Arctic Monkeys, Favourite Worst Nightmare (Domino). The Monkeys' music sounds pretty much like it did when British journos anointed Alex Turner and company as saviors last year: bright, cheeky and danceable in a brisk (not awe-inspiring) way. With the hype blessedly waning, maybe they can finally be seen as the entertaining players they are instead of the monumental geniuses the press wanted them to be. — Roberts
Foreign Islands, Restart Now! (Deaf Dumb + Blind Recordings). On their barn-burning, hell-raising debut, the Foreign Islands quickly spurt a hot load of sneering vocals, convulsing guitars and shiny synths, aiming for the eyes and hitting those dancing feet. The CD even includes dance remixes by the U.K.'s Filthy Dukes and Germany's Boyz Noize. Let's hope the whole thing lasts a little longer next time. — Eryc Eyl
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Gowns, Red State (Cardboard Records). Gowns — the post-rock, harsh-noise, psych-folk offspring of Laurie Anderson's most avant-garde inclinations — pushes at the borders of consciousness with this genre-splicing record. Dream drones arc-weld themselves to tribal rhythms and hypnotic vocals, while heartbeat minimalist rhythms synchronize effortlessly with emerging background tones that evolve into dreamy atmospheres. — Murphy
Laub, Deinetwegen (AGF Produktion). Blues riffs from the bottom of a swimming pool float around Antye Greie's free-float whisper on an album that sounds like Brian Eno dissolving a chill pill through a dusty crate of Muddy Waters LPs. Deinetwegen is a strange, ambient creature of staid genre lovingly poured into a new mold. — Terry Sawyer
Abbey Lincoln, Abbey Sings Abbey (Verve). Abbey Sings Abbey finds Lincoln reworking some of the best material she's recorded for Verve. Longtime Bob Dylan collaborator Larry Campbell adds some fine slide guitar and pedal work here, pushing Lincoln's songs beyond their familiar jazz setting. In this context, she sounds mighty lovely. — Jon Solomon
Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities, "Lucas" (Ghostly International). Skeletons reflects the distinctive vision of Matt Mehlan, a singer-songwriter from Ohio by way of Pluto. The captivatingly peculiar likes of "Don't Worry" and "The Shit From the Dogs" draw from exotica, electro and everything in between to create unwieldy tracks that constantly seem on the verge of falling apart but somehow never do. No bones about it. — Roberts