1 Feeling nothing like a feeble reunion record and more like a flawless continuation, Sleater-Kinney's "No Cities to Love" leaves little doubt the Northwest power-punk trio found the right time and all the right reasons to end its 10-year-hiatus. Corin Tucker and her "Portlandia"-famed cohort Carrie Brownstein wrap their screeching guitars and screed-like vocals around each other with natural, uncanny chemistry throughout the record's nonstop, 33-minute assault, while drummer Janet Weiss makes sure they're galloping and walloping the whole time. The year's first rock album for the ages lands Tuesday.
2 "American Sniper," Clint Eastwood's 37th film as a director, is his darkest, tightest, most morally ambiguous drama since he shot the western dead with "Unforgiven." A rich study of combat violence without a moment of jingoism or propaganda, the film focuses on the psychological wounds that haunt a top U.S. marksman from Mideast battlefields to his Texas family home. Bradley Cooper, below, an actor known for emphatic and memorable dialogue, delivers a deeply felt and moving performance as the strong, silent soldier/husband.
3 Mpls Photo Center's Rock & Roll Call for Entry Exhibit has attracted photographers from across the nation and as far away as Slovenia and Uruguay. There are shots of Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger in concert in the 1970s, and a portrait of Prince in front of a Spanish cathedral. Heavy on fairly recent photos such as Green Day (above), the exhibit captures rock on-, off- and backstage with grit, passion and abandon. www. MplsPhotoCenter.com
4 The knock against Ludacris: He often squanders his tongue-twisting lyrical abilities on frivolous club songs. Not the case on his recent EP "Burning Bridges." This is Luda at his best, reminding listeners that he possesses an extraordinary gift for triple-time flows and complicated internal rhyme structures. And as the title suggests (Bridges being his real surname), this mini-album is filled with surprising pathos — Luda questioning wealth, friends, family and himself.
5 Michelle Knight, one of three young women held captive and tortured in a Cleveland home, endured a living hell, including five miscarriages induced by brutal beatings. She later confronted her abuser in court and then somehow found a new life without harboring hate. She tells her story in the disgusting and riveting "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed." What kept Knight sane was thinking about seeing her son. She writes: "I kept hearing his little voice in my mind, saying, 'Mommy, I need you.' "