Hanoi Rocks 12 Shots on the Rocks (Liquor and Poker)
They either missed the window or preceded it by a few years, but either way, the first outing by Finland's Hanoi Rocks in 19 years falls flat on its glamorous face. Back in their heyday, HR could have been the European antidote to the Los Angeles community of excess that spawned Guns 'n' Roses, L.A. Guns and Motley Crue, whose singer, Vince Neil, ended HR's career by killing their drummer "Razzle" in a car accident in 1994. HR never recovered. Michael Monroe's songwriting would have been hailed in 1988, but in 2004, it needs to be put to bed forever.
Eliza Gilkyson Land of Milk and Honey (Red House)
Damned if Eliza Gilkyson doesn't have the silkiest voice since Bonnie Raitt wooed Clapton and King. There's nothing overtly sweet about her delivery, but there's certainly something so down-home and honest about her singing that a big plate of flapjacks covered in butter and your grandmother's Karo syrup seems just a dream away. Land of Milk and Honey, though it most likely won't, should be charted as Gilkyson's finest outing. The songs peel off naturally, with uncommon ease, and the meat of the fruit is so sweet you'll never forget how perfect it is. Hope it's not the last time.
Lanterna Highways (Badman)
Listening to a record by Henry Frayne (a.k.a. Lanterna) is like watching a slideshow or home movie picked up at a yard sale: You won't recognize the key players, but you'll nonetheless feel oddly connected to them. Frayne's economically chorused and delayed guitar work is more than just pompous wank—it's an expression of his mind's eye, and the melodies he creates are far more beautiful than any jackass with a six-string and a measurable level of pretentiousness could possibly manage. Listening to this—or any Lanterna record—is to eschew all preconceived notions of rock music. Go there. Go!