Josh Rouse -- Country Mouse, City House (RCA/Nettwerk) Josh Rouse's first album, 1998's Dressed Up Like Nebraska, was equal parts rock, country and pop, with a splendid mix of ballads and upbeat rockers. Between then and 2003, he squeezed in four more albums, and finally broke out of his shell with 1972 by making a critically acclaimed, "adult" album. His latest, Country Mouse, City House, shows potential at times, but it's ultimately a letdown. The catchy hook and warm horn arrangement on "Italian Dry Ice" has the feel of a Curtis Mayfield classic, but the tune creeps along. With ballad after ballad, the album never really goes any faster than the jog of "Hollywood Bass Player," wreaking havoc on one's attention span. Rouse fans will buy it out of love; if you're looking for his best work, seek out his first.
Dekapitator -- The Storm Before the Calm (Relapse) Dekapitator thrashes to live and lives to thrash. The band does it so well, in fact, you might even think you're listening to some long lost classic from the '80s, which is about the highest praise possible for The Storm Before the Calm. Dekapitator offers a modern take on a classic sound. The double guitar team of Matt Hellfiend and D. Attacker comes up with timeless heavy riffs, and unleashes solo after killer solo. They shred, big time, like some latter-day incarnation of the tandem style of Slayer guitarists Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. With high-speed riffage and face-melting solos, Dekapitator's debut is an impressive addition to the thrash canon, one that's sure to make the mosh pit churn.