Matchbook Romance, Voices (Epitaph/Ada). The term "melodic hardcore" should never be used in a serious manner, especially since this too-often-heard brand of washed-out, wussy-boy tuneage could be more easily summed up in a single word: suckcore. Matchbook Romance does what all the other derivatives of derivatives who came before them have done, and it's about time to kiss them goodnight. -- Tuyet Nguyen
Mexican Institute of Sound, Méjico M´xico (Nacional). Mexican Institute of Sound's Camilo Lara is essentially a one-man band, but you'd never know it by listening to Méjico M´xico. The disc is gloriously excessive -- a crazed mélange of energetic grooves, ecstatic group vocals, lethal beats and off-kilter samples that shouldn't fit together but somehow do. Get Institutionalized. -- Roberts
Hobart Smith, In Sacred Trust (Smithsonian Folkways). Recorded in Fleming Brown's Chicago home circa 1963, In Sacred Trust captures the raw sound of a 66-year-old Virginia banjoist singing songs older than himself. Smith came from a time when musicians learned how to play from others, not by listening to the radio. These recordings are as close as we'll get to knowing what that might have been like. -- Dave Garner
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Tortoise and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, The Brave and the Bold (Overcoat). Tortoise and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy team up to reinterpret tunes by some of their faves: Devo, Lungfish, Elton John, the Minutemen. Looks great on paper, but the execution winds up sounding bloated and bored. The unrecognizably bloodless version of Springsteen's "Thunder Road" is enough to warrant a severe sax-beating from Clarence Clemmons. Although the heroes paid homage to here may well have been brave and bold, this tribute is nothing short of timid. -- Heller
KT Tunstall, Eye to the Telescope (Virgin). KT Tunstall's debut album is for the millions of people who think Norah Jones doesn't put out enough records. While Eye to the Telescope isn't awful, it's indistinguishable. Even after repeated listens, Tunstall's voice doesn't stand out from the scores of pretty, wispy guitar-and-piano-playing girls who are making music right now. Meaning that she'll sell a lot of albums. -- Garner
Various Artists, I Am the Resurrection: A Tribute to John Fahey (Vanguard). Instead of a tribute to John Fahey's genius, this is a bunch of bands paying tribute to themselves for being cool enough to like John Fahey. But skip the liner notes and dive straight into the songs. Despite half-assed misreadings courtesy of M. Ward and Fruit Bats, Sufjan Stevens, Lee Ranaldo and Calexico offer gorgeous renditions of Fahey's otherworldly yet understated guitar heroics. -- Heller
We Are Scientists, With Love and Squalor (Virgin). These Brooklyn lab workers put some of the best sounds from the post-new-wave '80s under their collective microscope and generally succeed at replicating them. Too bad so many other bands got to the petri dish before they did. You've heard all of this before, either 25 years ago or last week. -- Roberts