Album: Shine
Label: Atlantic
Release Date: April 29
***** (out of five)

With major label debut Shine, the U.K. rapper/singer shows no fear, effortlessly shuffling between rap, reggae and soul to communicate her heartache and triumph. Wyclef and contribute thumping beats tailor-made for her eclectic tastes. Big names like Kanye West and Cee-Lo come out to play, and both are given a run for their money. Estelle has made the kind of album that defines a person’s summer, and prophesizes a long, fruitful musical career.

– Dustin Espanol/for Metro News

The Long Blondes
Album: Couples
Label: Rough Trade Records
Release Date: April 8
**** (out of five)

The girls who sang, “You’re only 19 for God’s sake, you don’t need a boyfriend” on their first CD, Someone To Drive You Home, assert liaisons on the lustrous, sexy follow up, Couples. The Blondes shift from instrument-heavy pop to richer tunes characterized by hypnotic electronics and edgier electric guitars. Vocally, lead singer Kate Jackson is the U.K. answer to The Dresden Dolls’ Amanda Palmer, carrying songs on her sultry low register. If the transition from Someone to Couples is any testament, we can’t wait for the threesome.

– Brian Coulton/for Metro News

Jeff Healey
Album: Mess Of Blues
Label: Stony Plain
Release Date: April 22
*** 1/2 (out of five)

Culled mainly from live shows at the blind guitarist’s Toronto roadhouse bar as well as a tour stop in London, this collection of blues-rock crowd-pleasers was meant to showcase Jeff Healey and his backing players unabashedly as “the very best bar band one could possibly ask for.” Liner notes don’t lie. But Healey’s untimely death on March 2 has turned this pleasant release into a posthumous memorial to Healey’s mastery as a showman and lap-toting blues axeman — the latter backed up by ripping solos on I’m Torn Down, How Blue Can You Get and Sittin’ On Top Of The World.

– Ian Nathanson/for Metro News

Tokyo Police Club
Album: Elephant Shell
Label: Mean Beard/Universal
Release Date: April 22
*** (out of five)

After riding a gargantuan wave of EP-created hype, Tokyo Police Club sound serious about succeeding with this first LP. Just some slight modifications have been made to TPC’s indie-pop hook assembly line of taut guitar lines, bubbly keyboards and industrial-strength drum beats. Including a more poetic tone from vocalist Dave Monks, the band’s choppy charm gives way to a sound with more cohesive layers. There is still enough buzz-worthy fun not to alienate fans — even if they will be scrambling for Wikipedia to reference lyrics like “Australopithecine.”

– Robb Mckay/for Metro News

Colin Meloy
Album: Sings Live!
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Release Date: April 8
*** (out of five)

Live albums seldom serve any purpose other than to fill the void between studio releases and cash in on an artist’s popularity. This collection of acoustic performances from Decemberists singer songwriter Colin Meloy is no exception to that rule. Though Meloy is an exceptionally talented writer and a charming performer, listing to him sing Decemberists favourites over the shrill squeals of adorning crowds is something best enjoyed by the most diehard fan.

– John Orr/Metro News

Ashlee Simpson
Album: Bittersweet World
Label: Geffen Records
Release Date: April 22
* 1/2 (out of five)

Ashlee Simpson can be whoever the hell she wants to be. When all your hand-me-down tart-me-ups are blessed by ace producers and daddy dearest Joe Simpson himself, why stop at being the poor mallrats’ Avril? Armed with the likes of Timbaland and the Neptunes’ Chad Hugo, Simpson Jr. sets out to be Gwen Stefani in her new album, with a dash of late-millennium Madonna. It’s pointless to talk about the songs — there’s nothing in here that rises above your average junk pop. But here’s a lyrical nugget from Murder: “I’m your sunshine/
Concubine/My tears turn black in the moonlight.” If I were Jessica, I’d call this poetry.

– Kumar Saha/Metro News

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