The short version:
Keane—Under the Iron Sea: 9/10
DJ Shadow—The Outsider: 3/10
John Legend—Get Lifted: 3/10
I picked up the new Keane CD, Under the Iron Sea, and it's excellent. I bought it about a minute into the opening track Atlantic—I was mesmerized by the hypnotic beat and the dark but lovely synth strings and piano. It's sad and beautiful, and you have to hear it. There are so many great pop-rock songs on here it's hard to just pick a few, but A Bad Dream and Put It Behind You are both worth listening. I was not terribly impressed by their first CD Hopes and Fears, but I'm glad I gave them another chance; I can't put this one down. (Well, figuratively.) Highly recommended; you're most likely to enjoy this CD if you like Snow Patrol.
My opinion is far lower of the new DJ Shadow album The Outsider. This disc is nothing short of confusing given the range of styles on here. The best four tracks are each completely different styles. Sample This Time (I'm Gonna Try It My Way), Backstage Girl (featuring Phonte Coleman), and You Made It (featuring Chris James). All of those are decent, but it would be quite disingenous to give the impression that the CD is all like that. There's some truly awful crap on here—Turf Dancing (featuring The Federation and Animaniaks) and Keep 'em Close (featuring Nump) are just two of the songs on here that will make your ears bleed. Perhaps the worst part is that they probably could have been quite a lot better if the guest rappers weren't so horrible. Overall, there are a few decent tracks, a few mediocre tracks, and some pretty bad ones. Not recommended.
Finally, I picked up a 2006 Grammy winner, Get Lifted by John Legend. R&B isn't really one of my genres, but after hearing him sing High Road on the Fort Minor CD, I decided it was worth a chance. I should have saved my money. The songs are all pretty repetitive to me, as not only do they sound fairly similar, but also just about every song on the disc is about cheating, or apologizing for cheating. Nothing on this CD stands out as all that great, but the more tolerable tracks are Used to Love U, Let's Get Lifted, and Number One (featuring Kanye West). Not recommended unless you like R&B far more than I do. Go buy the Fort Minor CD instead.
Currently listening: Jonathan Coulton—re: Your Brains