Azam Ali, Elysium for the Brave (Six Degrees Records). If Condoleezza Rice really wants to solve the current Middle East crisis, here's an idea: Position a loudspeaker on the border of Israel and Lebanon and set Azam Ali's latest on infinite repeat. If Elysium's transcendent music and Ali's angelic voice can't bring about peace, then God help us: We really are on the verge of Armageddon. -- Dave Herrera
The Damnwells, Air Stereo (Zoe). Largely comprising country-rock and pop love songs, Air Stereo finds the Damnwells slipping slightly into the infamous sophomore slump. Despite some sublime melodies and fine alt-country guitars, Stereo's opening tracks verge on lyrical cliche. Fortunately, the remainder of the album sparks with originality and emotional depth. -- Tracy M. Rogers
Deaf in the Family, For Those About to Rock (Self-released). Holy lawsuit waiting to happen: If Biz Markie took sampling an inch, this Brooklyn crew has taken it to another continent. Rapping over large, chopped-up sections of reimagined classic rock tunes, the group turns Neil Young's "Southern Man" into a head-noddin' homage to the Dirty South. Download this gem before litigation makes it disappear (www.deafinthefamily.com). -- Herrera
Dirty Rig, Rock Did It (Escapi). With songs that recall the dirty tales of sex and booze made famous by the New York Dolls and later Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns, Dirty Rig is more interested in appealing to the carnal senses than rendering complex emotional vignettes, and Rock Did It is the sleaziest collection of cock rock you'll hear this year. -- Brandon Daviet
Pete Droge, Under the Waves (Puzzle Tree). Singer-songwriter Pete Droge's latest is a collection of slow-moving Americana infused with pop hooks. Songs like the ethereal title track and the haunting "Calendar Tim" are profound and melancholic, while the anthemic "Electric Green" sounds like a languid Tom Petty song. -- Rogers
Raul Malo, You're Only Lonely (Sanctuary). An album of mainstream cover songs produced by Peter Asher, the man who helped Linda Ronstadt dilute Buddy Holly? It's a gruesome concept that winds up being listenable thanks to ex-Mavericks frontman Raul Malo, whose voice remains tangy and persuasive. Still, a performer this talented is capable of a lot more than partly redeeming a bad idea. -- Roberts
Tim O'Reagan, Tim O'Reagan (Lost Highway). The ex-Jayhawks in Golden Smog didn't invite O'Reagan, their old drummer, to join the fold. Turns out, though, that he had plans of his own. O'Reagan's impressive solo debut reveals him to be a talented multi-instrumentalist with a reedy voice and a way with country rock that studiously avoids the genre's many pitfalls. -- Roberts
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