Nicole Atkins, Neptune City (Red Ink/Columbia). Nicole Atkins's 2006 EP, Bleeding Diamonds, was so stirring that her debut full-length seemed doomed to disappoint. Instead, she more than matches expectations thanks to sweepingly melodic material, like "Together We're Both Alone," that's sturdy enough to support ornate arrangements and Atkins's rapturous vocals, which are as ripe and delectable as a Palisade peach fresh from the tree. — Roberts
Danzig, The Lost Tracks of Danzig (Megaforce). Has Glenn Danzig caught a paralyzing case of writer's block, or is he just trying to continue cashing in on the success of last year's Black Aria II? Either way, this self-produced set of rarities contains more gems than duds and further illustrates Danzig's commitment to doing things his way. — Brandon Daviet
The Pretenders, Learning to Crawl (Rhino Records). Chrissie Hynde and company really hit their stride on the band's third proper studio album. The demos and outtakes here are lame for the most part, but Hynde's chiding comments before belting out a live version of the Motown standard "Money" lend some validation to the album's reissue. — Daviet
Sally Shapiro, Disco Romance (Paper Bag Records). Sally Shapiro makes fur-collared and marshmallow-sweet Italo-disco in blissfully detached, depressively danced tones. Simple, star-pulsed beats beautifully halo romantically tragic lyrics: Picture the Pet Shop Boys tapped to soundtrack a Central Park ice-skating rink, where ecstasy flows as freely as the sound of figure-eight blades. — Terry Sawyer
Upsilon Acrux, Galapagos Momentum (Cuneiform Records). Even folks who despised math in school will be able to appreciate these incredibly intricate yet undeniably satisfying performances. The lines unleashed by guitarists Paul Lai and Braden Miller throughout "Touched by God (Inappropriately)" and the rest of these sonic outbursts are the aural equivalent of a double helix: complex, well-constructed, essential. — Roberts
We Are Wolves, Total Magique (Dare to Care Records). The Wolves' second album buzzes with an electric distortion that burrows straight to the amygdala, grabs hold and shakes menace into every nerve. The record's relentless beats, clawing organ, plaintive, anguished vocals, scraping-metal guitars, groaning bass and wailing synths unfortunately outstrip the painfully pedestrian lyrics. Lyrical vacancy notwithstanding, this album rocks. — Matt Scheidler
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