Birds and Cages, by Deas Vail

Deas Vail's youthful pop-rock is in the vein of Christian hit-radio bands. But the vocals soar to giddy heights on "Growing Pains," which makes compelling use of distorted guitar, riffing piano and swishing cymbals.

Lonely Avenue, by Ben Folds and Nick Hornby

Lonely Avenue recalls beautiful-mess collaborations along the lines of Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson.

Privileged, by Nick Moss

Chicago mints blues artists like a factory spits out widgets. Not all of them pass inspection, but Nick Moss has passed the tests of time and substance, and here he delivers a potent working-man's blues-rock blend. His version of Chester Burnett's "Louise" is a bare-fisted boogie with just a touch of southern-rock swagger.