Music to Tune Out Your Stress

Overdosing on "Jingle Bells"? These 2010 releases will keep you level-headed.
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Tracy Bonham, "Masts of Manhatta"

"To yourself be true," a lyric in the delightful song "In the Moonlight," is the resounding message of Bonham’s exquisite new set. The classically trained violinist wraps her supple voice around witty wordplay on guitar- and ?ddle-fueled tracks such as "Angel, Won’t You Come Down?" There’s a toe-tapping intimacy throughout, and no wonder: Bonham recorded several songs in her stone cottage outside Woodstock, New York (the inspiration for the lighthearted "We Moved Our City to the Country"). -Holly George-Warren Buy it here.
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Sia, "We Are Born"

The Australian songwriter and former Jamiroquai backup vocalist creates richly textured dance-pop with an eclectic array of sounds, including toy piano ("You’ve Changed") and catchy melodies ("Hurting Me Now"). She adds the occasional dark edge to the mix with such ballads as "I’m In Here." -HGW Buy it here.
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Melissa Etheridge, "Fearless"

The title says it all. "Writing these songs, I thought, If I feel any fear, I’m going straight for it: ‘I can’t do that’ became ‘I have to do it.’" The result is 12 tracks that bristle with intensity and conviction, from the roar of the opening title song to "Gently We Row," which closes the album on a contemplative note. -Anthony DeCurtis Buy it here.
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Natalie Merchant, "Leave Your Sleep"

The former 10,000 Maniacs singer composed melodies with 130 musicians, and culled lyrics from poems by writers such as Edward Lear. The results are stunning: Lear’s "The Calico Pie" finds a sprightly backing with banjo and dulcimer, while Jack Prelutsky’s "Bleezer’s Ice Cream" is a jazzy number. -Holly George-Warren Buy it here.
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Stereolab, "No Music"

Lead singer Laetitia Sadier’s ethereal vocals are underpinned by a harmonious array of keyboards in the catchy lounge number "Everybody’s Weird Except Me." This band reinvented easy listening for the 21st century. -HGW Buy it here.
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Macy Gray, "The Sellout"

A decade after her megahit "I Try," the distinctive soul singer has enlisted such artists as Slash, on the glam-y "Kissed It," and Bobby Brown, on the sensual "Real Love," to create an intoxicating album that she says "tells the story of how I found my salvation in just being myself." Her anthem, "The Comeback," says it all. -HGW Buy it here.
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Norah Jones, "...Featuring Norah Jones"

The singer-songwriter partners with 19 artists, including Willie Nelson, for this exciting album of duets. On the rootsy track "Creepin’ In," her sultry alto is a surprising match for Dolly Parton’s soprano trill. -HGW Buy it here.
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Judy Collins, "Paradise"

Joined by her ex-lover Stephen Stills on the moving "Last Thing On My Mind," Collins, 70, proves that her soprano is as breathtaking as ever. (She also duets with Joan Baez on the burnished "Diamonds and Rust," which Baez composed.) A New Yorker, Collins revisits 9/11 with uplifting results in her own "Kingdom Come." -HGW Buy it here.
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Michelle Anthony, "Tornadoes"

"You can sing me something sweetly" is the hook of the track "Spare Me"-and it’s precisely what Anthony does, with lilting vocals and life-embracing lyrics. -HGW Buy it here.
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Kate Jacobs, "Home Game"

After a seven-year hiatus to raise two kids, the sweet-voiced singer-songwriter misses her old life as a roving musician on the catchy rocker "Rey Ordonez." Jacobs’ eclectic work includes buoyant ‘60s-style pop (the frothy "Make Him Smile") and a singalong kiss-off (the feisty "$55 Hotel"). -HGW Buy it here.
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Cassandra Wilson, "Silver Pony"

This Mississippi-born jazz stylist transforms the folkie Lennon-McCartney standard "Blackbird" into a hypnotic groove on this album recorded partly in New Orleans. -HGW Buy it here.
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Marshall Chapman, "Big Lonesome"

Chapman’s 12th studio album is a rootsy and poignant goodbye to friend and fellow musician Tim Krekel, who died of cancer last year. Augmenting her guitar is an autumnal tapestry of horns, organ, pedal steel and percussion, plus fancy fretwork by Will Kimbrough. -HGW Buy it here. *OK, now are you ready for holiday cheer? Click here for a slideshow of great gifts for the pop culture enthusiast.*
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