(8 of 8)
West's second great album in 18 months has nothing so shocking as his Katrina-inspired "George Bush doesn't care about black people" moment during a TV fund raiser for hurricane victims or so original as the self-love/self-hate tightrope walk of his debut The College Dropout. But if you think you're invulnerable to an atmospheric ballad with Maroon 5's chirpy Adam Levine (Heard 'Em Say) or a song called Roses about a sick grandma, you will be shocked at the stealthy power of West's storytelling. As for the music, one listen to Gone, built around an Otis Redding sample and some ecstatic string arrangements, and you might be persuaded that West is as good as he thinks he is.
Best Tracks: Heard 'Em Say, Drive Slow, Gone
Demon Days; $13.49
Very few good albums make as bad a first impression as Demon Days. The cartoon characters on the front cover, the irritatingly meaningless track names (Fire Coming Out of the Monkey's Head) and the menacing prefatory oboes (oboes!) make it seem like a concept album about global warming for kids. Since the lyrics remain a bafflement, it might well be. But give the songs a fraction of the attention that went into making them, and you will begin to catch bits of good stuff from rock, rap, dance and dub. Then, magically, it all comes together in your head and forms something like a unified theory of modern music.
Best Tracks: O Green World, Dirty Harry, Feel Good Inc. --By Josh Tyrangiel