Author

Jem Aswad

”I’ve been away too long a while,” sings Eric Benét on his first album in six years. Happily, Hurricane finds him making a strong comeback. Opener ”Be Myself Again” is a bluesy, Ben Harper-ish number, but from there it’s bittersweet R&B, loaded with lyrics evoking his tabloid-ravaged marriage to actress Halle Berry, which ended earlier this year. More downbeat than past efforts, but Benét’s Wonder-ful voice ensures that some sunshine breaks through.

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Omarion

It’s tempting to lump the former frontman of teen R&B sensations B2K in with the herd of mono-monikered Usher wannabes. But as the fans who lofted O to No. 1 last week could tell you, there’s more to Omarion Grandberry than that. The ballads on this solo debut have way too much whipped cream, but there are some surprisingly tough touches of funk and crunk (”Drop That Heater,” the Missy-esque ”Take It Off”). And ”Growing Pains” is a farewell to his former bandmates that’s actually kinda touching.

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Some male R&B singers aim with Rove-like precision for the base (i.e., the ladies), and some target the swing states (fellas, too). Mario is so firmly in the former category that he makes Usher sound like Lil Jon. Jon actually produced two songs on Turning Point, which also includes the hit ”Let Me Love You,” but he’s been squeezed into a sonic pet carrier on this soul-lite smoothie full of tinkling keyboards and breathy vocals about huggin’ and kissin’. Point is plenty catchy, but it’s also so full of sugar that the spoon stands up.

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Modest Mouse

Fans will raise an eyebrow when they hear the opening notes of Modest Mouse’s long-awaited Good News for People Who Love Bad News: a blaring fanfare from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band that heralds an expansive new phase for the formerly scrawny Northwest combo. The Tom Waits-ian reinvention also incorporates accordions, violins, and all manner of odd noises. But the Mouse’s heart remains Isaac Brock’s adenoidal yowl, angular melodies, and (as is obvious from the disc’s title) dark humor.

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Usher

Making the transition from teenage idol to adult icon is tricky; just look at Usher’s 2001 album, ”8701,” which seemed to ignore the fact that the Atlanta heartthrob had passed the drinking age. Happily, Confessions is another story. It finds the singer, now 25, deftly segueing from loverboy to loverman, embracing harder-hitting sounds and subject matter (infidelity, unplanned pregnancy) without sacrificing his soulful sugar.

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Brooklyn’s fearless psychedelic troubadours set their controls for the heart of the sun on 2002’s intimidatingly experimental ”Each One Teach One,” but this bracing sixth full-length funnels the frenzy into more easily digestible bites. The group’s psych-rock stylings evoke the simple hypnotic drones and throbs of Suicide and early Spacemen 3, but kinetic drummer Kid Millions kicks the rhythm into the realm of advanced calculus without taming the band’s rock beast.

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