My Solo Project
(Omnibus Records)

This album is absolutely perfect. Yes. This is a perfect album. It crosses genre boundaries so well I can't imagine who wouldn't like it. Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, who comprise Mates of State, have cut out the best elements of emo and pop wave like a valentine, leaving the overwhelming sugar and self-consciousness to more fad-susceptible musicians. Their base of vocal harmonies is relentlessly catchy, but powerful, painstaking musicianship isn't sacrificed to make it that way. Track 4 will be branded on your brains--its funky Wurlitzer, milk-and-crackers chorus, and winky bass will make you dance the crusty-punk cabbage patch. God! At least go listen to this album. Mates of State is like a thinking person's Hanson; it's so fucking happy, if you say you hate it, you're either lying or hopelessly bitter. And that ain't cool. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

The Reunion
(Tommy Boy)

This CD is having an identity crisis. It wants to be gangsta rap, but it's playing pop melodies: slow beats, slow rhymes, formulaic tracks. Hey guys! Next time you want to make radio music, you've got to think of some lines other than "Y'all Don't Wanna Fuck with Us," and talk about your ladies, rather than your guns. If you tried to play these tracks on the radio, you'd end up with "bleepity-bleep-bleep" the entire time. Better they should capitalize on what they've got going for them, which is their unique voices. The two MCs are good, and would do much better if they rapped, rather than confining themselves to the faux melodic tracks with the cheesy, synthesized Jay-Z beats in the background. They show promise, if only they'd quit trying to be millionaires. KATIA DUNN

The Hour of Bewilderbeast
(Twisted Nerve/XL Recordings)

They're getting all mellow in the UK. Bands of the moment like Coldplay and Doves offer a laid-back rock that's attracting all the rage. Sadly, while these bands make good press, their recorded efforts are innocuous at best. So goes Badly Drawn Boy. BDB is Damon Gough, hailed as a genius with a bedroom four-track. Following several highly praised EPs, Gough set the time machine for The Hour of Bewilderbeast, his full-length debut, and while musically more adventurous than his compatriots, the results are remarkably similar. Bewilderbeast is a meandering piece seemingly crafted without a map. One minute, there's a full brass section, the next an acoustic guitar, the next a looped theremin, with no apparent roads in between. Some moments are wonderful, but over 18 tracks, the lack of plot becomes tiring. Badly Drawn Boy needs to tighten up the picture if he wants me to tune in for repeat viewings. JAMIE S. RICH