Alkaline Trio, Agony & Irony (Epic). Matt Skiba was once told he had two to three years before his voice would be completely gone, thanks to acid reflux. With the amount of apathy he shows on his band's latest album, long-time fans may wish it was. This release may not be ironic, but it certainly is agonizing to listen to. — Andy Thomas
Bajofondo, Mar Dulce (Surco/Vibra/Decca). Gustavo Santaolalla, who won a 2006 Oscar for the score of Brokeback Mountain, anchors Bajofondo — and the decision to shorten the band's name from Bajofondo Tango Club speaks to the recording's sweep. Plenty of big names (Nelly Furtado, Elvis Costello, etc.) contribute to this compilation, which serves as a captivating introduction to the outfit's South America-meets-the-rest-of-the-planet methodology. — Michael Roberts
Deborah Bonham, Duchess (ATCO). If it was 1973, this disc would make sense. Back then, record companies with money to sauté routinely inked artists just for being related to other stars. So what led to the 21st-century signing of Deborah Bonham, a standard-issue Janis-meets-Melissa belter who's also late Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham's sister? My money's on an acid flashback. — Roberts
Jean Grae, Jeanius (Blacksmith). Although Jeanius first popped up online several years ago, its quality makes the passage of time insignificant. The woman born Tsidi Ibrahim is a confident, distinctive MC who's able to rap about relationships and social issues with equal acumen, and the production by 9th Wonder, of Little Brother renown, is so clean, so fresh. — Roberts
King Khan & the Shrines, The Supreme Genius of King Khan & the Shrines (Vice Records). The King is hardly the first person to get hooked on rockin' blooze, punk energy and crazed bravado of the sort epitomized by his paean to "an ass the size of New York" in "Took My Lady to Dinner." Then again, bands like the Shrines keep coming back to the combination for an excellent reason: It tastes good. — Roberts
Sixpence None the Richer, My Dear Machine (NoiseTrade.com). The "Kiss Me" kids are back with four new tunes, again crafting the lush pop that made them into radio darlings, complete with a standout title track that's poised for airplay in all its guitar-fueled delivery. Don't go looking in stores; it's available only as a digital download. — Chris Callaway
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