(Animal World Recordings)

Although the No-No's are hardly the first ones to do the West Coast/pop/punk thing, they do it pretty well. And if you're starting to get embarrassed about how long you've had Sleater-Kinney's latest on repeat, you just might be ready for Tinnitus. Mike (the cutest member of the band) is the rock of the quartet, who consistently lays out a steady, crunchy bass--it's the kind of bass that every band dreams of, because he could carry any vocalist, even when her voice is recovering from a night of "Show tomorrow? What show?" alcohol intake.

Robin takes the band from the rank of "consistently good" to "occasionally brilliant." Though she's a bit hot and cold, she has a voice that, well, soars. And when it's not soaring, it's always dominant with a presence that's both vibrant and snotty. Her voice puts you in your place. KATIA DUNN

(no stars)

This is what I imagine a parody of "ambient music" would (does?) sound like. The formula: Put an old record on a dusty turntable and set the needle at the end where it bumps annoyingly near the label. This is the percussion. Now start some loop on your sampler. Make sure it's quiet, listless, harmless. Leave the room for five minutes. Come back and turn the distortion up slightly, sprinkle some light debris near the needle, leave room again. The shit is so dull it barely registers into the atmosphere. But I s'pose that's how most "ambient" works anymore. It's a conspiracy to make snobby club kids feel mature. The well-cushioned press release (assembled by the usually sensible people at Matador) describes this one-man band's concerts as "energy-draining" and also claims people dance at these functions. Sheep anyone? I can tell you one thing: This rubbish doesn't move me or fool me. KEVIN SAMPSELL

nyc ghosts & flowers

Like Sonic Youth's defining moments, this album strives toward moody art music--careening between de-tuned ragas, feedback orchestrations, and creepy clinking guitar tracks--all topped with their signature singsong melodies. Unfortunately, the rock gives way and 10th grade "poetry" readings take center stage, as in: "on a crimson hiway by a chrome bumper I last saw you: alive/inclined to thrive/evening fireflies lit sparks around yr head." Sure, Thurston Moore is talented enough to turn dumb scribblings into elegant and plaintive songs, but Sonic Youth's latest, while a nice rebound, lacks the full force of this band's supernatural musical talents. JOSH FEIT