George Strait, Somewhere Down in Texas (MCA). The white-hatted man is still filling discs with casual variations on C&W verities, as he's done since the early '80s. Texas is no Hank-n-Merle-style classic, but in comparison to most of the treacle that passes for contemporary country, the disc tastes like fine Tennessee whiskey, served Strait up. -- MR
Get Him Eat Him, Geography Cones (Absolutely Kosher). Everything about this disc -- the band name, the song titles, the construction-paper artwork -- screams kindergarten. But the music, sugar-buzzed as it is, displays a depth and maturity that recalls ELO, XTC and Death Cab for Cutie, only deadlier and cuter. When it comes to precocious pop, Geography could teach everyone a lesson. -- JH
Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, Unleash the Fury (Spitfire). Roll over, Beethoven: Metal's most celebrated six-string masturbator is back with more fretboard histrionics. Aside from the lineup, little has changed since earlier efforts. And even then, vocalist Dougie White sounds enough like Mark Boals -- who lent his pipes to 1990's Triology, which Fury most closely resembles -- to make the difference negligible. -- DH
Cassidy, I'm a Hustla (J Records). Philly rapper Barry "Cassidy" Reese's latest is already sliding down the charts despite a well-timed arrest for murder and more shortly before this disc's release. One reason: A claim that he owns "a hundred percent" of his publishing constitutes Hustla's most original boast. A lack of originality? Guilty as charged. -- MR
Daniel Lanois, Belladonna (Anti). Despite a solid string of solo work, Daniel Lanois has always basked in the glory of those he's produced or collaborated with: Brian Eno, Bob Dylan, U2. Belladonna showcases Lanois's shivering pedal steel, but the disc's instrumental ambience outlines more sonic and emotional space than it manages to fill. Hollow, yet haunting. -- JH
Bobby Valentino, Disturbing Tha Peace Presents Bobby Valentino (DTP/Def Jam). Valentino's bio claims that he channels the sounds of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and Prince. Not only is it sacrilege to compare this new jack to the holy trinity, it's also wrong. Although Luda's boy is undeniably smooth, ultimately he's closer to Craig David, Mario and Usher than any of those icons. -- DH
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