2Mex & Life Rexall, ...are $martyr (Cornerstone Ras). Both 2Mex and Life Rexall (of the Shape Shifters) have been working in the Cali underground for years, and on this collaborative effort, the duo holds nothing back. Bolstered by fresh lyrics and solid production, ...are $martyr is a nonstop head-nodding album. Who could ask for anything more? -- Salazar-Moreno
India.Arie, Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship (Motown). Some say Denverite India.Arie's music is a little too bohemian and pretentious. Others enjoy the blog-like lyrics she croons over stripped-down guitars, keys and percussion. That said, those who dug her past work will enjoy Testimony. Everyone else should keep moving. -- Salazar-Moreno
Luca, Sick of Love (Funzalo). Sick of Love is Tucson-based Luca's edgy, eclectic paean to the difficulties of relationships. Imbued with longing, Love ranges from the rockabilly-inspired "Rosalie" to a haunting, emotive cover of Rainer Ptacek's "Losing Ground," from the post-new-wave "Find Me There" to the tender, strummed-guitar love song "Evening Blue." -- Tracy M. Rogers
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Mew, And the Glass Handed Kites (Columbia). Mew's music is a bit much -- and that's the best thing about it. Like idiosyncratic seamstresses, these Danes assemble indie chording, pop-operatic arrangements, over-the-top melodies and lots more into a crazy quilt of sound. Kites doesn't always soar (some of the vocal harmonies recall Yes, for Christ's sake), but it's redeemed by sheer weirdness. -- Roberts
Chad VanGaalen, Skelliconnection (Sub Pop Records). On his second home-recorded album, VanGaalen avoids singer-songwriting cliche by dabbling across genres (post-punk, electronica) and writing about more than his own bathos. He cobbles together noisy little concoctions, rickety songs full of patchy interference and unexpected rock lashings, his beautifully unsure voice always haunting the tracks from the ether. -- Terry Sawyer
Sufjan Stevens, The Avalanche (Asthmatic Kitty). Most B-side and outtake compilations are best left to completists and the cutout bins, but this collection is on par with the obscenely prolific Stevens's best work to date. The only misstep is three (!) alternate versions of the admittedly great "Chicago." Otherwise, this collection deserves to be called Illinois II. -- Eyl
Voivod, Katorz (The End Records). Founding Voivoder Denis "Piggy" D'Amour succumbed to colon cancer in 2005, but Katorz, which he was working on prior to his death, is no eulogy. Tunes such as "The Getaway" dial down the band's prog influences in favor of concise brutality powered by ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and the remaining survivors. Piggy would be proud. -- Roberts