Treddin' on Thin Ice
(XL Recordings)

The third song on English MC/producer Wiley's debut album is "Wot Do U Call It?", in which he dismisses those terms everyone's been throwing around for UK rap--2Step, Garage, Urban--instead calling his music "Eskimo." It's a pretty apt description--to South Londoners, Alaska must seem chilling and distant, and Wiley's beat are likewise, full of open space and gray skies, possessing that hypnotic quality that makes every DJ Premier beat a winner, their hazy paranoia meshing perfectly with Wiley's frustrated, skulking rhymes. This record is the one that will determine if America has the gumption to accept English hiphop--far enough removed from the novelty of the Streets or Dizzee, Treddin' ought to be judged on its own merits. Although its cold starkness might not dazzle for all eternity, this is unquestionably the strongest debut so far this year. ETHAN SWAN

(Yep Roc)

With his melodic songs that burst with unabashedly lush orchestration, Ian Moore conjures parallels to the Flaming Lips. But where the Lips ooze a cynical silliness that makes them hard to take seriously, Moore isn't fucking around. "So your body is blushing like blood from a rose / it's zipless and perfect like obsidian stone," he moans somberly on "Cinnamon," one of Luminaria's sweaty, breathy tracks about misguided love and/or heartbreak. Moore isn't just another heartbroken crooner, however; his powerful, vibrating voice and effortless lyrics conjure a desolation a man his age shouldn't have access to. "It gets so dark down there, in your basement room," he sings to the title character in "April." "É And you get so tired, and your bed fits like a womb." This is a majestic record, as heartfelt and poignant as it is well executed. JUSTIN W. SANDERS


Everyone's favorite eccentric Icelandic whatever-you-do-don't-call-her-a-friggin'-chanteuse delivers some of her most chilling, interesting sounds yet on Medúlla. You probably know by now that, save for a spare piano, it's composed entirely of layered vocals--some sounds have been heavily processed, but most haven't, and the level of artistry throughout is pretty staggering. The best songs are the simplest, like the creepy hymn "V-kuró" or "oll Birtan," which brings to mind the Animal Collective covering a Moondog tune. There are no human beatboxes or native Icelandic choruses on "Birtan"; it's slowly building, fucked-up, intense, and powered simply by the beauty of Bj-rk's alien register vocals. Bj-rk is hyper-knowledgable about many styles of music, and she's able to mix and match at will. This is not always a good thing. We discover, for instance, that pairing a big choir with Biz Markie sounds like shit. MIKE McGONIGAL

**** Ted Dibiase

*** Jed Clampett

** Paul Allen

* Donald Trump