• Rufus Wainwright, 'Release the Stars' (Geffen)

    The last time Rufus Wainwright walked into a recording studio, it was with a 50-piece orchestra and enough hooks for a pretty great EP. Unfortunately, he left with a double album's worth of material (released in two parts as the critically tolerated Want series, from 2003 and 2004). Here, the multitude of musicians is back, but the songs are actually strong enough to hold the weight of the over-the-top arrangements. Self-producing for the first time, Wainwright leans toward ornate, Nilsson Schmilsson-y chamber pop. The excellent title track is the best (possibly) Tom Cruise-inspired torch ballad you'll hear in 2007. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Nine Inch Nails, 'Year Zero' (Interscope)

    If anyone was worried that the disco tangents on 2005's With Teeth meant Trent Reznor was finally lightening up, fear not -- this one's about the apocalypse. The viral Internet marketing campaign preceding NIN's sixth studio album suggested a sci-fi concept record about the semidistant future, but it's pretty obvious where the inspiration comes from: "I pushed a button and elected him to office / He pushed a button and it dropped a bomb," Reznor sings about the neoconservative antagonist of "Capital G." Unfortunately, the music is more elusive. Year Zero trades With Teeth's live instrumentation for programmed drums and synthesizers that belch and drone but won't blow any speakers.

  • Radiohead, Inc.

    On the evening of September 30, from his home in Oxford, England, Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood upended decades of music-business tradition with a simple post on the band's blog: "Well, the new album is finished, and it's coming out in ten days. We've called it In Rainbows." Free from their six-album record deal with EMI (Capitol Records in the U.S.), Radiohead released their seventh album as a digital download themselves, with no list price. Fans could also shell out £40 (about $80) for a box set (which includes a vinyl version, a disc of bonus tracks, and a book), while those wanting a conventional single CD would have to wait until January, when In Rainbows will hit retailers. "It's certainly not a comment on the music business," says Greenwood. "We wanted to experiment and get the music out quickly.

  • Super Furry Animals, 'Hey Venus!' (Rough Trade/ Beggars)

    Making art-rock epics is exhausting work, and if any band has earned the right to dial down the galaxy-hopping ambition, it's these Welsh oddballs. Their eighth album eschews the usual genre-splicing and orchestral sweep in favor of unfussy, hook-filled tunes that generally try to make a point in less than four minutes. And the lower-key approach pays off -- the standouts here, like the Bacharachian pop of "Show Your Hand" or the country-fried apocalypse ballad "Let the Wolves Howl at the Moon," rank with some of the most affecting songs the group has ever recorded. Now Hear This: Super Furry Animals - "Run Away" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Velvet Revolver, 'Libertad' (RCA)

    This supergroup, featuring former Stone Temple Pilot Scott Weiland and three ex-Guns N' Roses members, isn't a band from which major revelations are expected, and you won't find any here. But Libertad does improve slightly on the mostly hookless choogling of the band's 2004 debut, Contraband, with songs that are punchier and a bit more memorable. Opener "Let It Roll" is a respectable two-minute blast of Zeppelin bravado, and the single "She Builds Quick Machines" sounds like it was constructed from the better parts of GNR's "Rocket Queen" and STP's "Sex Type Thing." Still, their cover of ELO's "Can't Get It out of My Head" is probably the only track that will actually get stuck in your head. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Polyphonic Spree, 'The Fragile Army' (TVT)

    Rare is the 24-piece symphonic rock collective that takes criticism constructively, but singer/songwriter Tim DeLaughter and his Dallas-based crew seem to have done exactly that. The Fragile Army trades the cluttered arrangements and too-long instrumental passages of their first two albums for tightly focused orchestral pop with big Technicolor hooks. Even better, the band tests the limits of its quasi-religious, happy-all-the-time ethos with songs that surprisingly explore the range of human emotion -- if you listen closely, you might actually hear a minor chord. Now Watch This: The Polyphonic Spree - "Running Away" BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Inquisition: Rufus Wainwright

    When Rufus Wainwright asks, "Do I disappoint you?" in the first song on his fifth record, Release the Stars, it's a fair question. Despite a loyal army of "Rufophants," as he calls them, the 33-year-old singer/songwriter's ornate cabaret pop has been a hard sell to mainstream audiences. "I stopped paying attention to CD sales a long time ago," he says. "But I'm going all-out to promote this new album -- I'm going to flog this horse till it's dead. Then, when I'm firmly ensconced in the pop hierarchy, I can go and write my opera." You recorded in Berlin, a place where artists often go to experiment, but Release the Stars sounds like your other records. What happened? Well, I was intending to get a weird haircut and tear up my mother's shirt from the '70s and wear it backward. But when I got there, I was more inspired by the buildings and the atmosphere.

  • The Main Attractions: Perry Farrell

    For our May cover feature, six stars of this year's festivals give the skinny on ginormous outdoor shows to (sun-)baked crowds. SPIN.com was on hand for the historic cover shoot in Hollywood, and we filmed our own quick interviews with the cover subjects. Watch our on-site video interview with Satellite Party's Perry Farrell, and keep checking this space for interviews and behind-the-scenes footage of Perry, AFI's Davey Havok, Rage Against the Machine/Nightwatchman guitarist Tom Morello, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy, Wu-Tang's RZA, and Spoon's Britt Daniel. In its current incarnation, booked in Chicago through 2011, Lollapalooza is very different from what you started back in 1991 -- a traveling show with low ticket prices and no corporate sponsors. Why still call it Lollapalooza?

  • Snoop Dogg, 'Tha Blue Carpet Treatment' (Doggystyle/Geffen)

    To hear Snoop Dogg tell it, this was supposed to be a return to the gritty sound of his early Death Row records. But the closest he gets here is lead single "Vato," a Neptunes-produced burner that almost makes him sound menacing again. Everywhere else, though, he's just retracing past missteps. Treatment leans hard on the horny slow jams that sunk 2004's R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta), and the ham-fisted thug posturing of "Gangbanging 101" proves that he's not just out of new ideas, he's running out of old ones, too. Now Hear This: Snoop Dogg - "Candy" WINDOWS MEDIA HIGH | LOW REAL PLAYER HIGH | LOW >> Listen to Snoop Dogg on Napster >> More Snoop Dogg on SPIN.com BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Graham Coxon, 'Love Travels at Illegal Speeds' (Parlophone)

    Graham Coxon's early solo work was built mostly around tuneless self-pity and amplifier flatulence, so it was a welcome surprise when 2004's Happiness in Magazines featured actual pop songs. The guitarist's sixth album is his most accessible yet, crammed with melodic Brit punk played at maximum speed. He's still miserable -- most tracks are about women who won't sleep with him -- but with some handclaps and tambourines thrown in, it's almost impossible to tell. Now Hear This:Graham Coxon - "Standing On My Own" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

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