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by Carey Murphy and Luke Baumgarten & r & Ryan Adams & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & 29 & lt;/a & *** & r & What happens when you're a belovedly maligned alt-country rocker (who churns copious amounts of music and completely lacks the ability to self-censor) when you wake up one morning and find yourself perched at the yawning chasm of your thirties? You don't look forward. Oh, hell no. You write an album full of story-songs about your glorious 20s, filling them, of course, with angst and trepidation until they begin to not seem so glorious. Then you back off a little, until you achieve just the right ratio of wailing and braggadocio. Or, at least, that's what Ryan Adams has done here. Forgoing his rotating cadre of backing instrumentalists, the Cardinals, he's taken this opportunity to go mostly solo on these nine ambling, navel-gazing ballads.

It's the most self-indulgent Ryan Adams album of the year. It's also, for whatever it's worth, the best Ryan Adams album of the year. In the past, when he wasn't slopping out an album every four months, that meant something. -- Luke Baumgarten

The White Stripes & lt;a href= & quot; & amp;offerid=78941 & amp;type=3 & amp;subid=0 & amp;tmpid=1826 & amp; & quot; & Walking With A Ghost & lt;/a & *** & r & This is a lovely little (belated) stocking stuffer for all of you who cannot yet accept that the holiday for obscene amounts of giving has now passed. But with five simple tracks, this offering by the White Stripes is just enough fun to ease you into the new year. The title, of course, comes from the delicioso cover of the Tegan and Sara tune. Even if you don't know the original (and shame on you if you don't), Jack and Meg distill the track through characteristic fuzz and buzz. Jack wails and Meg pounds -- it's de-lovely.

The remaining four tracks are live versions that offer a fair cross-section of the band's music from way back to the current faves. "As Ugly As I Seem" and "The Denial Twist" are invigorated versions of the Satan tracks. But "Screwdriver" is the best selection here of the Stripes' own material. Now, if we could just get Tegan and Sara to cover "I'm Lonely (But I Ain't That Lonely Yet)," we'd be in bid-ness, son. -- Carey Murphy
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