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The Game & r & & r & L.A.X. & r & & r & 2 STARS & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & N & lt;/span & owadays the Game doesn't have a lot of pals. Count Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and most of G-Unit among his detractors. So L.A.X., his third studio album, feels like a desperate, calculated attempt to win fans and friends. It feels like Game sold out.





Instead of staying true to his West Coast roots, he employs the talents of rap's biggest headliners -- Lil Wayne, Common, Kanye West, Nas, Raekwon, Ludacris, Ne-Yo and Scott Storch -- to bolster his album's wow-factor. And it doesn't hurt that those dudes rep the geographic hotspots -- the South, Midwest and Northeast -- Game has yet to tap into.





Game's marketing strategy feels a little frantic, a little corporate, but he still finds a way to make L.A.X. his own, opening and closing with musings from the washed-up DMX and dedicating a dis-track to Jay-Z on "Dope Boys."





Game is best, though, when he's contemplative and somber. When he lets his guard down and sheds the gangster image his work feels authentic. Even real.





-- TIM BROSS





DOWLOAD: "Angel (Feat. Common)"





Lykke Li


Youth Novels


4 STARS


& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & S & lt;/span & weden doesn't actually have the world's worst suicide rate. Actually, they rank 15th in Europe -- according to the country's official Website anyway. Keeping Scandinavian wrist-slitting down in the '08, no doubt, are pop stars like Lykke Li. The 22-year-old turns tales of insecurity and relationship strife into brilliant mid-tempo pop.





She's undeniably cute, but not at all dumb. Whispery, but not especially coy. The variety of the music, from elements of calypso to electro to songs built around little more than handclaps, is surprisingly complex without feeling over produced. Everything is carefully placed, nothing's thrown at the wall.





Youth Novels is a scrapbook of growing up a little sad, a little insecure and a lot hopeful that things like love and art and earnestness will make it all worth it. It's wonderful.





-- LUKE BAUMGARTEN





DOWNLOAD: "I'm Good, I'm Gone"
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