LL Cool J garners talents of J. Lo, others for 'Todd'
After more than 20 years and a dozen albums, LL Cool J has evolved from a brash upstart to venerable Uncle L.
With guests including J. Lo, Juelz Santana, Mary J. Blige, Lyfe Jennings and Jamie Foxx on just about every track, there is no shortage of star power. Sometimes, though, LL seems to be cruising rather than being challenged. Still, the energy never wanes, and the rapper delivers enough to guarantee that James Todd Smith won't be fading any time soon.
— Steve Jones
With his debut album, this Canadian singer/songwriter joins a growing list of artists who are putting the male troubadour back on the map by mixing elements of folk earnestness, rock drama and blue-eyed soul.
The wistful "Bad Day" is a rising hit, fueled by weekly exposure on "American Idol." And Powter's keening vocals, catchy hooks and sinuous grooves evoke rhythmically savvy pop icons such as the Bee Gees and Elton John.
— Elysa Gardner
Australia's answer to The Strokes seemed to be veering toward a career flame-out as front man Craig Nicholls' behavior grew increasingly erratic. He was finally diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism particularly unsuited for the rigors of rock stardom.
Nicholls chose fight over flight, and the result is this 31-minute blast of grunge-bolstered garage-rock bliss. Less deliciously messy than "Evolved" and more melodic than 2004's "Winning Days," "Valley" has plenty of punk-pop peaks, starting with "Don't Listen to the Radio," a double-meaning spiel on toxic technology and Nicholls' need for retreat. The bubblegum pop of "Candy Daze," country twang in "Take Me Back" and Pink Floyd trippiness in "Spaceship" show The Vines stalking fresh twists.
— Edna Gundersen