Ultravox: “Brilliant”
On this, the most aptly titled album of the year, synthpop gods Ultravox return with their best CD since “Quartet.” Songs vacillate from groove-heavy dance tracks to tear-enducing ballads all showing singer Midge Ure’s voice is in fine form. The only bad news is the CD has not been released in America yet, but Amazon.com has it as an import and yes, it is worth spending the extra cash.

Pet Shop Boys: “Elysium”
The first two albums by the Pet Shop Boys served as the soundtrack to many a late night during my college days, but over recent years, a handful of less than stellar discs made me lose interest in the quirky duo. Enter “Elysium” a tight yet diverse collection of moody and danceable pop with track “Your Early Stuff” a tune that seems eerily like a conversation I would have with singer Neil Tennant had we ever met. This disc manages to tip the band’s hats to their past without sounding dated and to reignite the interest of old fans like me. And you.


Alanis Morissette: “Havoc And Bright Lights”
“Isn’t It Ironic” that a woman who was once projected to be nothing more than a flash in the pan has had a career that now spans just under two decades? Don’t you think? Her latest is an insightful collection of masterfully constructed songs of love, loss and ultimately hope.

Aimee Mann: “Charmer”
In her three plus decades since screaming “He said shut up!” in Til’ Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” video, Aimee Mann has grown into one of the most respected female singer-songwriters in rock. Her latest “Charmer” is an ode to the attraction and dangers of charm done with the pathos and sarcastic wit transformed into catchy sing-alongs in a way only Mann can.

Various Artists: “Lowe Country: The Songs of Nick Lowe”
Covering a well-loved song is always a slippery slope, especially when the song was created by a craftsman of words and music. A collection of relatively unknown Nashville leaning artists (the biggest being Ron Sexsmith) take on the lesser known catalog of Nick Lowe. The best of the bunch? Amanda Shires version of “I Love The Sound Of Breaking Glass.”


Dio: “The Beast Of Volume 2”
He was the greatest voice heavy metal ever had, and leading legendary bands Rainbow, Black Sabbath, DIO and Heaven and Hell he created the most memorable songs and albums in the genre. Sadly, cancer took Ronnie James Dio away, but his legacy lives on with another best-of mined from his vaults. Although this collection contains no hit per se, it does collect more than a dozen solid tracks full of dragons, wizardry and dark genius, reminding us, as track 16 states, “Metal Will Never Die.”

The Dollyrots: “The Dollyrots”
This trio has done everything right. From the quirky and colorful retro cover art, to the first class production of their punk-pop songs (Think early Go-Gos and X with a touch of Pink throw in) that stick in your head long after the disc has left your player.