Fall Out Boy
Album: Folie a Deux (Island)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Despite their celeb surroundings — tabloid buzz, procreating with Ashlee Simpson, etc. — the guys in Fall Out Boy have proved artistically sound when it comes to making emo-rock. There aren't many people who get to have their cake and eat it, too — but mangia, Pete Wentz! Fifth album Folie a Deux finds the Chicagoans in peak strutty shape. Winky song titles? Check. Coolly aloof wordplay? You betcha.
Why we like it: Funk-friendly bassist Wentz is the face of the band, but singer Patrick Stump is the true hero. With casual passion, he can go glam a la Simon LeBon or raw like Elvis Costello, who cameos on What a Catch, Donnie.
Reminds us of: Still love their cover of Beat It
Download this: America's Suitehearts
The Alan Parsons Project
Album: Ammonia Avenue (Arista/Legacy)
In stores: Jan. 27
Why we care: Arista/Legacy is reissuing the later works of the Alan Parsons Project — one of the great "Dad" bands in rock — including an expanded edition of 1984's Ammonia Avenue. And while it all sounds great, nothing tops the rolling soul-crush of Don't Answer Me, that famously sad song with a big Phil Spector beat.
Why we like it: By the time of Ammonia Avenue, the Project was more interested in art-pop tunage than head-scratchy concept albums. Sure, vocalist Eric Woolfson claims AA is about an industrial plant in England. But let it be known this album hit big because of Don't Answer Me and its heart-shredding hook.
Reminds us of: "Be my, be my little baby . . ."
Download this: Don't Answer Me
Album: Theater of the Mind (Disturbing Tha Peace)
In stores: Now
Why we care: The trend in pop these days is for artists to release more product more often, to maintain momentum in a fickle marketplace. If this artist is Kanye West, at the top of his chops, that works. But one-trick zingmasters such as Ludacris, clever or not, need time to refresh.
Why we like it: Covering up for blah beats, lame jokes and umpteen boast songs, Luda signs on a big-shot supporting cast to distract us: T.I., Lil Wayne, Ving Rhames . . . wait, Ving Rhames? Luda's last album smartly blended the personal and the private. Theater takes that all back and tells us he's just in it for the ladies.
Reminds us of: Honestly, I'm just in it for the ladies, too. And the money. Big bank. Huge.
Download this: Call Up the Homies
SONG OF THE WEEK
Album: Savage Island (Universal Republic)
In stores: Now
Why we care: I love portly musicians. Mama Cass, Raul Malo, Elvis circa '73, the entirety of the Fat Boys. New Zealand-based rapper Savage (kiwi-hop!) is certainly large enough to join the party. Labels have been trying to break the Samoan for years, and now Universal Republic is pushing his rambunctious party jams on the heels of Flo Rida's Low.
Why we like it: Utterly profane, ultimately irresistible, Savage's Swing is all about sublime pendulosity and an appreciation for the zaftig form. Over some chunky synth and frisky beats, the plus-sized MC doesn't exactly put it that way, but trust me, he loves people of all shapes and sizes. Especially if you're nekkid and, say, washing his car.
Reminds us of: "Shawty got low, low, low . . ."