When You Are Here, You Are Family
(Ba Da Bing! Records)

My favorite song on this album is number five, because it contains the best elements of Adrian Crowley, distilled to near-perfection. It starts with a lot of strings--the bow-guitar eases its way in as the song begins, sighing with tragedy and sorrow, complemented by the gentle pluck of another guitar. These sounds carry the song, and the back-and-forth feeling they provide remains the foundation, which is then grounded by some symbols and drums. The track provides both a mellow, relaxing moment and adds something progressive to instrumental rock. There aren't any vocals on this track, however, as there are in the rest of the album, and though the voice of Adrian Cowley is smooth and grainy and sad, it's not nearly as impressive as his instrumental abilities. And he sounds a lot like the guy in Coldplay. KATIA DUNN

Doggy Bag
(Sony/So So Def)

This CD's liner notes fold out into a mini-sized, teen-zine pinup poster of 14-year-old Lil' Bow Wow. His raps hint of sexuality, but deny it, as would a primetime sitcom. The music (mostly produced by Jermaine Dupri) is "good pop" because it imitates pop; by pushing no envelopes, it can simply be popular. Originally from Columbus, OH, Lil' Bow Wow was given his name and catapulted into fame by Snoop Dogg. You could call him Snoop's protégé, but where Snoop imitated Slick Rick's "La-Di Da-Di" by rapping, "I said, 'Cheer up!' so I gave her a hit/I said, 'You can't have me, I'm too young for you, bitch!'" Lil' Bow Wow raps, "They run up, tryin' to give me a kiss/I said, 'You can't have me, I'm too young for you, miss.'" BRIAN GOEDDE

Our Constant Concern
** 1/2

You know the song that goes, "Meet new friends, but keep the old, one is silver and the other gold..."--some of you might have sang it in Brownies? Well, sometimes my friends Julianne and Katia and I like to sing that song together, just because it's so damn fun to sing in a round. Anyway, the new Mates of State reminds me of that song. Husband-and-wife team Kori and Jason are in a constant vocal battle, one trailing behind or one passionately out-yelling the other. Song one, "Hoarding it for Home," is great, explosive, and emotional, but every time I listen to the album, I get sick of it by number four, "Girls Singing," which happens to be very whiney. There is not a lot of variation among songs and the reliance on kiddie-keyboards and vocal crescendos gets tiring. If you're a super-fan you'll probably still like it, and I will happily play it on shuffle--but it's not as good as their last album, My Solo Project. KATIE SHIMER