Count Joni Mitchell with Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and The Velvet Underground as an artist who started a movement. Her 1970 album Ladies Of The Canyon inspired one gentle-voiced young woman after another to pick up a guitar and let her voice be heard. Wayfaring Strangers: Ladies From The Canyon (Numero Group) gathers material from Mitchell's devotees, most drawn from albums that seldom made it further than the artist's church congregation or high-school folk club. Some of the tracks are brilliant and others are clumsy, but most are some fascinating combination of the two… B+

The ex-husband-and-wife duo of Quasi has a hard time topping the two terrific albums they released in the late '90s, but When The Going Gets Dark (Touch And Go) marks a step in the right direction. Bringing in producer David Fridmann, who worked with Quasi drummer Janet Weiss on the last Sleater-Kinney album, helps open up the sound, but the forceful catchiness of tracks like "The Rhino" makes the album work… B

Pink Mountaintops shouldn't be confused with Black Mountain; the other band of Vancouver fixture Stephen McBean specializes in experimental, lo-fi, stoner-friendly songs. Pink Mountaintops' slim second album, Axis Of Evol (Jagjaguwar), sports a mere seven songs, some of which wear out their welcome as they drone on. But the best moments suggest that McBean is onto something, particularly on "Cold Criminals," which builds a hypnotic beat around what sounds like an answering-machine beep… B-

And speaking of side projects that have taken on lives of their own, Germany's Ms. John Soda has returned for a third album with Notes And The Like (Morr). Combining the smooth beats of Micha Acher (bassist for The Notwist and Tied And Tickled Trio) with the cool vocals of Stefanie Böhm (keyboardist for the instrumental band Couch), it's modern loungetronica of the sort that makes it impossible to avoid chilling out at least a little… B

On the other end of the chill/rage spectrum, there's Rob Zombie's Educated Horses (Geffen). This is Zombie's first proper album since 2001's The Sinister Urge. He's been off making movies, and though he continues to grow as a filmmaker, his music remains arrested in the electronic-beats-and-metal-guitars sound he pioneered with White Zombie. Which would be okay if Educated Horses had a song as awesome as "More Human Than Human" or "Dragula." Sadly, it doesn't. C