Style: Futuristic electronica, like what guest-background vocalist David Bowie might be doing were he still setting trends.
Cautions: "I Was a Lover," "Playhouses," "Let the Devil In," "A Method" (vulgarity, obscenity); "Wolf like Me" (lupine lechery).
Worldview: "When the chariot arrives, you'd best enjoy the ride, / 'cause when we get to heaven's gate, we're not getting inside. / Better beg forgiveness, / better drop to knees . . ."
Overall quality: Commendably unpretentious for art-pop.
Style: An eclectic cornucopia of underground styles, both quiet and loud, fast and slow.
Cautions: The album's full title.
Worldview: "Honey, you don't have to stay inside, / don't have to run, don't have to hide. / . . . You can always change your mind. / Maybe I will too in time, / once we understand no one understands it all."
Overall quality: A dud-free 20th-anniversary celebration of this fascinating band's evolution from experimentalism to mastery.
Style: Moody folk-pop for small combo and plaintive voice.
Worldview: "With my eyes on the prize and my mind on you, / I put my pride on the line and my whole life too. / Anything you ask me for is yours now. / Say the word, and I'll lay it at your feet. / I'll make the payments down the line somehow, / if you'll keep your promise with me."
Overall quality: Hazily beguiling.
Style: Blues, country, folk, gospel, rock 'n' roll.
Cautions: Some colloquial bluesman vulgarity.
Worldview: "All my loyal and my much-loved companions, / they approve of me and share my code. / I practice a faith that's been long abandoned. / Ain't no altars on this long and lonesome road."
Overall quality: Dylan's most freewheeling album since Blonde on Blonde, its rich terrain crisscrossed with footprints from every blazed trail of his musical odyssey.
Style: Lightly if ornately orchestral concept pop about the history, people, and places of Illinois.
Worldview: "Sound the horn. Make the bed. / Pull the cord. Raise the dead. / Oh, my God, I can't believe it! / What went wrong? / [. . .] Superstition, man's religion, / and conditioned mysteries incomplete."
Overall quality: Livelier, catchier, and more reflective of Stevens' Christian faith than Illinois, from which these 75 minutes of "outtakes and extras" were taken.
Satirists practice the trickiest of balancing acts, striving as they do to inflict the pain without which there's no gain, while not evoking mere disgust. Kinky Friedman, whose satirical songs earned him ostracism from the mainstream country and singer-songwriter communities in the 1970s, is no exception, as the tribute album Why the Hell Not . . . The Songs of Kinky Friedman (Sustain) demonstrates.
Partially recycled from 1999's Pearls in the Snow and released to coincide with his current Texas gubernatorial campaign, the album features the likes of Willie Nelson, Delbert McClinton, and Charlie Robison covering Friedman classics (the anti-bigotry "They Ain't Makin' Jews like Jesus Anymore," the anti-feminist "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven"). Admittedly, some of the hamburgers that Friedman makes of society's sacred cows taste better than others, and none suggest how he'd do as a policy maker. They do imply, however, that he'd waste no time issuing apologies to the oversensitive, which would at least make him refreshing.