Regina Spektor's third proper album is like that cynical older cousin who you love to sit next to at family functions. Totally funny, mostly good-natured, and both angry and delicious -- angrilicious? -- like the kind of person who says all the things you want to say but don't.

And -- uh -- says them all in cute, random metaphors and rhyming couplets and sweet, sweet melodies.

After the meandering intro of "The Calculation" -- a good, mid-tempo, semi-funked-out song about relationships, technology, and emotional indifference -- we get a virtual onslaught of Regina with the instant hookiness, smileyness, and spine-tingling anticipation of the piano chords that lead into "Eet."

The song might be named for its homonym, or it might be the way Spektor writes down her own whimsical non-word singing on paper. Then, when the drums come in -- "You spend half of your life/trying to fall behind/using your headphones to drown out your mind" -- the song becomes simultaneously triumphant and snarky. And it's especially victorious when you consider it's a song about hipster kids who are so preoccupied with looking cool that they forget how to dance. (That's what I think it's about, anyway.) Really, it's a self-defeating argument -- by the time you're done analyzing, you're hopping up and down in your desk chair, anyway.

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Whether you like slow jams or not, you have to hand it to Avant—he is a boy who gets the girl. On songs like “Av” and “Hooked,” Avant drips with a sophisticated sleaze. He’s a smooth rider. There’s only one reason to buy this CD, and if you need me to spell it out, you probably don’t need to own it.

The rhythm behind producer Stizzle’s beats spell out a slow grind, and Avant’s lyrics—reproduced in full in the lyric book, down to “You will be my feast/Mm mm/something sweet to eat/Mm mm”—are designed to fast-forward the evening straight to an intimate moment on a very comfortable couch. Avant has exactly one mode, and that’s sexing U up. We get to hear the whole thing on two different songs, first on the interlude to the lush “Phone Sex (That’s What’s Up),” and then on “Read Your Mind,” as Av convincingly lays down the law—“I know you wanna rub/I know you wanna touch/I know you wanna see/I know you wanna be/in my B-E-D.” Tell it, Av.

Clues that Marilyn Manson has sold out (again):
- Currently dating someone younger (and possibly more depraved) than he is.
-There’s a picture of a heart (okay, a spooky one, but still—a heart?!) on the front of his new CD.
-Only eleven tracks—a restrained, toned-down number of tracks which we associate with Celine Dion, not the angel of chaos who brought us bazillion-song fiascos like Antichrist Superstar and Portrait of an American Family that just seemed to keep the fucked-uppetry coming.

On Eat Me, Drink Me however, Manson seems to be trying for a more sinister, cerebrally-dark (as opposed to, you know, slam-dancey-dark) worldview and corresponding sound. There’s still the metal guitar riffs, still the industrial tear-down-the-house drums, but Manson, no stranger to self-reinvention, seems to be pulling on layers instead of stripping them off. It can get cheesy and even sometimes sappy—what do you expect with an album that opens with the lyrics “6 A.M. Christmas morning/No shadows, no reflections here”?

Current collaborator Tim Skold (formerly of KMFDM) holds up the musical end, and Manson’s pop-inflicted choruses still give him that sense of fun that borders on self-parody. It’s a little more poetry-writing-15-year-old than suicidal-15-year-old. But, hey, it’s Manson in love. What do you expect?

Regina Spektor comes from the New York City anti—folk scene, that curious bisection of painfully earnest singer-song writing and hipster cool. After an unexpected tidal wave of popularity with her eponymous debut album, this -— her major label debut -— is a weird and kind of cool ground between the ethereal weirdness of Kate Bush and the put you to sleep laziness of, I don’t know, Paula Cole? The opening track (and first single), “Fidelity,” is a soft, dreamy orchestral sample that’s trip-hop and electronica-ish and catchy as hell.

There’s a definite line that Spektor could step over and cross into boring-girl soft-rock territory, but, for the most part, she manages to sidestep it. After all, she puts lines like “I went to a protest/just to rub against strangers” together with “Summer in the city means/cleavage cleavage cleavage,” and starts singing in French and then falls into Russian. She’s tricky and playful and, as an indie-folk secret, Regina Spektor totally held it together without being trite. Will the big time kill her? So far, it hasn’t—and here’s hoping it won’t.