Sound Advice 

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Dave Matthews Band

Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King


Buy if you like: Post-1998 DMB, Jack Johnson, Jason Mraz

With the Dave Matthews Band coming off a decade of lackluster studio recordings, hearing its seventh studio album open with a lazy clarinet does not bode well. So here we are once again with an album's worth of song ideas that fail to create the early excitement and energy that once led fans to believe this jam-band-lite had a career's worth of memorable anthems in its future. This time around, the rocking swagger of "Shake Me Like a Monkey" feels forced, while the mid-tempo "Funny the Way It Is," the album's lead single, sounds like a dozen other DMB adult-contemporary jazz tracks. Then there's the catchy "Why I Am," a big-hook affair that diehard DMB fans will eat up without question, which is a familiar phenomenon just as confusing as the new album's title. — John Benson

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Black Eyed Peas

The E.N.D. (Energy Never Dies)


Buy if you like: Ludacris, Nelly

There was a time when the Black Eyed Peas stood as one of hip-hop's most thoughtful and creative groups. But since adding singer Fergie several years ago, they've mostly gone for party jams. Longtime fans can bemoan this shift all they want, but it's turned the Peas into crossover superstars, and they're not about to mess with a good thing on The E.N.D. Here the Peas are singing and rapping about such tedious subjects as wanting to rock, bringing the beats, and suffering from sexual and romantic longing. Fortunately, they're more creative on a musical level, building some fun space-age sonics into dance-ready tracks like "Boom Boom Pow" (already a chart-topping hit), "Rock that Body" and "Imma Be." The E.N.D. doesn't require much brainpower from listeners, but for breezy summertime escapism, this CD more than does the job. — Alan Sculley

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Girl in a Coma

Trio B.C.

Blackheart Records

Buy if you like: The Donnas

From the moment opening track "BB" kicks in, it's clear Girl in a Coma will be around for a while. Trio B.C. is an accomplished sophomore effort by a trio of badass Texas women with prodigious talent and the confidence to let their influences show without overdoing it. The Mexican surf-guitar, western twang, pizzicato strings and girl-group suggestiveness of songs like "El Monte," "In the Day" and "Trail" brilliantly reference early rock. But there's nothing coy in the driving combination of Phanie Diaz's percussion and Jenn Alva's bass, or Nina Diaz's crisp, assured vocals and cut-like-a-knife guitar licks. When they segue into grinding punk or hard rock, they're not just the new Donnas or Joan Jett's darlings (although their label owner does guest on "Joannie in the City"). In fact, Girl in a Coma is a wide-awake force all its own. — Lynne Margolis


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