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NEW YORK (Billboard) - "Dance/It's all I wanna do," Kylie Minogue tells us on "All the Lovers," the opening track of her 11th studio album, "Aphrodite." And with electronic specialist Stuart Price (Madonna, Seal) at the helm as executive producer, she never leaves the floor. The new set casts a spell with Price's signature preternatural touches, Minogue's breathy chirp and the hooky melodies of a varied crew of dance pop-focused songwriters and producers. The Nervo twins (who co-wrote David Guetta and Kelly Rowland's "When Love Takes Over") contribute the track "Put Your Hands Up," a similarly ecstatic ode to love. DJ/producer Calvin Harris and Scissor Sisters vocalist Jake Shears go for broke on "Too Much" with a fugue of synths and disco-rific sampled strings. And "Cupid Boy" matches Minogue's lusty delivery with the hisses and pulses of Sebastian Ingrosso's after-hours DJ sets. Price's ability to create a consistent sound without sacrificing each track's individuality makes the journey cohesive, fun and fitting for a goddess.
ALBUM: UP ON THE RIDGE (Capitol Nashville)
The surest way to scare country radio programmers is to hand them something that puts the genre's roots in the storefront window. If that's true, then Dierks Bentley's latest album, "Up on the Ridge," is the aural equivalent of an encounter with Freddy Krueger. The title track/lead single has been warmly received, but the rest of the album is entirely too rootsy for broad appreciation by the country programing community. But for lovers of contemporary bluegrass and country music's Appalachian roots, "Up on the Ridge" is a thrilling ride from start to finish. Jamey Johnson and Miranda Lambert seamlessly blend their renaissance talents with Bentley's on the song "Bad Angel," while Kris Kristofferson's world-weary vocals bring added depth and authenticity to the down-and-outer anthem "Bottle to the Bottom." And the standout track is the gripping coal-mining ballad "Down in the Mine." It's unlikely that country radio will champion this album, but somewhere in the great beyond, Bill Monroe is smiling approvingly.
ALBUM: SHOUT IT OUT (3CG Records)
Long before the first Jonas Brothers album hit the shelves, another sibling trio reigned supreme. Hanson brothers Isaac, Taylor and Zac may still be widely known for their playful 1997 pop hit, "MMMBop," but the trio's fifth studio album, "Shout It Out," shows that the group continues to expand its musical roots. A colorful set that pays tribute to the funk, soul and R&B musical influences that shaped its sound, "Shout It Out" has a sunnier vibe than the group's 2007 predecessor, "The Walk." Hanson achieved this partly by tapping horn arranger Jerry Hey (Michael Jackson; Earth, Wind & Fire) and Funk Brothers bassist Bob Babbit, who played on many Motown classics. But for all its sunshine, "Shout It Out" still breaks into emotional territory with piano ballads like "Use Me Up" (featuring Zac on lead vocals), while Taylor's windy tenor shines on "Carry You There." From the profoundly upbeat single "Thinking 'Bout Somethin'" to the heartfelt and introspective closer "Me Myself and I," "Shout It Out" is a fun listen that beams with genuine talent and creative artistry.
ALBUM: CRUNK ROCK (Universal Republic)
"The ladies say there ain't enough songs for them to dance to," Atlanta rapper Lil Jon exclaims on "Work It Out" (featuring Pitbull), an aptly upbeat track off his often-delayed new album, "Crunk Rock." And he's right. The set is worth a listen for its high-energy club bangers and colorful guest appearances, but it holds extra baggage. Gratuitous interludes and an overall lack of Lil Jon's rhymes hurt the would-be dance disc. Irresistible booty-shaking anthems "Shots" (featuring LMFAO) and closer "Hey" (featuring 3OH!3) prove Lil Jon's still hip to high-octane production and celebratory lyricism, while the single "Ms. Chocolate" (featuring R. Kelly and Mario) takes a more sensual approach to piquing listeners' interest. But things slow down considerably with two shout-heavy interludes and tracks like "On De Grind" (featuring Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley), on which the rapper's vocals are upstaged by the A-list musicians he taps to accompany him.
ALBUM: THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE SOUNDTRACK (Chop Shop/Atlantic Records)
After contributing an album cut and a remix, respectively, to the two previous "Twilight" soundtracks, Muse crops up on the franchise's third installment with a new song, "Neutron Star Collison (Love Is Forever)," that perfectly demonstrates why the English rock trio has connected so deeply with "Twilight" fans. Like series author Stephenie Meyer (who's called Muse her favorite band), frontman Matt Bellamy knows how to make over-the-top melodrama feel like a shared secret. Elsewhere on "Eclipse" -- which adheres to the "Twilight" soundtrack formula of mixing alt-rock heavyweights with buzzed-about indie acts -- the Dead Weather works a gnarly Goth-blues groove in "Rolling in on a Burning Tire," Beck and Bat for Lashes channel David Bowie's "Heroes" on "Let's Get Lost," and Sia does her signature breathy-ballad thing on "My Love." Gnarls Barkley singer Cee-Lo Green turns up with an unexpected bit of spaced-out soul-pop ("What Part of Forever"), and Vampire Weekend goes surprisingly moody on "Jonathan Low," which sucks much of the fun out of the band's Afro-prep sound.
ALBUM: SHADOWS (Merge Records)
Anyone still waiting around for Teenage Fanclub to deliver "Bandwagonesque Part II" hasn't been paying attention to the deeply satisfying latter half of the Scottish rock band's career. "Shadows," only the third Fanclub album of the new millennium, sounds far removed from the feedback-laced melodic noise of the group's early years. But while its recent recordings have reflected a more subdued approach in the studio, band members Norman Blake, Gerard Love and Raymond McGinley never lost their knack for composing concise pop gems. They demonstrate that time and again on their new album, their finest since 1997's "Songs From Northern Britain." Love's '60s pop obsessions, Blake's gift for harmonic invention and McGinley's plainspoken way with a lyric all come to the fore as each takes his turn at the mic, a democratic approach that continues to reap dividends. Highlights include McGinley's reflective "The Fall," Love's "Sweet Days Waiting" and Blake's lovely piano ballad, "Dark Clouds."
ALBUM: DISINTEGRATION: DELUXE EDITION (Reissue) (Rhino Records)
The release of the Cure's 1989 album, "Disintegration," sparked a dual watershed moment in pop culture. The brooding, sprawling masterpiece was a commercial and critical tipping point for the English band, garnering praise and platinum sales alike. More broadly, such singles as "Love Song" and "Pictures of You" helped usher in mainstream acceptance of the alternative and Goth movements. The three-disc "Disintegration: Deluxe Edition" presents a remastered (in a way that's virtually undetectable) copy of the album, a disc of demos and rarities. It also includes "Entreat Plus," a "completed" version of "Entreat," the 1989 live recording of the Cure at London's Wembley Arena that contained all but four tracks from "Disintegration." The band's musical unity is evident in the demos; the majority are essentially replicas of the final product. The nuances that Robert Smith and David M. Allen lent the final production -- warm tones, balanced tempos, cascading guitars -- saved the album's comforting gloom from becoming innocuous. "Entreat Plus" finds the act again carefully preserving each album detail live, the raw sound of the cheering crowd sounding curiously stripped. But Cure fans were never ones to visibly appear too ecstatic anyway.