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Sean Daly's new music picks

By Sean Daly
Published May 20, 2007


Travis

Album: The Boy With No Name (Epic)

In stores: Now

Why we care: This Scottish quartet was making Brit-pop fans cry in their cornflakes long before Keane came along. Perhaps you remember the 1999 hit Why Does It Always Rain on Me?

Why we like it: Plucky guitar parts? (Check.) Anthemic yearning for emotionally unstable women? (Check.) Singer Fran Healy's emotionally unstable vocal? (Check.) The hooks aren't as sharp as they once were (and they'll never top the transcendent swoon of 2001's The Humpty Dumpty Love Song), but for the most part, this gets the gushy job done.

Reminds us of: The notion that it's okay for grown men to cry. I'm not talking about me, of course. 'Cause I'm a lone wolf. But still, it's okay.

Download these: Closer and Battleships

Grade: B-

Gretchen Wilson

Album: One of the Boys (Sony)

In stores: Now

Why we care: After the identity crisis that was 2005's muddled All Jacked Up, Gretchen Wilson had a decision to make. Keep playing the hard role of the Redneck Woman that launched her or 'fess up to who she really was. "Sometimes I cry for no good reason, " she sings on the new The Girl I Am. "I've forgotten who I am, " she sings on the new Heaven Help Me. See where I'm going with this?

Why we like it: At a time when Wilson was coming off as a novelty act, she bravely delivers her most honest album, more Tammy Wynette than Larry the Cable Guy. Gretch still likes her whiskey, but acknowledging her inner wallflower makes her a much better singer.

Reminds us of: Y'all come back now, ya hear?

Download these: The Girl I Am and Heaven Help Me

Grade: B+

Rush

Album: Snakes & Arrows (Atlantic)

In stores: Now

Why we care: Five years after its last album - and 30 years after its artistic height - Rush sees its new album debut at No. 3 on the Billboard charts. Crazy, huh? Of all the '70s prog-rockers, Rush was the most accessible, three dudes with high-concept dreams and school-bus hooks. Neil Peart is a folk legend, like Paul Bunyan with drumsticks.

Why we like it: Peart, the band's lyricist, has gone through hell, losing a wife and a child. As a result, the songs, both political and personal, are angry and self-indulgent, complex and brutally simple. The playing remains over-the-top as always: Singer Geddy Lee's vocal is still elastic, Alex Lifeson's guitar is still prickly, Peart's timekeeping is still spellbinding.

Reminds us of: Air drumming to Tom Sawyer in sixth grade.

Download these: Far Cry and The Larger Bowl

Grade: B-

Rush plays the Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa on June 16.

SONG OF THE WEEK

Noisettes

Song: Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit)

Album: What's the Time, Mr. Wolf? (UMVD)

In stores: Now

Why we care: We love brash bands with whiplash influences (Tina Turner and the Ramones) and gear-stripping tempo changes (a raggedy gospel clapper turning into a metallic rage). You could be a fan of pop, punk or R&B, and still fall in love with London's Noisettes.

Why we like it: "We complement each other, just like Satan and Christ." Now that's a lyric. Singer-bassist Shingai Shoniwa is a terrifyingly hot frontwoman, channeling the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Karen O. and Billie Holiday. Partner in mayhem Dan Smith wields his guitar like a riot gun.

Reminds us of: Shooting spitballs in church.

Song grade: A

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.