Fountains of Wayne – Traffic and Weather (Virgin): Among pop confectionists, Fountains of Wayne are pretty well peerless. The New Jersey pop-rock crew are masters of the quotidian chronicle, balancing killer chops with the soothing vocals of Chris Collingwood. On "Traffic and Weather," which brims with ear-candy riffs and luscious big-hook choruses, Fountains of Wayne once again has some fun with its lyrics, as on the title track, a tale of news anchors chasing a different kind of hot story – a workplace romance. It's enough to make you forget all about "Stacy's Mom." Well, almost.
– Erik Spanberg
LCD Soundsystem – Sound of Silver (Capitol): Remember Will Ferrell's "Saturday Night Live" sketch in which a music producer (Christopher Walken) demands "more cowbell" from his musicians? LCD Soundsystem, the technotronica creation of New Yorker James Murphy, has taken the sentiment to heart, employing cowbell throughout a second album that marries martial beats, new-wave sensibilities, and vocals that evoke David Bowie and David Byrne. It's a thrilling mix, though occasionally it seems as if a stylus has gotten stuck in these danceable grooves, as some musical figures repeat a few times too often. Several of these seven-minute tracks would have been better at three-minutes. Grade: B
– Stephen Humphries
Jennifer Lopez – Como Ama Una Mujer (Epic):For the most part, Jennifer Lopez's new Spanish-language album seems to blur into one long ballad. This may appeal to fans of the romantic croonings of such Spanish-language singers as Luis Miguel. If that's not you, the very un-J.Lo "Como Ama Una Mujer" ("How a Woman Loves") may feel a bit sedate. The first single, "Qué Hiciste" ("What Did You Do"), offers a much-needed hiccup in the album's pacing. It opens with an up-tempo guitar solo and continues with a catchy, forlorn chorus: "Qué Hiciste?/ Nos obligaste a destruir las madrugadas/ y nuestras noches las ahogaron tus palabras." ("What did you do?/ You made us destroy the dawns/ and our nights drown your words.") Grade: B
– Teresa Méndez
Tim McGraw – Let It Go (Curb Records): For the past decade, country music superstar Tim McGraw has delivered a steady mix of old-fashioned country songs with simple melodies, mid-tempo tunes with fingerpicking rhythms, harder-edged rock numbers, and heartfelt duets with his wife, Faith Hill. And that's what you get on "Let It Go." Themes include a salute to a long-haul trucker ("I'm Workin' "); a drinking song ("Whiskey and You"); and that Tim-and-Faith connection ("I Need You"). Still, one track breaks the McGraw formula: "Suspicions" is a blue-eyed soul tune reminiscent of Hall & Oates.
– Vic Roberts
Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic): Modest Mouse was an art-house band first and a pop sensation second – the Washington band toiled for years in relative obscurity before striking mainstream gold with 2005's "Good News for People Who Love Bad News." So it's nice to find Isaac Brock and company comfortably straddling the line between consonance and dissonance on this follow-up record, which clocks in at a decidedly immodest 14 songs. "Florida," with help from ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, rides a spiky vamp into a sugary chorus; the violent "Spitting Venom" is all swagger and vim. "Missed the Boat" is a comfortable, feathery ballad, without a lick of pretension. The remainders? A rollicking mashup of jagged hooks, spacious melodies, and neck-break beats.
– Matthew Shaer