New from: Jazmine Sullivan; The Decemberists; Belle & Sebastian

January 19, 2015 4:36 PM

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At 27, North Philly-born Jazmine Sullivan has already spent a lifetime in the music business, writing (while still in her teens) songs for nu-soul artists such as Jennifer Hudson, and topping Billboard's hip-hop charts with 2008's "Need U Bad." There have been rough roads, such as the one that led Sullivan to retire from music in 2011, only to return in 2014 with a personal tale of an abusive relationship. Reality Show is an apt title for Sullivan's return. Her voice still has the bluesy ache of her youth, only now it carries by experience and hurt, as on "Forever Don't Last" and the not-so-shiny "Silver Lining." These tunes allow Sullivan to paint portraits of desperation in the face of failed love. But she pulls Reality Show, thank goodness, away from that with the sensual synth-soul of "Veins," the muted sass of "Mascara," the throbbing rap-pop of "Dumb" (co-starring Philly's Meek Mill), and the gospel-tinged uplift of "Masterpiece (Mona Lisa)." With Reality Show, Sullivan has crafted a welcome and welcoming return.

"We know we belong to you, we know you built your lives around us," Colin Meloy sings at the start of the Decemberists' seventh album, somewhat cheekily addressing the codependent artist-fan relationship on the fittingly titled "The Singer Addresses His Audience." Meloy has put the allegiance of the...

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