John Mayer, "Battle Studies"
With all of his recent tweeting and tabloid coverage, it's a wonder John Mayer had time to write new music-much less the best and most adventurous of his four studio albums. Three years after his double-platinum album "Continuum," the new release "Battle Studies" finds Mayer musing about "finding ways to keep the good alive" in romance. He also marches into fresh stylistic terrain by sampling an anthemic U2 ambience on "Heartbreak Warfare," weaving Beatles-esque textures into "All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye" and creating smooth Southern California pop melodies on "Half of My Heart" (featuring Taylor Swift). Mayer also puts a funky, sinewy spin on Cream's arrangement of Robert Johnson's "Crossroads." And while the artist has raised some eyebrows by asking, "Who says I can't get stoned?" (on the album's first single, "Who Says"), the rest of the collection certainly has the goods to eclipse that overblown controversy.-Gary Graff