Lily Allen, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’
We could use more Lily Allens in the world. That is, ballsy smarty-pants who say whatever flies off their tongues (especially when it’s about narrow minds), a non-issue for this British starlet who became known for shooting one-liners with her 2006 debut, “Alright, Still.” And being a nudist. Shedding some of the punk-pop flair, and under the production of Greg Kurstin (who’s worked with Kylie Minogue, as evident on “I Could Say”), the sum is more sonically varied, but still brimming with giggle-triggering zingers and savvy pop hooks. There’s Westerner-on-speed “Not Fair,” the polka-shaped “Never Gonna Happen” and electro-pop (“Back to the Start”), and it’s this experimental dabbling that solidifies the artistic merit of Allen, who mostly trades in the bubblegum sheen of debut “Alright, Still.” Even with catchy arrangements – except maybe a bit near the deeper finish, when she gets naked (figuratively speaking, that is) – there’s her wisecracking, often did-she-just-say-that? wit. She’s at it on drug ode “Everyone’s at It” and also when she harps on a bad-in-bed boy (“Not Fair”) or, most blatantly, when she’s flipping off anti-gay bigots on show-tuney “Fuck You.” Even the first single, “The Fear,” is sprinkled with it. She references her topless pics on the web, boasts herself as a “weapon of massive consumption,” and readily ‘fesses, “I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny.” Now that’s ironic. B+
Annie Lennox, ‘The Annie Lennox Collection’
Beauty’s alias is likely Annie Lennox. And with the purity of her make-a-macho-man weep voice and humanitarian work, known particularly for her tireless AIDS efforts, good luck refuting that. Her first compilation, featuring 17 years of tunes and two single-worthy newbies, is a nifty reminder of how the versatile songstress can bum us out – and then, moments later, shake us into spryly celebratory mode with “Shining Light,” a poppy new nugget. The other freshman, “Pattern of My Life,” a mid-tempo with an echoey-vocal chorus written by UK band Keane’s frontman, is destined for adult-contemporary radio. With four albums to pull from, the pretty flawless collection from the persona-swapping diva includes woebegones like “Why,” “Dark Road,” “No More ‘I Love You’s'” and “A Whiter Shade of Pale” (anyone else hear this and see sugarplum fairies?). The Lennox classic “Walking on Broken Glass” is here, and luckily, so is the dancey single “Little Bird” from her “Diva” debut. But best is the inclusion of “Love Song for a Vampire,” the hypnotic theme from 1992’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula.” And the uplifting A-list diva anthem, “Sing,” from 2007’s “Songs of Mass Destruction”? A gay (wet) dream come true. (The album is also available with a DVD.) A-
Morrissey, ‘Years of Refusal’
Even when the former Smiths singer’s down, he knows the best medicine isn’t lithium. It’s sarcasm. And on his ninth solo album, which is eardrum goodness but not immediately mind-sticky, he admits that. Then proves it with a bunch of bon mots like those on “You Were Good in Your Time.” Throughout, Moz is in surging croon mode, his voice often sailing over overdriven guitars. There’s a mariachi stomp (“When I Last Spoke to Carol”), a marching band beat (standout “Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed”) and enough punch lines to write a stand-up show.
The Bird and the Bee, ‘Ray Guns Are Not Just the Future’
Go ’round No. 2 is so pretty that Inara George could be singing about, well, the birds and the bees and no one would wonder, ‘WTF?’ Not so much a detour from her and programmer Greg Kurstin’s 2007 self-titled debut, their second carefree outing is a solid sequel to the dreamy musical soundscapes they began, with the quirky electro effects still lingering. Want cheery? See “Love Letter to Japan.” How about ethereal? “Lifespan of a Fly.” It might be like a mathematical equation – but it equals excellent. Again.