The actor-musician hybrid is a tricky thing. It's a road peppered with the long-decomposed carcasses of Russell Crowe, Eddie Murphy and heaven forbid, David Hasselhoff.

Thomas Ian Nicholas
"Without Warning"

As a fresh-faced mop top in 1992's Rookie of the Year, Thomas Ian Nicholas was destined for a career of Tony Danza-dom. Known to the vast majority of Americans as Kevin from the American Pie flicks, who knew that Nicholas had visions of hypersensitive John Mayer-warbling beating around in his thickly trussed head?

On his latest release, "Without Warning," Nicholas attempts to atone the sins of Don Johnson's Heartbeat. The results aren't gloriously overarching, but merely passable. It's inoffensive Hollister-rock with Nicholas' colorlessly octave-spanning baritone rehashing mothball-ridden gulags about girl-done-me-wrongs.

"From the standpoint of what makes it all worthwhile at the end of the day, when I'm chilling in a rocking chair and telling my grandkids about my music career, it's to be able to be in a position where I can affect the world in a positive way," Nicholas says in a press release.

Oh well. He still has "Rookie of the Year" and those plum "American Pie" sequels to look back on.

That being said, Starpulse has the goods on other releases this month:

The Magnetic Fields

The Skinny: Indie-pop misanthrope Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, deemed by Bob Gould as the "most depressing man in rock," studies his The Jesus and Mary Chain fixation with heaps of prickly distortion, er, as advertised in the album title.

Why You Should Buy It: Merritt exists in his own vacuum-sealed idiom. He told The New York Times, "I cannot name a record by anyone in 2007." As for his rapturous scrutiny of influential Scottish noise-pop band The Jesus and Mary Chain's 1985 debut album Psychocandy? "It's the last album that sounded shockingly new, to me anyway."

Song You'll Love or Hate: The gnashingly frontal lobe assault of album opener, "Three-Way," which basically consists of Mr. Merritt shouting the title over rippling riffs.

Kate Nash
Made of Bricks

The Skinny: Discovered on MySpace by Lily Allen, 20-something Englander Kate Nash makes an album about the struggles of upper-class strife. She sounds like a brainier version of The Spice Girls, for better or worse.

Why You Should Buy It: Nash's cockney Brit accent, flowing pen verses and sly pop cultural shout-outs - hell, she manages to namecheck CSI at one point - are 10 times better than the CHR-pop Hannah Montana dreck infiltrating American top-40. Plus, let's just say that it might be awhile before Amy Winehouse releases another Back to Black.

Song You'll Love or Hate: Produced by Bloc Party producer Paul Epworth, Nash finds lyrical inspiration in the mundane. Her song about mouthwash, titled "Mouthwash," of course, is an exercise in lyrical frugality. The hummable melody will stay in your head for days.

Story by Joey Hood
Starpulse contributing writer