OZOMATLI, Don’t Mess With the Dragon (Concord): LA’s multiculti party-band-with-a-conscience follows 2004’s Grammy-winning “Street Signs” and 2005’s “Live at the Fillmore” with another rowdy release that makes a scintillating addition to the bag of anthems celebrating their hometown with the hard-thumping funk of “City of Angels.” That’s followed by the sweet celebration “After Party,” which owes as much to doo-wop as hip-hop, and a spate of irresistibly rhythmic tracks, including “La Segunda Mano” (featuring Quetzal frontwoman Marta Gonzalez), “La Temperatura,” about last year’s immigration march, and the New Orleans–stewed “Magnolia Soul,” which slams the funk and second line rhythms as it decries governmental inaction in the face of Hurricane Katrina. In stores Tuesday.
GINA VILLALOBOS, Miles Away (FaceWest): Having logged thousands of miles over the past few years touring abroad, LA-based “rock ‘n’ roll pony” Villalobos truly comes into her own on her newest disc (in stores Tuesday), which benefits from the roughened grain of her slyly engaging vocals and a band that revels in digging into Stones– and Small Faces–style feel-good grooves. A creative reinvention of the Yvonne Elliman/Bee Gees hit “If I Can’t Have You” is a refreshing highlight amidst a bounty of hook-laden midtempo ballads and rockers such as “Don’t Let Go” and the connection-minded title track. www.ginavillalobos.com
MARIA TAYLOR, Lynn Teeter Flower (Saddle Creek): Azure Ray vocalist Taylor’s second, melody-rich solo disc is an ear-pleasing platter that owes as much to the ’70s singer-songwriter heyday as it does to her indie-rock contemporaries in Athens and Omaha. When she laments, “She’s always looking down at her left hand/ And she was always in between her life and her childhood dreams/ … And the weight of what’s heard is what we don’t understand” over a deceptively bouncy keyboard riff (“Replay”) backed by moody guitars and unobtrusive electronics, her dreamy vocals evoke Joni Mitchell, Karla Bonoff and Jackson Browne as much as Conor Oberst or Lisa Loeb. Performance Saturday at the Echo.
VARIOUS ARTISTS, 20 Ways to Float Through Walls (Crammed): The title suggests ambient music of a sonically penetrating nature, but these 20 tracks theoretically represent more peaceful means of breaching borders. Liner notes by Marc Hollander indicate this is not a world music album but one of “open-minded music” by genre-mashing artists from 15 countries. But by not effectively highlighting common ground among disparate artists such as Brazilian crooners Bebel Gilberto and Cibelle, Sahara trance-inducing nomads Tartit, freewheeling Balkan gypsy ensemble Taraf de Haïdouks, New York–based Iranian vocalist Sussan Deyhim and Belgium’s Flat Earth Society, it ultimately disappoints.