Sebastian Bach, Angel Down (Caroline Records). This long-overdue slab of meathead metal from the former Skid Row singer sounds like it could easily be a totally forgettable record. It's not, though, because Bach somehow got his current BFF Axl Rose to sing on it, and the pair's duet on Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" is rock-and-roll ecstasy. — Brandon Daviet
The Fiery Furnaces, Widow City (Thrill Jockey). On the last couple of Fiery Furnaces recordings, siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger's music became less interesting as it grew increasingly precious and pretentious. Somehow, though, Widow City, which amplifies both of these characteristics, turns out to be the act's best, most original album to date. Guess excess is the new moderation. — Roberts
Kennedy, Kennedy for President (Cordless Recordings). The singer-songwriter thing has undoubtedly been beaten to death in recent years. Thankfully, Jack Kennedy has crafted a sobering batch of fresh tunes that skirts musical boundaries while still creating a songwriter persona. Much like Beck, Kennedy utilizes intoxicatingly deceptive wordplay that's truly worthy of his political namesakes. — Daviet
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The Perishers, Victorious (RCA). The Perishers' penchant for sunset-laden cover art means you can judge this album (and the last) by its cover. The act's warm, melancholy, end-of-the-day, strolling-with-your-baby ballads are also perfect for CW shallowdramas. Empathetic vocals float comfortably over low keyboards while sleepy campfire guitars add hickory flavor, if not excitement. — Rick Skidmore
Shocking Pinks, Shocking Pinks (Astralwerks). Multi-instrumentalists who at age thirteen are compared to Brian Wilson come with an ego that requires them to play every note themselves. Drums are Nick Harte's forte, but he does just fine here with electronics, guitars and heady drama as he laments failed relationships through minimalist art punk and lo-fi Jesus and Mary Chain pop tarts. — Skidmore
Serj Tankian, Elect the Dead (Warner Bros.) On stage, System of a Down's Tankian is a commanding presence, and his new offerings glow with his usual passion. But despite (or perhaps because of) their stylistic similarity to earlier SOAD salvos, "Empty Walls" and plenty of other Dead selections seem like mild letdowns. Solo albums are for trying something different, not cloning the old stuff. — Roberts