Test Spin: Keith Urban

Keith Urban is addicted to defiance. He’s defied expectations (he’s an Australian singing American heartland country-pop with a perfect twang), defied a downward slump (2006’s Love, Pain, and the Whole Crazy Thing was a downbeat disappointment that no one thought he’d recover from), and defied critics of his popularity (he employs enough banjos, steel guitars and virtuoso soloing chops to justify himself as a “real musician”).

Test Spin: The Bird and the Bee

Retro modes have the ability to usher in a renaissance of the styles they reference. They allow for historical attitudinizing and therefore can be more cunning and contextual than the originals they pay homage to.

Test Spin: Jadakiss

The Last Kiss, the third (and not last) solo album from Yonkers MC Jadakiss, packs a powerful punch with light, glittery synths, epic horns and rock hard drums. The ominous hiss of hi-hats and rattlesnaking tambourine jingles on “Come and Get Me” create the image of armed men lurking in the alleys.
Jada teams up with Nas on “What If,” which sounds like a hybrid of Jadakiss’s 2004 hit “Why” and Wyclef’s “Industry” from 2003. Kiss asks questions like “What if Peyton was fighting dogs instead of Mike Vick?” and “What if Manhattan was hit by Hurricane Katrina? / What if a black man was the one controlling FEMA?”

Test Spin: Telekinesis!

Like an Austin Powers hip shake for a fembot, a good power-pop album may leave a hipster confused, distraught and feeling some serious cognitive dissonance. For power-pop, that cheeriest and most maligned of indie genres, goes against all the precepts of a hipster musical education: “Thou shalt not smile, thou shalt not dance — thou shalt cross your arms and bob your head instead.”
Telekinesis!, the musical brainchild of Michael Lerner, is sure to incur the Austin Powers effect on any hipster who crosses paths with its eponymous debut album, a 30-minute blitz of sunny, sugary (but never syrupy) power-pop that strangles your short-term memory and refuses to let go.

Test Spin: The Doves

The Doves’ newest album, Kingdom of Rust, is definitely not for everyone. It is a cacophony of minor, at times difficult-on-the-ear sounds. That being said, it is likely to be one of the most intriguing, original albums you’ve heard in a long time. The entire album has a strange, almost electronica-like aura, perhaps most notably displayed in the track, “The Outsiders.” It is a little creepy at times, but in general makes for an overarching sound that is both indie and at times reminiscent of classic rock. “House of Mirrors” is probably the most interesting track of the album, constantly changing the prevalent rhythm and tempo while spontaneously adding sound effects and featuring incredible guitar instrumentals.

Test Spin: DOOM

MF Doom has always worn a crown as abstract rap’s premier innovator, his seemingly nonsensical lines swiveling past common sense and boring into your third eye. Always one to change his moniker, 2009’s Born Like This is presented by DOOM rather Viktor Vaughn / Supervillain / Metalfingers / MF Doom.
DOOM’s timeless work with Danger Mouse and Madlib combined a fusion of two hip-hop geniuses simultaneously complementing and restraining each other. Without restraint, however, some of the tracks on Born Like This bounce off each other clumsily, as the signature offbeat scratch of DOOM’s beats tries to catch up to the 21st century’s super-produced sound.

Test Spin: Morrissey

When a legend as big as Morrissey releases a new album, the inevitable comparison is to the artist’s older work: the new stuff can as easily seem revelatory as sullying. Morrissey’s newest, however, is not quite either. To say that Years of Refusal manages to uphold the standard he’s set previously in his career is anything but faint praise. It’s an album that may win few new converts, but will definitely please the faithful.

Test Spin: Bow Wow

Bow Wow’s sixth solo effort, New Jack City, Pt. II (his first to earn a Parental Advisory stamp), is filled with the same energy and Midwestern swag that fans have come to expect from the Columbus, Ohio rapper even since he came barking onto the scene as a 13-year-old pup. On his latest release, Bow Weezy kicks his flow into high gear, rapping above the speed limit on songs like the T.I.-assisted “Been Doin’ This.”
Another highlight, “Sunshine,” is the black sheep of the album, in that it has the gritty, colder sound of a song under East Coast influence. Bow Wow shows that he feels at home over likeably messy jingle bells in addition to the quick ticking hi-hats that rule Midwestern hip hop.

Test Spin: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have really got pop-rock down, and on It’s Blitz!, they show just how far they’ve come as a band. The production of this album is a lot cleaner than their past releases, but the spark that made YYY so edgy seems to have been subdued in the process. Karen O, YYY’s lead singer and most recognizable member, has cleaned up her vocals, relinquishing her garage-rock self for a more flattering alternative pop image.