EW Staff
May 19, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

KELIS
Kelis Was Here
After luring more than half a million record-buying boys (and girls) to her yard with 2003’s Tasty, thanks to the irresistible rump-shaker ”Milkshake,” the refreshingly punky R&B vixen is back with her fourth disc. The goal this time? To be ”consistently inconsistent,” she says. Working without her usual collaborators the Neptunes for the first time (”I can’t do every album with the same producer”), Kelis reached out to hitmakers both urban (Cee-lo, will.i.am, Raphael Saadiq) and surprisingly mainstream (Swede-pop maestros Max Martin and Bloodshy & Avant). Why did she assemble such an eclectic bunch of track masters? ”I don’t care who makes it and how they get it done,” she says. ”It’s about music. I think their sound is crispy and delicious and I wanted it.” 7/25

AFI
December-Underground
The Goth-pop-punkers broke big with their sixth CD, 2003’s Sing the Sorrow, and this follow-up could do even better. Standout tracks include the single ”Miss Murder,” featuring vocals from members of the band’s fan army, cheerily named the Despair Faction. 6/6

ELVIS COSTELLO & ALLEN TOUSSAINT
The River in Reverse
Only the title track is a solo Costello composition. The rest are penned by his legendary pianist partner (or co-written by the duo). Costello may aspire to be King of America, but he knows that Toussaint is true royalty in New Orleans. 6/6

ICE CUBE
Laugh Now, Cry Later
After six years of Hollywooding it up, family favorite Cube is finally returning to hip-hop. Despite tame film fare like Are We There Yet?, the onetime N.W.A rapper seems determined to reclaim his gangsta crown, especially on the Scott Storch-produced ”Why We Thugs.” 6/6

PAUL OAKENFOLD
A Lively Mind
The British techno DJ is back with another vocal-heavy dance disc. This time out, collaborators include Pharrell Williams (on ”Sex ‘N Money”) and, oddly enough, actress Brittany Murphy, who unleashes her inner dance diva on ”Faster Kill Pussycat.” 6/6

SONIC YOUTH
Rather Ripped
Once again a quartet after the departure of multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke, the long-running avant-rock band release their 20th album. It’s a softer, more introverted take on the classic SY sound than their last few outings, scaling back the noise and amping up the tunes. 6/13

REGINA SPEKTOR
Begin to Hope
The Russian-born, Bronx-raised chanteuse gained fame opening for the Strokes a few years back, then released the well-received album Soviet Kitsch in 2005. On this follow-up, recorded with producer David Kahne (the Strokes, Sugar Ray), Spektor further refines her arty pop. 6/13

FRANK BLACK
Fastman Raiderman
The Pixies frontman delivers a rootsy double album with guests Levon Helm, Cheap Trickster Tom Petersson, and ’60s songwriter P.F. Sloan. 6/20

GUSTER
Ganging Up on the Sun
The fifth album from the bongo-enhanced college-circuit diehards is also their catchiest. Tunes like the Beatlesque ”Manifest Destiny” should overcome an enduring bad-luck streak that most recently saw singer-guitarist Adam Gardner miss a gig after bumping into a tampon machine. 6/20

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