The Alarm, Guerilla Tactics (The Twenty First Century Recording Company). With this overall winning collection of mostly under-four-minute tunes, death-defying Welsh rocker Mike Peters has bridged the gap between the memorable melodies and polished production of his classic alternative fare and the brash, decibel-drenched rock of his more recent musical foraging. — Chris Callaway
Azeda Booth, In Flesh Tones (Absolutely Kosher Records). Vocalist Jordon Hossack and the rest of these adventurous Canucks like to defy expectations. Why else release a song called "John Cleese" that's evocative, complex and rhythmically cunning, yet not the slightest bit funny? But if their frosty take on synthetic soundscapes doesn't qualify as something completely different, it remains intriguing enough to inspire, and deserve, exploration. — Roberts
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Greta Gaines, Whiskey Thoughts (Justice Records). Experimentation in country music is almost as rare as a backwoods family tree with extensive branching. After pioneering music she dubbed "hick-hop," this Nashville songstress morphs again with cliche-bending songs like "I'm High" and "Dirty Blonde" that owe as much to the Grateful Dead as they do to Hank Williams. — Brandon Daviet
David Murray and Mal Waldron, Silence (Justin Time). This disc's name presumably refers to pianist Waldron's death in 2002, a year after this set was recorded, as well as to its spiky title cut. Whatever the case, Silence serves as a vibrant showcase for two formidable jazz figures, especially on "Free For C.T.," a Waldron/Max Roach number that finds reed man Murray getting suitably deep on bass clarinet. — Roberts
Slightly Stoopid, Slightly Not Stoned Enough to Eat Breakfast Yet (Silverback Records). This San Diego band's grand design for its latest CD must have consisted of picking up albums by Sublime and 311 and jetting off to some weird alternative universe filled with white people who can't dance. The funk doesn't funk, the jazz isn't jazzy and the drug jokes aren't funny. — Daviet
Torche, Meanderthal (Robotic Empire/Rock Action Records). Florida's Torche is stoner rock for punk-rock fans. The foursome combines a heavy, sludgy underbelly with bright, poppy guitar melodies and vocals that are not screamed into your face, but hauntingly sung into your head. "Meanderthal" is a run through a bright meadow with something evil and unseen chasing you. — Andy Thomas