The short version:
Bear McCreary—Dark Void: 7/10
Amadou and Mariam—Welcome to Mali: 5/10
Justin Timberlake—FutureSex/LoveSounds: 5/10
Bruno Mars—Doo-Wops and Hooligans: 6/10
P!nk—Can't Take Me Home: 3/10
fun.—Aim and Ignite: 7/10
Teddybears—Soft Machine: 6/10
Various Artists—Almost Alice: 6/10
Bear McCreary is one of my "new" favorite composers as of the last several years. His work on the Battlestar Galactica soundtrack is nothing short of phenomenal, and he has a keen ear for interesting and unusual sounds combined in unusual ways. (By the way, I totally recommend following him on Facebook; he posts fascinating insights into his musical processes, videos of him playing BSG tunes on the piano, and so on.) Anyway, he also did the soundtrack for a video game nobody heard of called Dark Void. It's not as good as his BSG soundtracks (well maybe better than The Plan / Razor, the weakest one), but it's pretty definitely recognizable as Bear—wacky unidentifiable foreign instruments, heavy percussion, and stuff that makes you just nod your head in appreciation of this dude's ridiculous creativity. I think the best things here are Above the Canopy (which I would totally believe was from BSG seasons 3-4 if someone told me that), The Collector, and Survivor Camp Combat. Overall it's good enough that I thought about picking the game up for six bucks on Amazon until I saw how poorly it was reviewed, but I can still recommend the Dark Void soundtrack to anyone who enjoyed the BSG soundtracks, which is I suppose anyone who doesn't hate music.
I don't know what genre Welcome to Mali by Amadou and Mariam is. I admit it. Just a sec; I'm gonna go look it up. Okay, Wikipedia suggests that it might be "African blues." I dunno. I always enjoy when an otherwise pleasant piece of music makes me furrow my brow and wonder to myself what on earth I'm listening to, and Sabali fits that bill. Most of the album isn't doesn't sound like that though, with my other two favorites Africa (featuring K'NAAN) and Je te Kiffe being decidedly more blues-y and rock-ish. Overall I'd like it more but I don't really love the vocals. It's not mean to complain about the way that blind people sing is it? That's just deaf people, right? Anyway, I don't know who to recommend it to. It's a long CD and there's are several tracks that I don't care for all that much, but at the very least I can't complain that it's just like all of the other world music albums I have by blind husband and wife duos. Just check it out.
FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake is okay. Actually, I think that Lovestoned / I Think She Knows is completely fabulous, and of course SexyBack is super catchy. The rest I don't really care too much about. I probably should have stuck with singles for this one.
I'd heard of O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) before but I can't recall why. They had a new album called King on Spotify with a very pretty album cover so I decided to click on it. It turns out it's kinda decent. It's one of those albums that starts out strong and then probably should have ended a lot sooner than it really does. It's twenty tracks (!) and only three of those are interludes... but there's only one that's better than mediocre after #6. Heaven, King, and Not for Me are all some good head-bobbin' rock music.
I'd been on the fence for a while about Bruno Mars' Doo-Wops and Hooligans. Actually, I was on the fence for a while and then I decided on the "no" side of the fence, but I changed my mind and decided it was worth buying after all. (His amazing new single It Will Rain is mostly what made me reconsider.) That should probably adequately explain what I think of it. I think it's decent, and it's worth owning, but not overwhelmingly so. Just the Way You Are, The Lazy Song (omg best video evar, starring Leonard Nimoy), and Marry You are my favorites.
Ugh. I figured I should round out my P!nk collection and get Can't Take Me Home, but I curse my completionist nature. It's not good. There aren't any songs on it that are really all that good. There are a few that are okay, and that's it: Most Girls, Private Show, and There You Go. I say skip it, even if you're a fan. Maybe there's a reason it was impossible to find the songs on it streamed.
Another random promoted Spotify find, Aim and Ignite by fun. was well-named and unexpectedly pleasant. The opening track Be Calm is wonderfully unpredictable and perky and joyous and, well, entertaining. All the Pretty Girls is more pop-rock and less insane than Be Calm, but still really nice. And Light a Roman Candle with Me is interesting too. This is another one of those CDs for which I can't really guess who might enjoy it, but I do recommend giving those tracks a listen and see if it's something you'd like. I don't even know what genre to call it. Indie rock? Some of it sort of reminds me of Electric Light Orchestra, so maybe it's oldies...
After the resounding success with their last album Devil's Music I picked up Soft Machine by Teddybears. It's certainly not as good but it's rather similar in style and still decent. I can hear the sounds of their latest album in this one in a somewhat less refined form. Yours to Keep, Automatic Lover, and Different Sound are all worthwhile, but they just aren't as awesome and memorable as the best tracks on their newest CD.
Finally, I picked up the CD of music "inspired by the movie Alice in Wonderland," Almost Alice. I got it for Tea Party by Kerli because Kerli is awesome, and I like the idea of the lyric "I'm a lady, futhermucker, have some class" occurring in a song for a PG-rated children's movie. The video for that song is terrifying though; it's basically twenty Lady Gagas having cake, and that's just way too many Ladies Gaga. But there's other good stuff on there too. Shinedown, a band I don't really care for, has a really excellent metal-ish song Her Name Is Alice on there, probably the best on the CD. And Welcome to Mystery by the Plain White T's is rather good too. As with any compilation album there's a lot of variance, but Almost Alice fits the movie appropriately.
Not the greatest batch of CDs, but a bunch of "decent enough." I got the latest from Mute Math and Coldplay and they're also both decent but sort of disappointing so far; I'm not yet ready to pass judgment though. I'm pretty excited about this four-disc Skyrim soundtrack coming in a couple weeks however!