Johnny Cash, Ultimate Gospel (Columbia Records). Ultimate Gospel is a great career-spanning collection that shows a side of Johnny Cash's talent and persona that was often eclipsed by his reputation. Elvis Presley also recorded a lot of gospel tunes, but not even the King can hold a candle to the Man in Black. -- Brandon Daviet
Tia Fuller, Healing Space (Mack Avenue). The cover of Tia Fuller's latest effort suggests that it might be a smooth-jazz release. Alto/soprano saxist Fuller, however, is more Kenny Garrett than Kenny G. And she's got a solid trio of gals backing her up, as well as some help from trumpeter Sean Jones and tenor player Ron Blake. -- Jon Solomon
Half-Cocked, Half-Cocked & Radiation (Rumur Releasing). Poignantly capturing the ethos of '90s alt-rock, Half-Cocked stars members of Rodan, Nation of Ulysses and more as misguided and misunderstood kids, masquerading as a band after stealing a real band's van. Radiation's hero is a lovably pathetic promoter who stubbornly continues a doomed tour so he can unload a stash of speed. Quintessentially punk and undeniably human. -- Eryc Eyl
Maria Taylor, Lynn Teeter Flower (Saddle Creek). Late of Azure Ray, Maria Taylor decorates her folk-based melodies with warm piano tones, delicate harmonies and singing whose subtleties speak louder than a lot of performers' screams. Even her high points are decidedly low-key, but ditties such as "Smile and Wave" generate a comfort zone that most listeners won't want to leave. -- Roberts
Trans Am, Sex Change (Thrill Jockey). The veteran electro-pranksters in Trans Am infuse their intelligence with plenty of wit, as on "Obscene Strategies," whose list of creativity-sparkers includes "Hose down the control room," "Rip off black musicians" and "Pillow fight!" But the fragmentary "Exit Management Strategy" and several other numbers exude an idiosyncratic beauty that underscores the band's versatility. What a pleasant Change. -- Roberts
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Various Artists, Kitsune Maison Compilation Volume 3 (Kitsune Maison). If you've been in any club this year, you've heard something from Kitsune. Dubbed by some backward-thinking writer as "new rave," many of the European dance groups included here start with electroclash, but the common current comes from an energetically promiscuous use of dub, post-punk, Miami bass and indie rock harmonizing with pure digital detritus. -- Sawyer