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It's already a notable year

With 2005 nearly halfway done, here's a look at some pop, Latin, jazz and world music CDs that -- for better or, in a few cases, worse -- stand out as significant. (And notes on a few of interest for the months just ahead.)

June 26, 2005

The Year's Best (So Far)


White Stripes

"Get Behind Me Satan"

(Third Man/V2)

Two brilliant works -- the first a folk-flavored look at the intimacies of life that's as penetrating as Joni Mitchell in the '70s; the second a set of rock-based tales of innocence and betrayal so bold and imaginative that it defies you to guess what is coming next. (Robert Hilburn)

Bright Eyes

"I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning"

(Saddle Creek)

"I feel too restless to unwind" Conor Oberst sings in "We Are Nowhere, and It's Now," and it's a fine description of an album that wrestles vigorously with questions of personal morality and a generation's future. Oberst has been called a new Dylan, but Emmylou Harris' presence on three songs suggests that he's at least a new Gram Parsons. (Richard Cromelin)


Vico C


(EMI Latin)

The new rage in Latin music may be reggaeton, the materialistic, monotonous club sound from Puerto Rico, but this island rapper keeps it real in an album whose title means "release." A scorching record with an interesting range of styles, it draws strength from the artist's deep emotions and his fire-and-brimstone social messages. (Agustin Gurza)


Joshua Redman Elastic Band



The quest to contemporize jazz has been one of the most fascinating developments of the last decade, though it's more often failed than succeeded. But Redman has done it right in "Momentum," mixing live music with studio-enhanced additions while remaining firmly in contact with the spirit of jazz. (Don Heckman)


Various artists

"Vedic Path"

(Palm World Voices)

The world music CD bins overflow with compilations, many of them fascinating. But Chris Blackwell's Palm World Voices partnership with Universal is setting a new standard for exploring the globe's musical cornucopia via CD/DVD packages. This first release explores the mesmerizing sights and sounds of India. (D.H.)


Best Overlooked Album


The Kills

"No Wow"

(Rough Trade/RCA)

"If I'm so evil, why are you satisfied?," Alison Mosshart (a.k.a. VV) sings in a gloriously haunting track on this gem of an album. The London duo captures obsessive relationships with a fearlessness and craft that put them at the intersection between the Velvet Underground and the Jesus and Mary Chain. (R.H.)


"Blinking Lights and Other Revelations"


Eels ringleader Mark Oliver Everett has walked on these coals of abuse, loss and despair before, most memorably in 1998's "Electro-Shock Blues." But he's never before traced the trajectory of transcendence with the meticulous detail and shaded gradations afforded by the expanded canvas of these two CDs. (R.C.)


Pupy y Los Que Son Son

"Mi Timba Cerra"


Pupy is pianist-composer Cesar Pedroso, co-founder of Cuba's premier dance band Los Van Van. After a bitter split, he formed Los Que Son Son, now considered Havana's hottest timba band. But his exciting, driving salsa is known mostly to die-hard aficionados in the U.S. Too bad. (A.G.)


Ted Nash & Odeon

"La Espada de la Noche"


The saxophonist's Odeon ensemble, with its unusual instrumentation of woodwinds, violin, accordion, drums, tuba and trombone, is an imaginative leap forward. Nash further enhances its potential with a program that ranges inventively from tango to the music of Ornette Coleman. (D.H.)


Fanfare Ciocarlia

"Gili Garabdi"

(Asphalt Tango)

The world-music stage is filled with so many recordings from Africa, Ireland and the Spanish/Portuguese-speaking countries that Eastern Europe sometimes is left in the lurch. But this brass band, with its remarkably fast-fingered numbers, its subversive, jazz-like qualities and its sheer exuberance, is one that could turn the tide. (D.H.)


Most Anticipated Album


Kanye West

"Late Registration"


The news that last year's hottest newcomer was reaching beyond hip-hop to work with visionary L.A. songwriter-producer Jon Brion probably alarmed some West fans, but it only makes me more excited about the follow-up to "The College Dropout." Due Aug. 16 (R.H.).

Ray Davies



The master songwriter of British rock started crafting great music four decades ago with the Kinks, but this will be his first formal studio album of new material away from the band. And it comes when his influence is being felt strongly in the new brigade of British bands. Due Sept. 6 (R.C.).


Natalia Lafourcade


(Sony BMG)

This quirky singer-songwriter, one of Mexico's freshest new talents, made waves in the alt-Latino world with her 2003 self-titled debut, an album that was sophisticated beyond her 17 years. Her sophomore effort is expected in July with a new producer, Meme of Cafe Tacuba -- a collaboration that is creating a buzz. (A.G.)


Tim Ries

"The Rolling Stones Project"


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