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In what just may heralded as Peter Buck's long-anticipated R.E.M. "guitar album", Athens, Georgia's finest let it rip on Accelerate, the beloved band's 14th studio album. As the title suggests, the tunes are faster, more urgent, and sound a lot less fussed-over than a lot of the group's past catalogue.

On Adam Duritz's self-confessional tour de force Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings, Counting Crows successfully remind us of all the components that went into making them one of the 90's most popular rock acts. After a six year hiatus, the band has emerged with a muscular, passionate and honest record.

It's their first release in 16 years, but after listening to Funplex once, it's like they never went away. The B-52's' new album is everything you were hoping it would be: fun, irreverent, bouncy, kooky. Time certainly has changed since the band emerged from Athens, Georgia (of all places) in the late 70's, looking and sounding like absolutely nothing else, but the band's inherent kitsch and attitude hasn't changed one iota. Even better, vocalist Cindy Wilson is back in the fold after not appearing on 1992's Good Stuff. Founding members Kate Pierson, Keith Strickland and the irrepressible Fred Schneider are back as well.

Devotchka is a four piece, multi-instrumental group that sound like nobody else. Their strange but beautiful combination of Gypsy, Greek, Slavic, and Mariachi music was featured in the soundtrack of Little Miss Sunshine, and the band has toured extensively the past four years, including tours with the likes of Calexico, Belle & Sebastian, and Flogging Molly. However, that description cannot begin to describe what Devotchka is all about... you'll just have to listen.

It's pretty simple, but always effective. The Black Crowes twangy take on straight up rock and roll and all of its' many predecessor's styles is on fine display on Warpaint. The band, especially its' stoner poster boy frontman Chris Robinson, is a lot smarter than most give them credit for, and they are most certainly true believers in the visceral connection between the pulpit and the concert stage.

On her third full-length album, Canadian Kathleen Edwards has once again proven herself to be among the very best of the young songwriters out there. Combining an interesting worldview with a very honest voice and plenty of attitude, this 29-year-old has stepped up in several ways on this new release, Asking For Flowers.

Despite the loss of the very talented Jason Isbell from the Drive-By Truckers last year, the band has carried on and then some. Their eighth album, Brighter Than Creation's Dark, is another testament to a great American rock band.

On her new (mostly) cover song collection Jukebox, Chan Marshall (a.k.a. Cat Power) continues her tradition of cover songs and pretty convicted crooning. She's really an underrated vocalist, and this second collection of covers tells us a lot about what she is as an artist.

Not since the soundtrack to the movie Garden State has a collection of mostly indie-rock and indie-folk captivated so many listeners. Anchored by the recent success of the movie about a teenage girl's unplanned pregnancy, the soundtrack has become the number one album in the country and with good reason; it brings together some classic rock nuggets by The Kinks, Mott the Hoople and Buddy Holly with unique cover songs like Cat Power's "Sea of Love" and Sonic Youth's cover of The Carpenters' "Superstar."

Always consistently good, Sheryl Crow just may have released her best all-around record to date. Detours will remind you a lot of her debut smash Tuesday Night Music Club, and for good reason since Bill Bottrell produced both of them. It sounds terrific, and the songs are all poignant and punchy. It's vintage Sheryl through and through.

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