Babyshambles, Shotter's Nation (Astralwerks). Pete Doherty isn't just an on-again, off-again junkie famed for making scenes with spindly ex-girlfriend Kate Moss. He's also a musician, and Shotter's Nation, the second Babyshambles album, demonstrates that he can be an effective one when somebody (probably veteran producer Stephen Street) keeps him on the straight and narrow. A garage-rock throwback that's derivative but more diverting than expected. — Roberts
Barcelona, Absolutes (Self-released). As further proof that major labels have outlived their usefulness, Seattle's Barcelona presents a shimmering, singable, self-released debut of arena-ready, piano-driven orchestral pop. Brian Fennell sets his beautifully sensitive songs in luxuriant arrangements that are sure to dapple the MySpace pages of teenage girls everywhere. — Eryc Eyl
Bear Claw, Slow Speed: Deep Owls (Sickroom Records). The dueling bassists and drummer/vocalist of Bear Claw return with an artsy post-punk opus that marries math-rock pretension with hardcore brutality. The record opens with an intimidating instrumental but moves on to heavy, hooky rock that recalls many of the bands that its producer, Steve Albini, has touched over the years. The result is intellectual, visceral and surprisingly accessible. — Eyl
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Chris Caffery,Pins and Needles (Locomotive Records). When Chris Caffery joined the ranks of Savatage, his skillful guitar playing helped elevate the fledging metal outfit to the level of prog-rock heroes. Pins and Needles, his third solo effort, trades the seriousness of past projects for a warped musical excursion that is part Zappa, part Alice Cooper. — Brandon Daviet
Circus Diablo, Circus Diablo (Koch). Old rock stars don't die; they just keep forming less and less important bands to keep the bargain bins stocked. Formed by Billy Morrison of the Cult and rounded out by members of Fuel and the Almighty, this tepid dose of no-frills power metal doesn't quite reach ignition. — Daviet
Robyn Hitchcock, I Wanna Go Backwards (Yep Roc). This five-CD set isn't an introduction to an overlooked artist. Rather, it's a gift to loyalists already familiar with Hitchcock's mad genius. Included are extended versions of two brilliant platters, Black Snake Diamond Role and I Often Dream of Trains (as well as the lesser Eye), plus While Thatcher Mauled Britain, a thrilling collection of rare or unreleased oddities. — Roberts
Underworld, Oblivion With Bells (ATO). In the agonizing time spent waiting for something to happen here, 553 babies were born, two U.S. senators were arrested in a public restroom, Nora Roberts wrote another book, and more than three suckers were born. The payoff — homogenized hip-hop, modern chant and suicidal monotony — is little consolation. These must be the Bells Poe was complaining about. — Rick Skidmore