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Sound Bites

Jason Mraz, Mr. A-Z (Atlantic). Jason Mraz's sojourn through the alphabet pauses lengthily on "S" -- for "schizophrenic." Among mountains of spastic lyrics, bizarre operatic bursts, unfortunate free flows and ill-fitting flamenco guitar, the album feels as disjointed as a circus freak. Worse, Mraz sings vainly about avoiding a "sophomore slump," oblivious to the fact that that would necessitate some sort of breakout freshman season. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

The Arcade Fire, The Arcade Fire EP (Merge). This reissue of the Arcade Fire's debut shows a group still stumbling in the dark: Win Butler yelps down the front of his shirt, while Regine Chassagne shamelessly parrots Bjrk. But although the recording sounds less lo-fi and more like a Jazz Age transatlantic broadcast, its vicious bleeds of melody and emotion signal the magnificence that followed. -- Heller

Longmont Potion Castle, Longmont Potion Castle 5 (Reptilian Records). Risking harassment charges in the wake of Caller ID, these last known recorded phone pranks from the fabled Longmont Potion Castle further advance absurdity as art form. Meet Mad Man Pujo and a host of amiable cranks, who misdirect deliveries from Liberty Squid when they're not otherwise inquiring about "helium biscuits." "aqualamb" or the exotic new flavor of "Chowder Julius." -- John La Briola

Mad Professor, Method to the Madness: Two Decades of Crazy Dubs -- A Triphop, Techno, Dubwise Vibe (Trojan). The Mad man's recordings don't sound like the efforts of a sane person, and nuts to anyone who complains. On Method, a generous, wide-ranging two-CD comp, modern reggae's loopiest deck jockey introduces traditionalists like Pato Banton and outsiders such as Massive Attack and the Orb to his wonderfully crazy world. -- Roberts

Gary Higgins, Red Hash (Drag City). Gary Higgins's sole album first appeared in 1973 -- then instantly vanished. Now, salvaged from obscurity by Ben Chesney of Six Organs of Admittance, it's been restored as a masterpiece of psychotropic folk on par with the best of Skip Spence or Nick Drake. Lush, mired in shadows and mystically brilliant. -- Heller

Throw Rag, 13 Ft & Rising (BYO Records). It's more obvious than Lemmy's mole that butt-probe rawk has a new five-star scalawag. SoCal's irksome hillbilly think tank trashes the place like cankerous sea dogs horny for shore leave. Homesick for '80s hardcore? Kilmister, Jello and Keith Morris wring out the Rag for every last drop of blood, sweat, sperm and cow-punk nostalgia. Arrr! -- La Briola

Various Artists: Estrus Kamikaze Ass Chomp N' Stomp: CD Sampler Volume 4 (Estrus). Washington's Estrus Records specializes in garage rock so authentic that its discs give off the scent of WD-40. This enjoyably fuzz-toned roundup juxtaposes slammers by genre vets (the Makers, Gas Huffer, et al.) with salvos from Federation X and like-minded acts that feel at ease where the rest of us park. -- Roberts