By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
THE POSTAL SERVICE
Dinky where Death Cab for Cutie are merely wimpy, the Benjamin Gibbard- Jimmy Tamborello collab could be designed to put off not just red-blooded testosterone addicts but anyone who thinks music has to feign strength to make itself felt. What it does instead is display staying power. Tunes whose catchiness seemed annoying prove lovely; tunes whose quietude seemed wan prove catchy. Gibbard's delicate voice matches the subtle electro arrangements far more precisely than it does the folky guitars of his real group, and no longer does he express himself in word clusters or dream-state imagery. A female principle keeps giving him what forin the background, Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis, and up front on the album's centerpiece, Jen Woodand he needs her too much to mince metaphors. A MINUS
A bit of a cheat, interspersing six songs from a Mali-only cassette deemed internationally unviable in 2001 with a dozen from the '90s albums that made her a legend if not a superstar. Nor are the newcomers quite up to qualitythe best is a trip-hop remix. But whether colored by full orchestra or sour old indigenous violin, each one fits right in, and the sequencing is so deft that this two-CD set is the Oumou album to define what organic feminism sounds like. A
SUPER MAMA DJOMBO
From tiny Guinea-Bissauformerly Portuguese Guinea, wedged between Senegal and Guinea proper, independent since 1974, population well under a million then and well over a million nowcame a band that lasted a decade, even played one of Fidel's Havana youth conferences, but recorded only once, leaving six hours of master tape in Lisbon in 1980. Where the music of nearby Cabo Verde is dominated by mestizo variants on Portuguese fado, Guinea-Bissau had few white settlers, and if Super Mama Djombo recall anyone as they mix and match across West Africa, it's early Orchestra Baobab, hold the salsa. Soukous and highlife echo in the guitars, and the notes suggest that these songs in many languagessix tribal tongues in addition to the urban Kriol they favoredneeded to be sung. Take for instance the title of the post-independence "Dissan Na M'bera," which means, the notes say, " 'Let me walk on the side of the road'don't run me over with a state car." A MINUS
Dud of the Month
The Soul Sessions
Sounds like a well-brought-up twentysomething with a sharp band who writes forgettable originals and smothers covers in irrelevant shows of emotion, as on the endless and supposedly climactic Isleys' chestnut "For the Love of You." But as we all now know, there's a backstory. Band, checkMiami legends like Little Beaver and Timmy Thomas, with Miami legend Betty Wright calling the shots. But Stone isn't from Florida, she's from England, and the forgettables are covers toothe kind of soul marginalia Brits have been overrating since Doris Troy was on Apple. She's only 16, which explains the failed climax. And upon reflection she's not so well brought up, else why trade in Aretha's distinct melody for "All the King's Horses" on soul clichés? Norah Jones is herself, give her that. I hate to think what this phenom will have to go through to get that far. C PLUS
Additional Consumer News
Under Achievers Please Try Harder
Brave indie-pop girl lilts at windbags ("Suspended From Class," "Knee Deep at the NPL").
A Beautiful World
More brains than Justin, which is saying a lot, and more talent than JC, which isn't ("She's Gangsta," "Make a Baby")
A black nerd's white audience, knucklehead neighbors, and wayward dick ("And This Is for . . . ," "The Pain")
Hip-house as meta-irony, bling as stocks and bonds ("Piranha Party," "Dwarf Star Party")
Get Rich or Die Tryin'
Gets no cuter as his character unfolds ("What Up Gangsta," "Patiently Waiting")
Waiting for My Rocket to Come
Rufus Wainwright in moderation ("Curbside Prophet," "Sleep All Day")
Live at Billy Bob's Texas
Starts off young and cocky, ends up sad and drunk ("I See the Want To in Your Eyes," "Drinkin' Thing")
Disguise it as an Aztec Camera reunion and the hipoisie would cream ("Daughters," "Home Life").
Plus flute and violin, minus Papa Noel and the thrill of the first second time around ("Delali," "Souvenirs-OK-Jazz")
Guess Who's Back?
Has a mouth on him, which with mix-tape beats he'd better ("U Not Like Me," "Rotten Apple")
"Like a 24,"
"Mary's in India,"
Life for Rent(Arista)
Chain Gang of Love
TYWANNA JO BASKETTE
I Don't Want You Back
Slow Motion Daydream
Beg for Mercy
Feels Like Home
One Word Extinguisher
The Curse of Singapore Sling