Album: Youth Novels (LL)
In stores: Now
Why we care: This 22-year-old Swede says her burbling art-pop is inspired by both Madonna and Bob Dylan. After listening to her debut, I'm also hearing Missing Persons, Bjork and the folks who design those big honkin' IKEA catalogs. Ektorp!
Why we like it: This is a hip, indie affair, the kind of brainy electro-heartbreak you'd hear at a dinner party thrown by rich young Chicago architects. Li injects some funk into her junk, which helps cut down on the chilly vibe. She also embraces a likable outsider aesthetic, opting for weird over formula. She's David Byrne in the body of someone who could star in a Scandinavian version of Saved by the Bell.
Reminds us of: What's Swedish for Screech?
Download this: I'm Good, I'm Gone
Album: Bring It On: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition (Caroline)
In stores: Oct. 14
Why we care: Winner of the 1998 Mercury Prize, Britain's top music award, this acid-dripped collection of rock and blues deconstructs the Brit-pop sheen of Pulp and Oasis — but without losing any heart. It was a mighty, and mighty lovely, achievement, especially for a Southport band just getting started.
Why we like it: I've spent great gobs of ink pleading with readers to seek out Gomez singer Ben Ottewell. His voice is youthful but weathered, soft, soaring but with clipped wings. He'd make a great voice artist for Disney, maybe as a sad sidekick or Eeyore's cousin Nigel.
Reminds us of: This loaded edition comes with a second disc of live cuts and B-sides.
Download this: Make No Sound
Album: LAX (Geffen)
In stores: Now
Why we care: Being the king of the West Coast rap scene is a little like winning the show Survivor. Sure, you're the champ, but is anyone paying attention anymore? The Cali sound hasn't been hot for years; it's all Chi-town and Dirty South these days. Still, the Game represents his Compton roots with gangsta force and dizzying synths, painting a surreal thug life where palm trees still sway and bullets still hurt.
Why we like it: Ice Cube, Ludacris, Ne-Yo and Nas all do the feat. thing, showing up to rap the hooks while the Game does his Dr. Dre-less best to bring hard heat and attention back home.
Reminds us of: Interviewing Ice Cube, who made no apologies for his wicked NWA youth.
Download these: State of Emergency (feat. Ice Cube) and Cali Sunshine (feat. Bilal)
SONG OF THE WEEK
Song: Love Will Turn You Around
Album: 50 Years (Cracker Barrel)
In stores: Now
Why we care: I'm obsessed with the Cracker Barrel gift shop. Seriously. I just want to play car bingo and eat pecan logs and buy Aunt Shirley a scented candle. I feel safe there, especially so close to vats of sausage gravy. Now the Barrel is concentrating on the music biz, too. Their latest in-store release is a Kenny Rogers retrospective, which includes 1982's Love Will Turn You Around, the best thing from the Gambler's movie-career bid, Six Pack.
Why we like it: Kenny was the king of the lazy-river sound, traditional but with a whopper pop hook. With this sunny midtempo gem, you could either sing the guitar part or the chorus: "Love will turn you around, turn you around."
Reminds us of: The Barrel's hash brown casserole. Like a big blob of heaven, folks.