Beth Johnson
May 28, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT


BEASTIE BOYS ”To the 5 Boroughs” (June 15) With its conspicuous lack of funk instrumentals, punk-rock interludes, and chanting monks, the Beastie Boys’ ”To the 5 Boroughs” is a return to the platinum-hard beats and goofy attitude of the trio’s early years. It’s no coincidence that all three Beasties have returned to New York City after spending much of the past decade in Los Angeles. ”I just feel more comfortable walking around the street in New York than I do driving around L.A.,” says Beastie Mike Diamond, explaining the album’s Gotham-centric vibe (and title). What will young rap fans — many of whom don’t even remember the last Beasties CD, which came out in 1998 — make of the new tunes? ”We’re not trying to prove anything,” says Adam Horovitz. ”We’re not trying to be hip with the kids. We’re just trying to make some s — -. That’s it.” — ME

PJ HARVEY ”Uh Huh Her” (June 8) Like her 2001 Mercury Prize-winning disc (”Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea”), Harvey’s seventh album is raw, dark, and beautiful, as titles like ”The Desperate Kingdom of Love” suggest. First single ”The Letter” is not a Box Tops cover, but rather an erotic ode to…letter writing.

VELVET REVOLVER ”Contraband” (June 8) Ex — Stone Temple Pilot Scott Weiland teams with most of Guns N’ Roses. Bush’s Gavin Rossdale may or may not be in talks with Faster Pussycat.

PATTI SCIALFA ”23rd Street Lullaby” (June 15) Eleven years after ”Rumble Doll,” her sublime and melancholy solo debut, singer-songwriter Scialfa — a.k.a. Mrs. Bruce Springsteen — pays tribute to her pre — E Street days, hangin’ in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. This time, Patti and co-producer Steve Jordan (Robert Cray, Keith Richards) throw more rock & roll into the mix, and E Streeters such as Nils Lofgren and, of course, the Boss help out.

WILCO ”A Ghost Is Born” (June 22) The album’s two-week delay — due to frontman Jeff Tweedy’s rehab stint for an addiction to prescription painkillers — has only increased fans’ already fever-high anticipation for the beloved alt-country band’s follow-up to the critically heralded ”Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.”

THE CURE ”The Cure” (June 29) For the group’s lucky 13th studio album — produced, oddly enough, by Korn cohort Ross Robinson — Cure mastermind Robert Smith isn’t shaking things up as much as you might assume. Gloriously lush gloom and doom prevail.

UNCLE KRACKER ”72 and Sunny” (June 29) Forget about the rap-rock sound he favored as Kid Rock’s DJ: Kracker has now gone full-on soft-rock retro, adopting an early-’70s country-rock feel. There’s even a duet with mainstream country mainstay Kenny Chesney and a leadoff single penned by Diane Warren.

BRANDY ”Afrodisiac” (June 29) Since the young pop diva’s last album, 2002’s ”Full Moon,” she’s had a wedding, a baby, a TV show, and a divorce. Now she’ll likely have another hit CD, thanks to production from the ubiquitous Kanye West (who helmed her current single, ”Talk About Our Love”) and Timbaland (who oversaw ”Coldplay,” a tribute to, yes, Coldplay).

ALSO…Sleepy Brown (June 1), Bad Religion (June 8), the Corrs (June 8), Bebel Gilberto (June 8), Sonic Youth (June 8), Phish (June 15), Mystikal (June 22)

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