Janelle Monáe - "Faster"
I would not be surprised to see Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid (Suites II and III) on many best-of lists at the end of this year. Even I, somebody who doesn't regularly listen to hip-hop or anything hip-hop-influenced, can't deny how tuneful, multi-colored, and dense this record is. Sure, there are comparisons to Outkast's last few albums, but I also hear stuff that sounds like Stevie Wonder and Stereolab and whole bunch of other things. Definitely worth your time if you still haven't heard it yet. --Eric Grubbs
When I noticed that Social Distortion was going to play our area in November, I started recalling the many times I've been lucky enough to catch Mike Ness and crew over the years. Back in 1996, I was out of town but managed to luckily stumble into a Social D show on the White Light, White Heat, White Trash tour. I remember thinking that the album title was the perfect summation of the band's sound. When Ness started the band way back in 1978 (!), they were just some foul-mouthed, snotty punks who had just enough attitude and songwriting ability to make a splash. After Ness' various run-ins with the law finally landed him in the slammer, I thought the band was done for good. But Ness proved resilient and has kept churning out noisy, aggressive, yet still tuneful albums. "I Was Wrong," the single from White Light is a blisteringly loud "ballad" that rings true for any guy who ever had to apologize to a woman. I guess that's all of us. --Darryl Smyers