Afro-Cuban All Stars, Step Forward the Next Generation (Globestar). Ex-Sierra Maestra drummer Juan De Marcos Gonzalez expands the Buena Vista Social Club's infectious dance vibe with his own big band's first studio album in more than six years. Along with the fox-trot rhythms of "Adivinador" are tracks whose styles range from mambo, cha-cha and bolero to Cuba's latest musical extrapolation, timba. No wonder little Eli´n couldn't wait to get back to Havana. -- John La Briola
Bloodhound Gang, Hefty Fine (Geffen/Republic). Once bottom-feeders at the top of the food chain, the boneheads in the Bloodhound Gang already had their fifteen undeserving minutes with Hooray for Boobies. So, does a new disc of tunes about diarrhea and Ralph Wiggum deserve any fate beyond damnation as an eternal beer coaster? No. But for something that blows goats this hard, a skeet range and a shotgun seem more justified. Pull! -- La Briola
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Cave In, Perfect Pitch Black (Hydrahead). It's an old story: An underground band tries to sell out, fails, then returns to its "indie roots." But in the case of Cave In -- once the best metal-core band in the world -- this comeback is the real deal. Way heavier than Antenna but retaining its melodic majesty, Perfect is very nearly that. -- Heller
Lake Trout, Not Them, You (RX Records/Palm Pictures). Seldom has a onetime jam band undergone so sweeping (and welcome) a transformation as this graduate from the Baltimore scene. On Not Them cuts such as "Shiny Wrapper" -- a multifaceted production that concludes with a roar -- the Trout comes across as the anti-Phish, swimming against expectations rather than going with the flow. -- Roberts
Various Artists, Dark Holler: Old Love Songs and Ballads (Smithsonian Folkways). In the Bible, the city of Sodom was fucked. But Sodom, North Carolina, has been blessed with generations of folk balladeers -- a tradition documented by John Cohen in the original, 1964 issue of Love Songs. Expanded to include Cohen's subsequent documentary, this collection of Sodom's finest storytellers sings with history and hardship. Ain't no sin in that. -- Heller
Various Artists, Just Say Sire: The Sire Records Story (Sire/Rhino). During the '70s and '80s, Sire's underground sensibility and major-label muscle combined to generate some of the era's best punk, pop and musical miscellanea. This boxed set, which contains three CDs and a killer DVD, is a worthy tribute, thanks to artists ranging from Madonna and Morrissey to the Ramones and the Dead Boys. -- Roberts