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Bestselling CDs

Notable CDs | The five most-played albums on college/independent radio

The Greatest

STYLE Dreary, late-night romantic ennui.

CAUTIONS One casual curse ("Hate").

WORLDVIEW "When I lay me down, / will you still be around? / When they put me six feet underground, / will the big, bad, beautiful you be around?" ("The Moon").

OVERALL QUALITY Tedious proof that, no matter how many legendary Nashville session men she hires, Chan Marshall is not, despite hype to the contrary, a Dusty Springfield for the 21st century.

The Life Pursuit

STYLE Verbally and musically witty pop.

CAUTIONS Scattered profanity ("Another Sunny Day," "Sukie in the Graveyard," "Dress Up in You," the booklet's 15-page e-mail exchange with fans).

WORLDVIEW "Oh, if I could make sense of it all! / I wish that I could sing. / I'd stay in melody. / I would float along in my everlasting song. / What would I do to believe?"

OVERALL QUALITY Proof that the unpretentious have more fun.

Rabbit Fur Coat

STYLE Country-folk skewed by the arrested development prevalent among the alt-pop scenesters among whom Ms. Lewis has long been a star.

WORLDVIEW That being "Born Secular" is no guarantee that one won't find herself wrestling with God and/or the devil in half of the 12 songs on one's solo debut 30 years later.

OVERALL QUALITY Proof that when one covers the Traveling Wilburys, one's own songs sound a little dull.

First impressions of Earth

STYLE Edgy power-pop.

CAUTIONS Pornographic booklet art; just enough profanities to merit the parental-advisory sticker.

WORLDVIEW ". . . a product to advertise, / a market to monopolize, / movie stars to idolize, / leaders to scandalize, / enemies to neutralize, / no time to apologize, / fury to tranquilize . . ." ("Ize of the World").

OVERALL QUALITY Musician, edit thyself; or proof that encouraging the moderately talented to exceed 40 minutes is CD technology's most pernicious side effect.

Last Romance

STYLE Grim Scottish punk-folk.

CAUTIONS Profanities, sexual crudity ("Stink," "Confessions of a Big Brother," "Come Round and Love Me," "Speed-Date," "Dream Sequence").

WORLDVIEW "If you can love my growing gut, my rotten teeth and greying hair, then I can guarantee I'll do the same as long as you can bear" ("There Is No Ending").

OVERALL QUALITY Proof that the wages of sexual sin is romantic death.

In the spotlight

With The Life Pursuit (Matador), the Scottish pop collective Belle and Sebastian not only celebrate the 10th anniversary of their recording debut but also remind anyone who may have forgotten that they combine virtuosity and intelligence without coming on heavy better than anyone else. Like their previous albums, The Life Pursuit is so brimful of catchy melodies and mini-narratives that someone unfamiliar with the group might mistake the album for a "greatest hits."

Meanwhile, parents justifiably concerned with the few-and-far-between profanities but who would prefer that their kids listen to something more uplifting than Green Day or aesthetically rewarding than CCM could do worse than burn a "clean" copy of the disc's 10 profanity-free songs (and confiscate, or at least expurgate, the cover booklet). They could also use the reference to The Cross and the Switchblade in "The Blues Are Still Blue" (or, as Belle and Sebastian call it, The Switchblade and the Cross) as a teaching moment.


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