Former Belle And Sebastian sweetness-provider Isobel Campbell and former Screaming Trees growler Mark Lanegan don't seem like an obvious musical match, but the juxtaposition of innocent and well-worn works fairly well on Ramblin' Man (V2), a four-song EP that precedes a full-length, due this spring. Campbell could use something to work against: Her solo discs have suffered from one-note boredom. She's barely there on a gruff cover of Hank Williams' "Ramblin' Man," and she's there too much on the new "Revolver Pt. 2," but when she and Lanegan find a balance, it's pleasant at worst… (B-)

Funny, nasty Welsh band Mclusky broke up this year shortly after hitting its stride; bassist/ vocalist Jon Chapple has launched the first post-Mclusky project, Shooting At Unarmed Men, a group that's neither as nasty nor as funny as its predecessor. Soon There Will Be… (Too Pure) is still fairly cranky and entertaining, though, tapping the same weird vein where desperation and dark smiles attempt to bash out a few chords. "The Pink Ink," with its lyrics about leg hair and vouchers, is probably the best two minutes on this short set… (C+)

Noah Baumbach's terrific film The Squid And The Whale bears the obvious influence of Wes Anderson (who produced it), and the influence doesn't end with the visuals: The soundtrack (Ultra Records), like a junior version of Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, unearths forgotten '70s and '80s songmakers like The Feelies and Bert Jansch, then throws compelling curveballs like Lou Reed's epic "Street Hassle" and Dean Wareham's take on Pink Floyd's "Hey You." It'd be a different—and far less enjoyable—film without the sonic care… (B+)


Like their fellow Brits in Bloc Party, The Rakes have entered America with a six-song compilation of solid UK singles. Retreat (Dim Mak) isn't as bracing or immediate as Bloc Party's first shots, but it should find the same fans, as well as lovers of Franz Ferdinand and other wiry lorry drivers. "Strasbourg" and "Something Clicked And I Fell Off The Edge" could've been recorded and warmly received in 1979. A full-length with a keener ear for hooks could be amazing. (B)