Blackalicious, The Craft (Anti-). Incorporating a heavier slice of live instrumentation, Chief Xcel and Gift of Gab rhyme in sociopolitical treatises over epic funk backdrops that seamlessly bridge the distance between Curtis Mayfield and Slick Rick. Overall, Blackalicious eschews numb, dumb hook seduction for serpentine grooves and polysyllabic, head-fed lyrical acrobatics. -- Terry Sawyer
Ex Models, Chrome Panthers (Troubleman Unlimited). Like Liars before them, New York's Ex Models have attempted to throw off the dance-punk shackles and venture into wilder territory. Chrome Panthers, though, is all concept and no cojones. Instead of noise for the sake of noise, the disc peddles annoyance for the sake of legitimacy. Guess Ex Models just aren't very good at being ugly. -- Heller
Let Go, Let Go (The Militia Group). Let Go might be based in Arizona, but its tunes are far from dry. The act's debut boasts crunch, hooks and harmonies aplenty. The standout cut, "No Drugs, No Alcohol," would cause Freddie Mercury to smile whimsically from the confines of his grave -- with or without drugs and alcohol. -- Chris Callaway
Mouse on Mars, Live 04 (Sonig). Main Mice Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma prove that even techno acts are capable of putting out good in-concert recordings. "All the Old Powers," "Wipe That Sound" and the rest are less rigid than typical machine-driven fare, feeding off fans' energy to create a jolting power surge. -- Roberts
Rasputina, A Radical Recital (Filthy Bonnet). It's hard to understand why Rasputina -- unlike, say, Squirrel Nut Zippers -- continues to thrive after unleashing its gimmicky, retro-clad shtick in the mid '90s. Hard, that is, until you hear the trio's new live disc, which rocks harder than any of its studio efforts and proves that Rasputina's cello-whipped chamber rock can sound heavier than metal, spookier than goth and damn near timeless. -- Heller
Various Artists, Stubbs the Zombie: The Soundtrack (Shout Factory). This is Not Breakin' a Sweat to the Oldies, indie-rock style, where bands like the Raveonettes and Deathcab for Cutie soundcheck themselves with uninspiring renditions of classic tracks like "My Boyfriend's Back." Guess there could be worse video-game accompaniment than hipsters sleepwalking through familiar classics. -- Sawyer
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