By V.R. PETERSON Chris Strauss STEVE DOUGHERTY Christina Tapper RANDY VEST and Jessica Herndon
Updated September 15, 2008 12:00 PM
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CONOR OBERST Conor Oberst
The Bright Eyes singer-songwriter is at his alt-folkie finest on his solo debut, with the bluesy rouser “I Don’t Want to Die (in the Hospital)” and the heartbreaking highlight “Lenders in the Temple.”

HEIDI NEWFIELD What Am I Waiting For
The former Trick Pony songstress created a country music gem which includes “Johnny and June”—a song inspired by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash that does the duo proud.

PAUL WELLER 22 Dreams
With retro ’60s soul, psychedelic folk and even an out-of-nowhere tango tune, the Brit pop star’s ambitious 21-track collection is a far-reaching mix of eclectic genres. The result? Dreamy.

AMY MACDONALD This Is the Life
The Scottish import delivers a debut album rich in roots pop, bringing to mind a folkier, feistier version of another great Scot, KT Tunstall. Macdonald’s voice packs power and passion into the title tune.