The Clientele, God Save the Clientele (Merge). One of the most appealing things about previous releases by this U.K. band was the sound quality. The '60s-esque pop songs were sublimely hazy and antiquated, almost as if they'd been recorded on a Fisher-Price recorder at the bottom of a lake. Sad, then, that its most recent release is dry as a bone. The arrangements are still top-notch, but minus that liquid charm, these overproduced nuggets sound sterile. — Josh Tyson
Jeff Finlin, Angels in Disguise (Ryko). Seduced by early-American folk heroes, Jeff Finlin did time riding the rails and hitchhiking America. An Irish railroad worker's son, Finlin also explored his ancestral homeland. Angels in Disguise breathes with the dust of classic American heartland folk tinged with stately Irish melodies, capturing the windswept quality of both lands. — Glenn BurnSilver
Fountains of Wayne, Traffic and Weather (Virgin). Adam Schlesinger and pals pump out pop readymades so casually that they make doing so seem a lot easier than it actually is. In lieu of a "Stacy's Mom"-type smash-in-waiting, the album offers agreeable melodies, lyrical cleverness and tight playing of the sort that's almost always underrated. There are advantages to letting them see you sweat. — Roberts
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Hackensaw Boys, Look Out (Nettwerk). In bluegrass these days, laws are meant to be broken, and the Hackensaw Boys seem to take that to heart, oscillating between speed-demon picking jaunts, traditional hoedown fiddle tunes and slow, old-timey ballads. Yet for all the inventive and inspired playing, some voice lessons are in order here — harmonizing moments aside. — BurnSilver
The Narrator, All That to the Wall (Flameshovel). Taking the sharp guitar and catchiness from late-'90s juggernauts like the Promise Ring and Get Up Kids but ditching all the boring over-emoting, this Chicago quartet has crafted an album for power-pop fans who don't blame their problems on failed romance. Proof positive: The act has the balls to both cover Dylan ("All the Tired Horses") and title the album's closer "Chocolate Windchimes." — Tyson
Abra Moore, On the Way (Sarathan). Each of Abra Moore's six discs is on a different label — an indication that execs recognize her appeal but don't know how to take advantage of it. On the Way may prove to be just as difficult a sell, since its lush, atmospheric pleasures are difficult to quantify. At their best, though, the likes of "Into the Sunset" are magical. Abra-cadabra. — Roberts