In his interview with The A.V. Club last year, Josh Rouse indicated that he'd been getting increasingly interested in vintage European soundtrack music and light electronica. Some of those fascinations manifest on his iTunes-exclusive EP Bedroom Classics Vol. 2: The opening instrumental, "Neighbor-Hoods," is all rippling piano and muted electronic gurgles, like the aural equivalent of a long tracking shot through an empty city square at dawn, while "The Last Train" winks at Ennio Morricone and "O, I Need All The Love" lays in a string arrangement that would quicken Michel Legrand's pulse. As with his last album, Nashville, Rouse's latest batch of lyrics teeter between bland cliché and haunting specificity, but this new disc is more about trying out some new sounds in preparation for a new album, due in the first quarter of '06… B

Former Kansas art-punker Danny Pound takes a country-troubadour turn on his solo debut Surer Days (Remedy), which resembles one of those frayed post-X roots-rock records that bubbled up periodically on college radio in the '80s. Pound adds a little sonic abrasion and warped orchestration to the mix on spooky tracks like "Shotgun Divorce" and "Wistful Thinking," but while the attempts at deepening and shading are welcome, Pound doesn't really need any gimmicks. Simply adorned, the plain storytelling and free-flowing melodicism of "Diana's Doves" and "The Planted Kiss" sound equally marvelous… B+

If anyone out there is still archiving obscure regional garage and power-pop acts, be sure to hold a spot on the shelf for Birmingham's Taylor Hollingsworth, who kicks off his latest album, Tragic City (Brash), with one of the fiercest, most gloriously sloppy guitar anthems in recent years, "Take The Money." It's a song out of time, too coarse for classic rock and too classic to stay stuck in the gutter. The rest of the album isn't as consistent, though the horn-stoked "Little Queenie" and the twangy "Head On Collision" have an unshakeable quality, like roughed-up outtakes from Bruce Springsteen's The River… B


Barely a week into 2006, we've already been offered what may end up being the strangest record of the year, Mercury Radio Theater's The Blue Eyed Model (Lujo), a sort of horror-themed surf-rock opera about a young mad scientist and his sexy Frankenstein monster. The music isn't as clever as the concept, but it's hard not to admire its pure left-field-ism. B-