Keigo Oyamada, also known as Cornelius (after Roddy McDowell's

Planet of the Apes

character), seemed on the verge of American crossover success with 1997's


a head-spinning and mind-blowing melting pot of psychedelia, drum 'n' bass, indie rock and electronica that generated loads of Beck comparisons and a tour with the Flaming Lips. His infrequent subsequent work, including the new


has not been as extravagant, leaning instead toward laptop constructions and headphone introspection.


is subtle and shape-shifting; its pastoral and placid surface and crystalline acoustics occasionally get punctuated with hyperspeed rhythms and shards of electric guitars. Cornelius and his band rarely tour the States, and when they do, it's a multi-media event. This one's billed as "The Sensuous Synchronized Show."

- Steve Klinge

Todd Snider

If a singer-songwriter as great as John Prine thought enough of Todd Snider to sign him to his Oh Boy label, and honky-tonk savant Billy Joe Shaver deemed him worthy to collaborate with, then you have to figure this guy's pretty special. And he is. As he moves from Dylanesque talking blues to raving roadhouse rockers, Snider shows there is plenty of substance and heart beneath his ragged, smart-aleck exterior. The East Nashville-based troubadour will engage in the topical - he first made his mark with the hilarious 1994 sendup "Talking Seattle Grunge Rock Blues," and his most recent album,

The Devil You Know,

contains "You Got Away With It (A Tale of Two Fraternity Brothers)," a thinly veiled swipe at the commander-in-chief. Mostly, though, his songs get at more eternal truths.

- Nick Cristiano

Southern Culture on the Skids

From the band name to album titles such as Ditch Diggin' and Dirt Track Date, Southern Culture on the Skids purveys a cartoony, white-trash image. But behind the trio's often clever sendups is some serious, and seriously hot, roots-rocking musicianship. That's especially clear on the new covers collection, Countrypolitan Favorites. Singer-guitarist Rick Miller, singer-bassist Mary Huff, and drummer Dave Hartman play it straight but still have fun with a wide-ranging set of songs, from Don Gibson's "Oh Lonesome Me" and Roger Miller's "Engine, Engine #9" to Ray Davies' "Muswell Hillbilly" and John Fogerty's "Tombstone Shadow." And there's also the classic country ode to wife-swapping, "Let's Invite Them Over."

- Nick Cristiano