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2008

As most people probably know the only things closer to Helen Leicht's heart (other than her family and Paul McCartney) are our local musicians. Helen loves having the opportunity to share this music with you, the WXPN audience.

The bad news first: the second Gnarls Barkley album The Odd Couple does not contain any song with the hit single potential of "Crazy" from their St. Elsewhere album. The good news is – as far as consistency, soul, and overall performance is concerned,The Odd Couple is maybe even better than the debut. This mid-fi delight combines pop touchstones of the past with hip-hop beats and electronica attitude, and the result is warm and decidedly real...

On their fifth and best album to date – Attack & Release – Akron, Ohio minimalist duo The Black Keys take a step forward sonically and in songwriting. The record sounds more like a complete work than anything they've ever done, but long-time fans will not be disappointed in the results.

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.

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.

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