BRITNEY SPEARS & r & & r & Blackout & r & & r & 4 Stars & r & & r &

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & B & lt;/span & lackout may be a breakthrough for Britney. After the opening over-layered "Gimme More," the songs thin out as much as Britney herself has ballooned. Occasionally they're even reminiscent of Peach's Casio-punk: driving beats accompanied by the barest digital melodies that cycle like figments from Castlevania.

Only a few times does she try a song about her media-saturated life. The best tracks focus on hooking up, like the ping-ponging "Radar." "Toy Soldier" is particularly savvy -- a coy track designed to heat up the new audience of Bush-made veterans.

In one of the two Blackout songs she had a hand in writing, Britney sings "It's simple let it flow / Let your inhibitions go / It's crazy / Now let's make it a freakshow." This album marks the second time she's used "Freakshow" to describe her style. Instead of offering pseudo-political insights or "I've grown up" pleas, Britney knows all she has to do is make us dancey and horny.


DOWNLOAD: "Freakshow"


Even If It Kills Me

4 Stars

& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & M & lt;/span & otion City Soundtrack has quirked its way up the ladder of success. Its new album Even If It Kills Me helps it retain the much-coveted status of "non-mainstream."

It kicks off in atypical Motion City fashion, with the sound of an orchestra tuning its strings and horns before a sharp cut to power chords and the classic Motion City synthesizer.

After such classics as "The Future Freaks Me Out" and "Everything Is Alright," it was hard to imagine Motion City creating hits tied to convention and traditional fade-outs. But the vocal structure here is more predictable than expected. While "Extinction" and "Even If It Kills Me" speak about living life after discovering your flaws, and while "I Fell In Love Without You" and "This Is for Real" make for great first-time-listener songs, the best track award here goes to "Broken Heart," which delivers the pulsing pushes and pulls of a great chorus.


DOWNLOAD: "I Fell in Love Without You"

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