Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Strength & Loyalty (Interscope). How can a veteran group past its prime get back on top? By befriending Akon, who dominates the mewling yet undeniably catchy "I Tried." Been-there, done-that cuts such as the cheesy, Fleetwood Mac-sampling "Wind Blow" have little follow-up single potential. But "Never Forget Me" could hit, since it features (surprise) Akon. Whose ass the Thugs had better keep smooching. -- Roberts
Michael Brecker, Pilgrimage (Heads Up). Saxophonist Michael Brecker's final album secures his legacy as a great modern-era jazzman. Featuring Herbie Hancock, Brad Mehldau, Pat Metheny, Jack DeJohnette and John Patitucci, Brecker, who died in January, punctuates his oft-overlooked career with Coltrane-like free-jazz abandon, scintillating bop and smooth modern arrangements, all filled with his typically creative twists. -- Glenn BurnSilver
Funeral for a Friend, Tales Don't Tell Themselves (Atlantic). Tales is a song cycle about a shipwrecked fisherman, and on strong tracks such as the ornate and effective "All Hands on Deck, Part 1: Raise the Sail," the concept stays afloat. Still, the music would pick up a lot more steam if it steered clear of the standard emo sound rather than riding the usual waves. -- Roberts
Hail Social, Modern Love & Death (Self-released). Dayve Hawk's melancholy dance music won't be unfamiliar to fans of the Human League or its disco-minded brethren, Heaven 17. Philadelphia's Hail Social is more than a mere copycat act, however. Comedown synth-pop grooves and captivating melodies encounter occasional face-melting guitar and an endearing indie-rock uncertainty that give Hail Social a compelling individuality. -- Eryc Eyl
Panthers, The Trick (Vice Records). While cleaning the grease vats at QOTSAburger, Brooklyn's Panthers uncover a sharper, slimier take on the bong-hit boogie they debuted in 2004. Filled with pelvis-loosening beats, knee-weakening guitars and witty lyrics like "I was obsessed with concupiscence, and now I'm just looking for a piece that's decent," The Trick is best enjoyed with Thorazine and a thesaurus. -- Eyl
Arturo Sandoval, Rumba Palace (Telarc). Cuba's fiery heat and passion -- fueled by the blazing Caribbean sun but tempered by gentle sea breezes -- inhabits this music, which pulses with provocative percussion and breathy horns yet finds restraint in well-construed syncopated rhythms. Travel to Cuba may be restricted for Americans, but with Rumba Palace, Arturo Sandoval brings Cuba to us. -- BurnSilver
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.