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Lindsey Buckingham, Under the Skin (Reprise). Buckingham continues his solo trend of steering clear of Fleetwood Mac-styled numbers for a trippy, deeply layered pop journey. Heavy studio effects fill many of the songs with echo and reverb as Buckingham's creative instrumentation (he plays everything) meanders across the pop spectrum: haunting, sunny, austere, folky and gritty. -- Glenn BurnSilver

Darkel, Darkel (Astralwerks). On his first solo outing, Air's Jean-Benoît Dunckel, aka Darkel, turns down the vocoders in order to sing in his own charmingly natural voice. The results can be rather unassuming at times, yet the daffy "TV Destroy" and the buoyant, gorgeous "Beautiful Woman" make this more than a fans-only affair. -- Michael Roberts

Gospel Gangstaz, The Flood (H20 Records). The Gospel Gangstaz have always put their spiritual message before everything else, infusing West Coast gangsta rap with uplifting stories from their gangbanging days -- and no cursing. The Gs do a pretty good job of it, too, giving the Game, Snoop Dogg and Xzibit a nudge to step up their game. -- Quibian Salazar-Moreno


Mini reviews

Jet, Shine On (Atlantic). Even though Get Born, Jet's breakthrough disc, was mondo derivative, it worked because of its joyously relentless rawk-and-roll stupidity. This time around, though, the boys intersperse dumbness showcases with overly familiar pop readymades and sensitive balladry, and it's a big mistake. Some bands get better when their members develop and mature. This isn't one of them. -- Roberts

Mouse on Mars, Varcharz (Ipecac Recordings). Slightly moodier than previous releases, Varcharz brings all of Mouse on Mars's spastic, glitchy, haywire techno deconstructions into a less playful view. It's a difficult listen, more often an intellectual exertion than anything pleasurable; this is Metal Machine Music, the sequel. Varcharz brings electronic chaos to heartless new lows. -- Terry Sawyer

Joan Osborne, Pretty Little Stranger (Vanguard). The fact that Joan Osborne (due at e-town with Henry Butler on Monday, October 23) sang with the Dead for one tour doesn't give her the right to butcher "Brokedown Palace," which she does exceedingly on Stranger. Whether she's attempting bluegrass, country, folk, blues or rock (she tries them all), it's little more than middle-of-the-road cliched babble. Yawn! -- BurnSilver

Randy Weeks, Sugarfinger (self-released). Former Lonesome Stranger Randy Weeks comes equipped with former X/Lone Justice guitarist Tony Gilykson and Mike Stinson. While Weeks sounds somewhat (read: exactly) like Disney's They Might Be Giants, his lyrical observations are less Goofy. Clever, comforting and funny deliberations make Sugarfinger an endearing geek find. Look for a cameo from Lisa Germano. -- Rick Skidmore


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