The film Idlewild - a Prohibition-era tale about musicians and mobsters - allows OutKast to import hip-hop into a period narrative. At their best, the music fizzes with imagination. "Morris Brown" is an infectious combination of slick vocals and funky groove, and "Call The Law" includes Janelle Monae's vocal in a jazz piano arrangement. Andre 3000, in particular, stretches the OutKast style to its furthest extent, ending proceedings on "A Bad Note", a wild psychedelic-soul-jazz excursion. But it's Big Boi who makes the biggest impact with "The Train", where he reflects on life over a wispy synth and guitar riff buttressed by a great horn hook. "All aboard!" he calls out, "Or, are all a'y'all bored?" Not for a moment.
Jamelia will be hoping to continue her long list of hits with this new album. The singer has said that her latest musical offering is "more experimental, more crazy" than her previous work. Single "Something About You" peaked at number 10 in the UK chart and is a breezy, well-crafted addition to her pop canon. "I hope to God you feel the way I feel", she tells us, "Because this could be amazing". That's possibly a little bit strong, but it's a good effort all the same.
"Beware of the Dog" samples Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and "Do Me Right" is a collaboration with hip-hop legend Afrika Bambaataa. All in all it's well worth a listen.
MC Kool Keith revives his most bizarre identity with this oddball effort. It is, in effect, a continuation of the "intergalactic hip-hop" Keith introduced years ago, with surreal images like "an elephant with metal wings pulling up at Domino's" and ruminations like "Aliens", where he muses on being "abducted by a gas", over a beat laced with horror-movie organ and theremin. Backing tracks are produced by the One Watt Sun trio, who specialise in electro-popfunk grooves, with DJ Dexter adding scratches to "Ants", Keith's miles-high view of humanity. The only real variation comes with "A Gorilla Driving a Pick-Up Truck", for which they've created a steel guitar groove, but the results are never less than entertaining.
ASTRUD GILBERTO: The Very Best of Astrud Gilberto, UCJ
This collection of classics conjures up images of sun-kissed Brazilian beaches, with the sultry sounds of bossa nova and samba. The singer sounds as fresh as ever on tracks such as "The Girl from Ipanema" and "Fly Me To The Moon".
NELLY FURTADO: Loose, POLYDOR
Hip-hop producer Timbaland co-produced Loose, earmarking it as one of the albums of the year before it hit the streets. It's hip-hop meets pop meets Portugal. Loose is very different from her previous work: more edgy and dance-based.
KEISHA WHITE: Out of My Hands,KOROVA
Out of my Hands is the second album from the Brit soul sensation White, following Seventeen. Indeed, it lifts songs from her earlier album - which is fine if you missed it and frustrating if you didn't. That said, it's a great RnB album.
AKALA: It's Not a Rumour, ILLASTATE
The debut album from Ms Dynamite's little brother won best hip-hop act at this year's MOBOs. The album's a witty, wry take on urban life and city people. It blends rock with hip-hop grime. It's poetic too. Good work, little Dynamite.
NINA SIMONE: The Very Best of Nina Simone,BMG
Following the spate of reissues and compilations that followed the death of the singer and pianist in 2003, this concise collection is a winner, focusing on her upbeat material and best-known songs. Her unique, sultry, sexy voice is, as ever, intoxicating.