Bruce Springsteen's ''Magic''
Here's the rarest magic act of all making art that unites the personal and the political without getting bogged down in the polemical. Springsteen pulled off that hat trick with his latest, a protest album that boils down to this sentiment: America has lost its course. Me too. Lest the ruminative journey prove a tough sell, the Boss recently predisposed to crafting quiet, character-filled little solo records like 2005's Devils & Dust raucously regrouped his E Street Band for the ride. Familiar touchstones recur, but the group has never given us anything quite like the brittle multiguitar attack that drives ''Radio Nowhere,'' a lonely call to action from the wasteland, and ''Gypsy Biker,'' an explosive elegy for a dead soldier (and 2007's most moving song). Throughout, they erect a wall of sound that combines sad, Spectorian pop with angry garage rock a thick mix that's big enough to rage against the dying of the American light and blow wind on a few fading embers of middle age. For every number that expresses societal disappointment, like the pre-Patriot Act nostalgia of ''Long Walk Home,'' Springsteen lets the accusatory finger crook back in a hauntingly personal lament such as ''Your Own Worst Enemy,'' where weighed down by sins unknown, the singer sees his real foe in a store-window reflection. The Grammy-nominating committee snubbed this exhilarating achievement for Album of the Year, but perhaps that's only fitting: Magic is an album-of-the-decade contender.