Wanderlust - Prize (RCA): There's a big buzz developing around this four-piece band from Pennsylvania, and their debut release shows it to be well deserved. Their pop-rock tunes have the kinds of melodies and hooks that grab you as soon as you hear them, particularly in ''I Walked,'' their lead-off single. The music is stylistically diverse, containing everything from catchy harmonies to punklike dissonance, but all the songs display a musical intelligence and lyrical sophistication that promise big things to come.
- Frank Scheck
* WORLD BEAT
Africa Fete 3 (Island/Mango): The best Afro-pop road show in the business just finished its third summer season. But it's not too late to run out and sample some of the world beat's funkiest sounds on CD. Tastes vary, but my favorites are Oumou Sangare of Mali and the Haitian super group Boukman Eksperyans. The CD acts as a listener's starter kit, providing equal space for each of the groups, including Femi Kuti and Baaba Maal. But it leaves off some of the better tunes that Sangare and Boukman perform in concert. Fortunately, Island Records has released recent albums by all four groups.
- Scott Baldauf
Boukan Ginen - Jou A Rive (Xenophile): Though Haiti is one of the most troubled countries in the Western hemisphere, its music serves up some of the most uplifting sounds to hit the music scene in years. And no one does it better than Boukan Ginen. Their debut album is a mix of reggae, traditional Caribbean, and African tribal music in the vein of Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The combination is electric. Lead singer Eddy Francois has a beautifully soulful voice, especially in the title track - a soft ballad translated as ''The Day Will Come.'' Boukan Ginen mixes in political messages to speak out against injustice in the way they know best - through glorious, life-affirming music.
- Ian Zander