Richard Cheese, The Sunny Side of the Moon: The Best of Richard Cheese (Surfdog). Yes, lounge versions of rock songs are an old joke (see New Morty Show, Pat Boone, etc.). But as long as the arrangements are as well done as these, the joke doesn't get old. Cheese sends up Korn, the Clash and Sir Mix-a-Lot with equal disregard. U2 gets the samba treatment for Domingo Sangre Domingo, while Radiohead and Nirvana go big-band. -- Skidmore
Jeff Hanson, Jeff Hanson (Kill Rock Stars). Singer-songwriter Jeff Hanson sounds like a woman about as often as Tracy Chapman sounds like a man -- often, but not always. Dazzling, lush and sincere, the acoustic guitar- and piano-driven songs on his latest album are soft and warm like an electric blanket. Snuggle up with this one. -- Bixby
The Hellacopters, Rock & Roll Is Dead (Liquor & Poker). The latest effort from Sweden's most popular export has a few throwaways, like the cartoon "Monkeyboy," which is straight outta the Bay City Rollers show. But it would be tough to destroy the swagger present on the rest of the album. "Leave It Alone" is the surprise ballad that gives beauty to the James Gang rock that allowed the 'Copters to open for the Stones. --Skidmore
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Marah-Mar, Marah-Mar (Scenester Credentials). On its self-titled debut, Rhode Island-by-way-of-Iowa band Marah-Mar separates itself from the typical instrumental post-hardcore formula of layered guitar noodling, sudden time changes and drawn-out crescendos by omitting bass, keeping time with simple jazz beats and accenting the melody with cello. The result is a reasonably fresh perspective on a scene that has become monotonously homogenous. -- Bixby
MONO, You Are There (Temporary Residence Ltd.). On There, veteran racket-meister Steve Albini documents MONO, a Japanese instrumental act whose dedication to the soft-loud dynamic doesn't give the former short shrift. "The Flames Beyond the Cold Mountain" begins with several minutes of hushed, meditative drones, but when it finally heats up (and boils over), listeners will feel the burn. -- Roberts
Oceansize, Everyone Into Position (Beggars Banquet). Vocalist/guitarist Mike Vennart and his fellow Mancunians in Oceansize are far too restless to stick to one style. Throughout tracks such as "The Charm Offensive" and "You Can't Keep a Bad Man Down," they juxtapose hooky melodic segments with turbulent riffs and psychedelic arrangements that treat predictability like poison. The results offer something for Everyone. -- Roberts
Various Artists, Whipped Cream and Other Delights Rewhipped (Shout! Factory). In an age of electro gone mad (and often bad), it's heartwarming to see remixers digging up this lounge-cheese classic from Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. But the novelty melts away quicker than the Cool Whip bikini on the original album's iconic cover. Whipped Cream would have been better left growing mildew in the thrift store. -- Jason Heller