Listening Log 

The Road and the Radio

Kenny Chesney

(Sony)

Kenny Chesney comes on all laid-back and Caribbean fried. But then he releases two albums in 2005, which smacks of a type A personality, and has a weird short marriage to Bridget Jones, in which, at the bust-up, the charge of "fraud"(!) is tossed Chesney's way. In any case, if his marriage broke up because he was too worried about perfecting this mopey, mostly forgettable collection of downbeat prom-night ballads (and the sleepiest drinking songs on record), then, wow, he needs more help than even the radiant Renée Zellweger can provide. ("In a Small Town") -- Werner Trieschmann

Grade: C

Feels

Animal Collective

(Fat Cat)

The joys of an Animal Collective album are the simplistic underpinnings -- folky chanted melodies and pounding rhythms -- which the group covers in a wash of neo-psychedelic effects and crunching ambient noise. This album, doesn't have the sheer propulsion of its predecessor, 2004's critically acclaimed Sung Tongs. Instead it highlights the increasingly structured nature of their compositions. The careful building of tracks like "Did You See the Words" and the verbal complexity of "Purple Bottle" show that the group has mastered its sound but is still looking for room to grow. ("Grass," "Purple Bottle," "Banshee Beat") -- Ben Popper

Grade: A-

Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

(Arts & Crafts)

On their third full-length, this Toronto indie-rock collective have expanded their roster past even Wu-Tang Clan standards. Seventeen (yes, 17) people are credited on the new record, as well as four guest musicians to round things out, and the music suffers as a result. Instead of an album by a centrally guided collective working together, Broken Social Scene obviously lacks a leader. There are pleasant moments that recall 2002's You Forgot It in People, but there is so much overly self-gratifying experimentation that the album is very hard to sit through. ("Ibi Dreams of Pavement," "Superconnected") -- Matt Cole

Grade: C

Vertically Challenged

Lady Sovereign

(Chocolate Industries)

Nineteen-year-old Lady Sovereign is the third great MC Britain has produced this decade. While her two predecessors -- the Streets and Dizzee Rascal -- both have strong full-lengths to highlight their unique deliveries, Lady Sov's been content so far to release a few singles, which are collected on this piecemeal EP. "Chi-Ching" and "Random" showcase Sov's gruff voice, cheeky humor, and dizzying flow, not to mention Titch's manic beats. However, the remixes just rehash the songs in less compelling form. ("Random," "A Little Bit of Shh") -- Stephen Deusner

Grade: B+

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