June 02, 2014 12:00 PM

>THE ROOTS

… And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

The house band of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon takes this album title from a lyric in a KRS-One song, and like that old-school rapper, they continue to make heady hip-hop on their latest. While some of their deepness can get down-beat, tracks like “When the People Cheer,” “Understand” and the soulful standout “Tomorrow” (one of two cuts featuring R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn) groove enough to get your head bopping too. []

CONOR OBERST

Upside Down Mountain

Having been alt-folk before alt-folk was cool, the Bright Eyes singer-songwriter may never have gotten the same kind of love as newer acts like Mumford & Sons, Ed Sheeran and the Lumineers. But his latest solo album demonstrates that he’s still a strong force in the genre. Highlights include the country-tinged “Hundreds of Ways” and the ballads “Double Life” and “Night at Lake Unknown,” both things of acoustic beauty. []

PHILLIP PHILLIPS

Behind the Light

After the two hits on his World from the Side of the Moon debut—”Home” and “Gone, Gone, Gone”—were written by other people, the 2012 American Idol takes more control on his sophomore outing. He had a hand in penning every tune and also served as one of the producers. There are still the shades of Mumford & Sons (see “Raging Fire,” the fiery first single) and Dave Matthews (see the bluesy stroll “Face”), while also reflecting more rock intensity. []

RASCAL FLATTS

Rewind

The country-pop trio, who have scored yet another hit with the title track, avoid making you want to press fast-forward on their latest, which breezes by smoothly enough (although they overdo the rock bluster on “Honeysuckle Lazy”). But then again, only a few tunes—like the playful revenge song “Payback,” the piano-laced ballad “I Have Never Been to Memphis” and “The Mechanic,” a harmony-sweetened declaration—are really worth rewinding. []

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