitbull's CDs and I wasn't too impressed (though his song I Know You Want Me as seen on the game Dance Central is pretty good), but there's something very erotically appealing about how he sings on Rabiosa. The Spanish version of Loca and Devoción are both good too.
N.E.R.D.'s got a new album out too titled Nothing, which is somewhere around what you should pay for it. I don't care that much about any of the tracks on it, but Help Me, Nothing on You, and Not-N-Fun are decent. The rest is just like a bunch of B-sides that seem to focus mostly on the sorts of things that I think are annoying about quite a few of their songs.
There's a new Scissor Sisters CD out as well with vaguely NSFW cover art of a basically naked ass, which is adequate preparation for just how unsafe for work most of the songs are on Night Work. I'd be embarrassed if most people came into my office if the excellent track Whole New Way were playing, with more buttsecks innuendo than you can shake a naked ass at. This just has to be the gayest CD I own. Besides the aforementioned track Any Which Way and Invisible Light are both really good, but if you've liked any of the earlier Scissor Sisters songs you're gonna like just about everything on this disc.
Jason got me the Mass Effect soundtrack by Jack Wall for Christmas since I loved the game and the sequel and both had pretty good music. Mass Effect 2 had a more solid score than the first game, but both were quite fitting. As an album on its own it's not super interesting, but it's good sci-fi electronic background music nonetheless. My favorites are Breeding Ground, Vigil, and From the Wreckage.
Ancient Christian pop group Newsboys lost their lead singer since their last album and got a new guy for the appropriately titled Born Again. It's definitely their most rock-focused album so far, which is okay, but there are some pretty cringingly cheesy songs on here—I find them kind of annoying, and anyone who wasn't raised in a religious household is going to abhor them. That said, the title track, a cover of DC Talk's Jesus Freak, and One Shot are all pretty good, and the album overall isn't terrible.
I found out about Robyn's album Body Talk from Rolling Stone while I was in the waiting room for my MRI, and it was rather a fortuitous find because it's a really excellent dance CD. (It's sold as three EPs or a single LP including most of the tracks from the EPs.) It's not complex and it doesn't need to be. Call Your Girlfriend is a simple enough dance song and my favorite on the disc, and I challenge anyone to listen to it from the beginning and not burst out grinning when it hits ~2:30. (I still can't avoid smiling there.) Dancing on My Own (video) and Fembot are both also really good, and there are plenty of good party-friendly tracks on here with only two obnoxiously repetitive songs that Jason makes me skip every time. Definitely worth picking up if you like dance music. I've been through her earlier work and it seems that this is a departure; I wasn't nearly as interested in her past CDs as this one, which is too bad, but I'm still looking forward to her next one.
The Grammys have given me some ideas for stuff to check out soon, but for now I've still got a dozen albums or so to listen to over the next few months.