Arctic Monkeys, "Humbug"
Following a three-year period that netted two albums, one Mercury Prize and dozens of headlines pegging the British group as rock's next great hope, the Arctic Monkeys were due for an offbeat, introspective third album. While their new album "Humbug" is a moodier affair than its previous discs, the top-notch songwriting and simmering instrumentation allows them to experiment with more difficult styles without losing an ounce of charm. "Potion Approaching" straddles a sinister two-step guitar line before turning into a ghostly waltz, while "Cornerstone" offers a story of regret over melancholy strumming. Alex Turner has evolved as a frontman, displaying the same shiny vocal hooks as his past work but with even more raw nerve. "With folded arms, you occupy the bench like toothache," Turner spits out on the single "Crying Lightning," which features airtight production from Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme. Arctic Monkeys have captivated the post-Britpop scene since their 2006 debut, but "Humbug" finds the group justifying the hype by shifting its best qualities into different, equally dazzling shapes. --Jason Lipshutz