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Music round-up

Jude Adam

New ways of releasing music continue to pop up unexpectedly, bouncing and waving like maniacal jack-in-the-boxes. Last month The Raconteurs, the side-project of White Stripes' Jack White, rush- released their second album Consolers Of The Lonely. Recorded in February, they skipped the standard 90-day marketing turnaround and had it in the shops within seven days of it being mastered. Cynics have said this was either because the album was bad (so people bought it before the journalists could pan it) or because White was afraid of it leaking, like his 2007 release Icky Thump (meaning the first tracks people heard were low quality). Whyever, it worked. Column inches? Check. Hotly anticipated music available immediately? Check. Great album? Well… It's all right…

Embracing the new is something that Madonna has always thrown herself into. Having recently used and abused electronica and dance, this time it's the urban/pop scene. Featuring duets with Justin Timberlake and production duties from Pharell Williams and Timbaland, it sounds very of-the-moment rather than new; Madonna always seems about a year late for that. Also, with its urban flavas it seems totally apt that Hard Candy will be available exclusively to customers of Vodafone in the week running up to it's release, making it the exact opposite of The Raconteurs: an album that's actually designed to be overheard on the bus through crappy little speakers.

Also out there in May is Little Dreamer, the excellent debut from Beth Rowley. The angel-of-light to Winehouse's angel-of-darkness, it's a genuinely wonderful collection of jazz and pop. Former boy soldier Emmanuel Jal's mix of afro beats and hip hop is sparkling on Warchild, and Spiritualized return after a long break with Songs From A&E, a great return that shows Portishead how they should have done it.

Death Cab For Cutie's Narrow Stairs will continue to delight current fans as well as their newest demographic - toddlers. 'We keep being told that we're big in the car,' singer Ben Gibbard told me recently. 'There's something about my voice that under-fives just seem to get.' Got a long journey this month? You know what to do.