Noteworthy CDs

Keane – Under the Iron Sea (Interscope): What's that sound you hear at the beginning of Keane's new single, "Is It Any Wonder?" Could it be a guitar? When the UK trio released "Hopes and Fears," an album that defied the Lennon/McCartney monopoly on indelible choruses, they became known as the band that eschewed guitar in favor of just piano, drum, and voice. On their follow-up, "Under the Iron Sea," tunesmith Tim Rice-Oxley deploys guitarlike samples, played on a keyboard, on several songs. You can hardly blame him for cheating. The weightier sound is a welcome embellishment to their piano-led fare and better suited to songs about identity crisis ("Crystal Ball") and frayed relationships ("Bad Dream"). For all the angst on display, this is still pop served sunny side up, as on "Nothing in My Way." Grade: A–
– Stephen Humphries

Corinne Bailey Rae – Corinne Bailey Rae (Capitol): There is no denying that British newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae is on her way to tasting the sweet succulence of success. Her self-titled debut contains effortless ballads, such as "Like A Star," that address the calamities of love. Elsewhere, groove-inducers "Put Your Records On" and "I'd Like To" showcase the extent of her talent; her lyrics are deftly composed and her vocals are transcendent. Although Bailey Rae's album debuted at No. 1 on the British charts, and her voice has elicited comparisons to Billie Holiday and Sade, the soulful songstress will have to fight hard to differentiate herself to an American audience well-versed in the R&B music of India.Arie, Jill Scott, and Erykah Badu. Even so, she has produced a complex album that is genuinely worth listening to. Grade: A
– Elizabeth Owuor

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