Style: Theatrical power-punk.
Cautions: "Teenagers" (obscenity), "The End" (casual cursing).
Worldview: "You're just a sad song / with nothing to say about a life-long hospital stay. / And, if you think that I'm wrong, / this never meant nothing to ya."
Overall quality: These loud lads are obviously having fun; so much, in fact, that they haven't noticed how confused they are about their favorite topics: suffering, war, death, and the afterlife.
Style: Exuberantly positive bubblegum "from and inspired by the hit TV series."
Worldview: "Who said, who said / I can't be Superman? / I say, I say / that I know I can. / Who said, who said / I won't be president? / I say, I say / you ain't seen nothin' yet."
Overall quality: Surprisingly not silly for kid-targeted pop, with 14-year-old Miley Cyrus giving every indication of someday surpassing her famous father Billy Ray.
Style: Catchy acoustic country.
Cautions: "Cold as You" (a casual curse).
Worldview: "I'm alone, on my own, and that's all I know. / I'll be strong. I'll be wrong. Oh, but life goes on. / I'm just a girl trying to find a place in this world."
Overall quality: Only two years older than Miley Cyrus, Swift has grown-up listeners in mind and the poise, connections, and talent to get their attention.
Style: Soul music with a bluesman's attention to detail in the lyrics.
Cautions: "Slow Dance" (obscenity); but not the prurient "P.D.A." if one hears it as part of a mini-drama with "Again," which wrestles with the wages of sexual sin, as the conclusion.
Worldview: "O God of love, peace, and mercy, / why so much suffering? / I pray for the world, / [but] it gets worse to me."
Overall quality: Engagingly buoyant.
Style: Melodramatic, minor-key metal.
Worldview: "All our lives / we've been waiting / for someone to call our leader. / All your lies / I'm not believing. / Heaven, shine a light down on me."
Overall quality: Won't settle the debate about whether the band's music is "Christian" but will remind the perceptive that it's usually the form that justifies the content (or, in this case, fails to) and not the other way around.
In the 24 years since the British rockers The Who last released an album of new material, their bassist John Entwistle died of a cocaine-related heart attack, their songwriter-guitarist Pete Townshend fought encroaching deafness and was charged with (then acquitted of) downloading child pornography, and their drum seat was filled by Ringo Starr's son Zak. In short, they gave little hint that they'd ever write, let alone record, new Who music again.
So Endless Wire (Universal/Republic) is doubly surprising: first for existing at all and second for being pretty good. Once accustomed to Townshend's current preference for acoustic guitars and Roger Daltrey's weather-beaten 62-year-old voice, fans will find much to enjoy. And instead of songs inspired by his Eastern guru Meher Baba, Townshend now finds inspiration (if not exactly orthodox faith) in Jesus. He wrote both "A Man in a Purple Dress" (about Pilate) and "Two Thousand Years" (gnostic Judas revisionism) after watching Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ.