Bird Names, Open Relationship (Unsound Records). Chicago's Bird Names make freaky, folky, psychedelic rock for unhinged minds and untrimmed beards. If you gave Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett a cardboard box full of homemade instruments and unlimited use of the Little Rascals as their backup band, they might give back something like this. — Eryc Eyl
Eliza Gilkyson, Beautiful World (Red House Records). Austin-based Eliza Gilkyson has seldom sounded as inspired as she does on her new platter. "Emerald Street," with its graceful brass and whimsical whistling, and "The Party's Over," a morning-after number that gives off an oddly unsettling glow, are just two highlights of a gritty, plain-spoken disc that more than earns its title adjective. — Roberts
Judas Preist, Nostradamus (Epic). Employing broad strokes of metal riffage and apocalyptic lyrics, Rob Halford and company attempt to make a coherent concept album about the life of the prophet Nostradamus. Only a few songs work on this musically ambitious but intellectually void CD, and the lyrics completely overlook the various minutiae that make the tale worth telling. — Brandon Daviet
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Bret Michaels, Rock My World (VH1 Classics). Michaels's solo foray into country music was decent, but this release, which, unsurprisingly, nods to his hit reality show, is devoid of any character. If Michaels really wanted these songs to stick, he would have let C.C. slap some distorted guitar over them and released it as a Poison album. — Daviet
Panther Attack!, Sharp Moments (Rad Folks). Seattle's all-instrumental Panther Attack! tends toward post-rockiness. Unlike most of the mathletes currently populating the subgenre, however, guitarists Josh Grapes and Kelly Mynes find a middle ground between instrumental floor exercises and punishing grandiosity. The interplay throughout "Espionage a Trois," "Water and Metal" and the other tracks on their EP is deft, light-fingered and appropriately edgy. — Roberts
Devon Williams, Carefree (Ba Da Bing Records). Devon Williams's startlingly pretty debut distills timeless pop and indie quirks into an endearingly bittersweet liqueur. Sincere, simple and subtle tunes are fleshed out with soaring string arrangements and Williams's deft guitar work (check "Honey" for a gorgeous homage to Roxy Music). The classy, classic result is poignantly pleasing parlor pop. — Eyl