Tracy Bonham Blink the Brightest (Zoe Records)
Tracy Bonham, the multi-instrumentalist and indie songstress who brought us one of the most memorable chick rock anthems of the '90s—“Mother, Mother"—offers up gold with her third album, Blink the Brightest. What's that? You didn't know she made a second album? That's all right, I didn't either. It could be that three albums in 10 years aren't enough to stay on the radar. It could be that her music still sounds like it was written in 1995, too. Either way, this record is worth three times the attention it's likely to get. See you in five years, Tracy.
The Redwalls De Nova (Capitol Records)
Chicago's newest, youngest, brightest shining star of revivalism is The Redwalls. In the case of The Redwalls, the guys shun the sounds of today for the sounds of the '60s. Specifically, The Beatles, The Kinks, Stardust-era Bowie and The Rolling Stones creep their way into De Nova's 12 tracks and leave pretty much anything that came later playing second fiddle influence-wise. Sound good? You'll like it, then. These guys are so dead-on, you could easily convince friends that "Rock and Roll" was a Hamburg-era Beatles song. If you're looking for something beyond hero-worship and imitation, though, you'll need to keep looking.
Common Be (Geffen Records)
Critics like to say this about Common: He's unique because he doesn't brag about gunplay, respects women and questions the materialism most mainstream rappers embrace. If you hear this nonsense, kick whoever said it in the shins. Common is not unique for what he isn't. He's unique—and untouchably so—for what he is. Common's hushed, spoken word-style flow and thoughtful prose make his one of the most distinct voices in hip-hop today. Unfortunately, he's never produced a commercially viable record. Be, produced by Kanye West, should break the cycle. It's his best record yet. Buy it now.