The short version:
Sam Hulick, Christopher Lennertz, Cris Velasco, Sascha Dikiciyan, and Clint Mansell—Mass Effect 3 (Extended Cut): 9/10
Russell Brower, Neal Acree, Sam Cardon, Edo Guidotti, Jeremy Soule—World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria: 8/10
Florence and the Machine—Ceremonials: 8/10
Train—California 37: 7/10
Parov Stelar—The Princess: 7/10
Garbage—Not Your Kind of People: 7/10
Elizaveta—Beatrix Runs: 8/10
Imagine Dragons—Night Visions: 7/10
Alex Clare—The Lateness of the Hour: 7/10
Muse—The 2nd Law: 7/10
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis—The Heist: 7/10
Finally, here are the great CDs that I've bought recently that I can definitely recommend.
The Mass Effect 3 soundtrack is excellent for a sci-fi action movie/game. The parts that really excel are the tracks that fit the really emotional scenes from the game, of which there were many, and the epic moments, of which there were many. The music that accompanied the sci-fi action moments isn't as spectacular, but it's still fitting and pleasant. If you enjoy this sort of music at all I would highly recommend checking it out. It's available on the various music services, and seven additional tracks from the Extended Cut were released online for free, though they're a little below average in quality. I think the best on the soundtrack are Leaving Earth and I'm Sorry (emotional), and The Fleets Arrive (epic), but there's a lot to like for anyone who likes soundtracks.
The World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria soundtrack is almost as great. For the most part World of Warcraft's soundtrack is just background music for each different zone in the game and not associated with particular plot points, so each area has its own musical themes, but there aren't generally separate tracks for emotional moments or epic scenes. That said, there's some really excellent background music in here. The soundtrack album combines multiple in-game pieces into single tracks; Way of the Monk and Valley of the Four Winds are both gorgeous, and Going Hozen is delightful. Recommended for soundtrack lovers.
Florence and the Machine's latest CD Ceremonials is soulful and energetic. There are plenty of really good songs on here, and while none of them reach favorite-ever status, there are enough of them that it's hard to pick just a few that I like. But Only If for a Night, Shake It Out, and Remain Nameless are probably the strongest three.
I also got the Train album California 37 song with the catchy song everyone's sick of by now, Drive By. In addition to that one I rather like 50 Ways to Say Goodbye and California 37. It's a great pop CD.
It's sort of hard to sum Parov Stelar's latest album The Princess up in a number. On one hand it has a lot of great songs. On the other hand it's a two-CD album for the price of one, and it has a lot of crap. Part of me likes getting more for my money, but there's value in knowing what to reject, too. With You (featuring Lilja Bloom), Silent Shuffle, and The Fog stand out as being the most interesting on the album for me. In 28 tracks, there's plenty to like and a bunch that I don't, as well.
I hadn't heard from Garbage in a long while (I say that as if I'm buddies with the band). Their latest CD is interesting though. The opening track Automatic Systematic Habit is a terribly catchy song about a lying cheating partner, and my other favorite Battle in Me has a delicious guitar part that I love. It's a lot tougher to pick a third favorite after those two; Man on a Wire is probably it. This album's not for everyone, but I do think that overall it's pretty good.
Synthetica by Metric might be the winner for the earliest surprise f-bomb on a CD that I own, in the great opening synth-rock track Artificial Nocturne. The Void and the title track are probably my other favorites, though I'm partial to Lost Kitten too. It's got sort of an indie, alternative, synth-y sound to it.
Beatrix Runs by Elizaveta was an unexpected and awesome random find. It's like pop-opera... popera. Odi et Amo is the best track and it's glorious, but the opening song Dreamer is beautiful too, and Goodbye Song is touching. I'd say that if you like female vocalists like Sara Bareilles there's a high probability you'll like this album.
I found out about Imagine Dragons because they were touring with AWOLNATION, though not when I saw them in concert. They're an alternative band and their first CD Night Visions is good. The opening track Radioactive is wonderful, and also may cause permanent speaker damage. Demons and the much perkier On Top of the World are both fun times too. The sound is notably different from AWOLNATION, but I can definitely see why you'd be likely to like Imagine Dragons if you like the other; they're both creative and interesting and experimental and really sound like they love what they're doing.
Alex Clare is known as "the guy from the Internet Explorer ads," because that's where you've heard the fabulous track Too Close from The Lateness of the Hour. It's an energetic and funky and exciting album. The opening track Up All Night is moderately disgusting but it's catchy and it sounds great, and Hummingbird is wild. My biggest complaint about the CD is that too many tracks depend on repetitive wobbly wub-wub bass, which is a strange thing to say about a funky rock CD.
Dragonette's latest CD Bodyparts is the standout pop CD from this latest batch, and there are some amazing dance songs on here: My Legs, Let It Go, and Live in this City, to start with. It finishes with Ghost, which I'm also partial to. You've gotta check this one out if you like dance or electronic pop music.
A new Muse album is always a noteworthy affair, and their latest one The 2nd Law is no exception. This time the controversy is that a few of their songs have a definite dubstep influence. Most notably, their first big single, Madness, which is superb, but not even really a rock song, so I suppose I could see how some fans could potentially be upset. My second (er, 2nd) favorite is Big Freeze, which has a much more traditional Muse sound, and finally the two-part mostly-instrumental finale (it just wouldn't be a Muse album without a big finale) The 2nd Law, specifically the second half Isolated System. I think that most Muse fans are going to enjoy this album just fine.
Finally, I picked up the debut CD by local artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, The Heist. It starts really strong and while there are definitely some duds on here, this is something worth picking up if you like hip-hop. Thrift Shop is utterly delightful and has a hilarious video to go along with it, and Same Love has one of the best and most touching music videos I've seen. Make the Money is catchy and Thin Line is really interesting. It's sad that it's remarkable, but the lyrics on the CD are about actual things, and for the most part not just about bitches and going to clubs, so that's a nice plus. I think we'll see more good stuff from these two.