A.I., Artificial Intelligence (DreamWorks): Shiny L.A. synth-rockers with Ray Manzarek's kid on keyboards, A.I. faces some pretty stiff competition from Deadsy, the shiny L.A. synth-rock outfit led by Cher and Gregg Allman's son. Artificial intelligence? To say the least. --Mikael Wood
Blue Crush: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Virgin): A surprisingly good companion to a surprisingly good movie: N.E.R.D. gets remixed, Beth Orton daydreams, Zero 7 rides a wave and Playgroup throws down afterward. Unfortunately, Lenny Kravitz stumbles in and spills the bongwater. --M.W.
Camper Van Beethoven, Tusk (Pitch-a-Tent): Not quite as twisted as Pussy Galore's strung-out retelling of Exile on Main Street, CVB's take on Fleetwood Mac's 1979 cocaine caper still proves that college rockers might've had the world on their shoulders if they hadn't been so busy shrugging. --M.W.
Eva Cassidy, Imagine (Blix Street): The dead walk, not rock, among us: Washington, D.C., folkie Cassidy, the Songbird known for her "Over the Rainbow," and Hawaiian heavyweight Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwo'ole, known for his, uh, well, "Over the Rainbow." Cassidy's latest posthumous collects further scraps from the boneyard--among them Sandy Denny's "Who Knows Where the Time Goes?," John Lennon's "Imagine" and, yeesh, "Danny Boy"--and they're as heaven-bound as she, which makes it a pain to collect royalty checks. --Robert Wilonsky
defining TECH (Orbisonic): Despite the title, this comp is more thesaurus than it is dictionary. Meaning, it never provides a complete definition of the nascent genre known as tech (or electro clash or whatever your friends in Brooklyn are calling it these days), but it does give you plenty of synonyms: Fischerspooner, Felix Da Housecat, Detroit Grand Pubahs, Miss Kittin & The Hacker, Peaches. --Zac Crain
The Flaming Sideburns, Save Rock 'n' Roll (Jetset): Given limited release in 2001 on Bad Afro, this disc from the Fab Five Fins (by way of Detroit, by way of "Detroit Rock City") raises the question: Is it pronounced "Scandinavian" or "scavenger?" If not this week's Hives, then this month's Sahara Hotnights. Or last year's Stooges. --R.W.
Tony Furtado, American Gypsy (What Are Records?): Bluegrass vet Furtado's got top-notch playing pouring out of his fingers. On American Gypsy he captures quite a bit of it on tape but forgets to present it in a way not custom-made for dentists. --M.W.
Going Driftless: An Artist's Tribute to Greg Brown (Red House): Brown's three daughters--Zoe, Pieta and Constie, a holy trinity indeed--proffer the best rendition of their late pa's stark-weather work ("Ella Mae," and you may), but this estrogen-soaked comp has enough all-stars (Shawn Colvin, Lucinda Williams) and small-stars (Ani DiFranco, Iris DeMent, Gillian Welch) to satisfy NPR for years to come. --R.W.
Linkin Park, Reanimation (Warner Bros.): What does it say about your band when you hand over your first, and only, album to a handful of de- and reconstructionists and they return a version better--way better--than the original? Most would call it a day and a career; Linkin Park calls it easy money. --R.W.
Mali Music, Mali Music (Astralwerks): Blur front man Damon Albarn makes like Alan Lomax, heading to West Africa with a tape recorder and a dream--that's the pitch, anyway. The album he came back with sounds less like Graceland leftovers than it does Gorillaz outtakes. Which means it's still pretty much unnecessary, but so are a lot of things that are good for you. --Z.C.
Brad Mehldau, Largo (Warner Bros.): Doesn't matter what the hep set, or Maxim and Rolling Stone, says, but Radiohead ("Paranoid Android") and the Beatles ("Dear Prudence"), not to mention ersatz Sabbath, tinkled on the piano still sounds like Muzak. Come back, Bruce Hornsby; all is forgiven. --R.W.
Morcheeba, Charango (Reprise): Very pretty (and, well, pretty boring), until it gets to Slick Rick's guest shot on "Women Lose Weight," an after-old-school special wherein the former MC Ricky D kills his wife (and goes to jail) because she's, um, too fat. No one tells a story like the erstwhile Get Fresh Crew member, whether you want it told or not. Bonus: The group's collab with Lambchop leader Kurt Wagner on "What New York Couples Fight About" is just as good as the title. --Z.C.
The Music, The Music EP (Virgin-Hut): This Zep schlep is, ahem, The Next Big Thing From England, at least till you hear it. Then it's, you know, not. --R.W.
Pulp, We Love Life (Rough Trade/Sanctuary): These dour smart alecks are a producer's dream come true: Their smirks run so deep they can withstand any generic application, personality intact. Here, orchestral-pop weirdo Scott Walker dresses them up as Nick Cave's lovable nephews and niece and raises a glass to cold, cold Brittania. --M.W.
Amy Rigby, 18 Again: An Anthology (KOCH): A nice place to start, and a finer place to finish, this collection rounds up two outtakes and 16 other cuts no one outside the cult has ever heard but ought to. Her life is just like yours--crap, mostly, which is why she wants to be treated with respect and love, "not like a big pain in the neck"--and the dif is she can make it sound like a jingle-jangle sunrise nonetheless. --R.W.
Duncan Sheik, Daylight (Atlantic): People magazine called this "one of this year's best." Repeat, People magazine called this "one of this year's best." Kinda like a letter of recommendation from Charles Manson, but in this case, not too far from dead on. --Z.C.
Sing-Sing, The Joy of Sing-Sing (Manifesto): Ever wonder what became of those fiery guitar-playing women in English shoegazer-come-latelies Lush? Of course not. Still, the sample-stoked pop Emma Anderson makes with new partner Lisa O'Neill in Sing-Sing makes for a tasty treat between Cardigans albums. --M.W.
Andy Stochansky, Five Star Motel (Private Music/RCA Victor): Proving that even faceless sidemen miss Jeff Buckley, former Ani DiFranco timekeeper Andy Stochansky turns in his third set of handsome pop-rock full of soulful falsetto and studio-pro sheen. Definitely give the drummer some. --M.W.
Keith Sweat, Rebirth (Elektra): Pardon, that should be afterbirth. --R.W.
Linda Thompson, Fashionably Late (Rounder): As elegantly understated as it is hilariously overdue (Thompson's last solo record came out in 1985), Fashionably Late might be the year's best album from a would-be grandma: Her stirring work with her son Teddy redefines the idea of a generation gap. --M.W.
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Trick Daddy, Thug Holiday (Slip N Slide/Atlantic): Sure, Trick "luuhs the kids" or something like that (kinda hard to hear through his gold fronts), but he prolly doesn't love the fact that, without Cee-Lo and Big Boi's help on "In Da Wind," his Holiday feels like too much work. To listen to, at least. --Z.C.
Underworld, A Hundred Days Off (V2): You can dance if you want to, you can leave your behind behind. Or the record Moby keeps trying to make--Delta blues by way of Hindu chants by way of Brighton bells and whistles--but can't/won't, because this album sells only itself, not O.P.P. (other people's product). --R.W.
Kelly Willis, Easy (Rykodisc): Easy to listen to, I guess, since it's getting raves; easier still to like, if Anne Murray's your idea of country. --R.W.
Wondermints, Mind If We Make Love to You (Smile/Image): Brian Wilson's best backup band since, well, ever picks up where their hero left off; this is less a Smile than a grin, and its tempered ambitions render it fondly familiar. And Wilson shows up, though one has to wonder if he knew where he was--in the studio, in 1966, in his right mind. --R.W.