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Jesse Malin, Outsiders

This is the album I always hoped Malin might make. Kicking off with a twitchy variation on Bo Diddley’s hambone riff, Malin sets the tone for an album that loves the past but also looks to the future. He’s always been a decent songwriter but, until now, he’s lacked the conviction that could push him into the big leagues. By discarding some of the restrictive sophistication of previous efforts, he’s hit a style that lets his urban rock breathe, and producer Don DiLego perfectly mirrors Malin’s newfound gutsiness with a stripped-down funky sound, transforming him into a credible artist somewhere between early Tom Petty and the mid-period Chuck Prophet.