MOST ANTICIPATED: GA GA GA GA GA, Spoon (Merge Records) Take their past five efforts, add more piano break-downs, introspection, and maracas-et voil, brilliance. Britt Daniel and Co. have been able to pull off the rarest of feats in their career: a better album with each release. Ga x 5 is finally their masterpiece-until they drop their next CD. DOWNLOAD: "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case"
MOST LIKELY TO BE SUCCESSFUL: EASY TIGER, Ryan Adams (Lost Highway) One of rock's best modern songwriters finally relaxes a bit (see title), easing his way into his 30s with reflective gems like "Oh My God, Whatever, Etc." and offbeat, twang-tinged tracks like "Tears of Gold." Yep, it's an album you, mom, and the critics can actually agree on. DOWNLOAD: "These Girls"
JUST THE BASICS: THE BRAG & CUSS, Rocky Votolato (Barsuk) You know those artists who go all Hollywood after a taste of success? Votolato, praise Jesus, is not one of them. On the follow-up to his '06 surprise hit, Makers, his no-frills folk makes you want to sit on the porch, Jack in hand, and ponder the hope that lingers in darkness. DOWNLOAD: "Before You Were Born"
HIPSTER HEAVEN: IT'S A BIT COMPLICATED, Art Brut (Downtown Records) Is there anything left to rebel against? Doesn't matter to Art Brut. With tongue firmly in cheek, these Brits put out three-chord anthems with more bark than bite. For a party in your ears, just press play. DOWNLOAD: "Direct Hit"