Highly Evolved
While the garage uprising that lazy hacks have lumped the Vines in with is, in essence, a return to an old-skool rock 'n' roll spirit, the prime press figures have stamped the band's retro-noise with enough personality to claim it as their own. Australia-via-L.A. quartet the Vines eschew Jack White's swaggering cabaret-blues genius or Pelle Hive's eerie IKEA-Jaggerisms, though. No, frontman Craig Nicholls has self-consciously dragged his sticky fingers across rock's most well thumbed sources, but brought little else to the party. So "Getouttahere" spits and scratches like Nirvana, only less so. So "Mary Jane" swoons psychedelically like Smashee Pumpkee, without the grace or grandeur. And so "Factory," bizarrely, sounds like Guided by Voices-go-reggae, the only moment of true charm and inspiration on this flimsy disc. The rest, however, runs like an idiot's guide to alterna-rock clichés, the epitome of post-grunge corporate rock at its nadir. The paucity of imagination contained herein is staggering. STEVIE CHICK

Days of Speed
(Epic/Independiente Records)
If you're looking for something new from the former Jam frontman, the best you'll get here is three songs from Weller's 2000 album, Heliocentric, never released in the U.S. However, that fact doesn't stop it from being good, as Weller has a lot to pull from. Essentially a greatest hits live record, it covers the "Modfather's" career from The Jam days to present. For those of you not too embarrassed to admit to liking the Style Council, Weller's misguided foray into '80s pop (umm... Jason Tinkey?), you'll be treated to surprisingly enjoyable treatments of "Down in the Seine," and "Headstart for Happiness." Overall, the record sort of reminds you of sitting in your living room while your uncle busts out the ol' acoustic and starts rocking. However, with Days, you get fewer Zeppelin covers, and Weller won't want to sleep on your couch. CHAZZ MADRIGAL

And the Surrounding Mountains
(Merge Records)
It takes a group with a very strong grasp of the music they produce to put together an album like And the Surrounding Mountains. This warm, expansive example of the Radar Brothers' work comes as a product of a year's worth of well-spent trial. And while some artists may make the mistake of referencing college rock forerunners of this sound, such as Low, Galaxy 500, or the Jayhawks, the Brothers sound more of the real school: early Pink Floyd and Neil Young (sans rock-out) could probably be found in their collections. The album seems to purposefully keep an even keel as not to bring the listener out of the pseudo-psychedelic listening state it conveys, making And the Surrounding Mountains one of the best pleasantly-non-rock albums of the year. DAVID MANNERES