• Jimmy Eat World, 'Chase This Light' (Interscope)

    Time isn't kind to anyone, but it's been especially harsh to turn-of-the-century emo bands. Pour a little on the curb for the Get Up Kids, Sense Field, or anyone with a Hey Mercedes tattoo. For Jimmy Eat World, who've been dining out on their pop smash "The Middle" for six years, some bitterness is to be expected. So when Jim Adkins sings, "Rock on, young savior / Don't get up your hopes," on opener "Big Casino," you might predict a lecture on the pitfalls of almost-fame. Instead, he asserts that "there's still some living left when your prime comes and goes" and launches into a driving chorus, as if to prove his point.

  • Marilyn Manson, 'Eat Me, Drink Me' (Interscope)

    Hey, 38-year-old androgynous vampire extraterrestrials get their hearts broken, too! Marilyn Manson's sixth album scales back the Weimar guignol of 2003's The Golden Age of Grotesque in favor of classic industrial and glam -- martial drum machines, boogie bass, and guitar riffs you usually hear in movies set in the not-too-distant-future. More surprisingly, Eat Me displays the beating heart behind the stage blood with Dashboard Confessional -- style lyrics like "I kill myself in small amounts" and "Just another funeral and just another girl left in tears." Still, when he sings, "You and me and the devil makes three," it suggests why our man hasn't been lucky in love: Manson's embraced his persona for so long that he can't get his arms around anyone else. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Kings of Leon, 'Because of the Times' (RCA)

    Despite their well-publicized evangelical upbringing, I have no idea what religion Kings of Leon practice. I suspect they'd make lousy Buddhists -- because repetition, when it's feeding meditation, is supposed to lead to deep thoughts, and no matter how many times you repeat, "She said call me now, baby / And I'd come a-runnin'," it doesn't quite cut it. That's not to say these Tennessee brothers (and a cousin), who sound like Bobcat Goldthwait fronting the Strokes, don't excel at unlocking grooviness from a word or a note or two. On "Charmer," singer Caleb Followill lets loose a David Lee Roth -- worthy shriek before every stanza. At first it's impressive, then you kinda want to kill him, and eventually the sound settles nicely into the architecture.

  • Lee Hazlewood, 'Cake or Death' (Ever)

    Lee Hazlewood's farewell to the recording industry is as oblique as his journey through it, which took him from producing Duane Eddy to saving Nancy Sinatra's career to making a series of ever-more-baffling and often genius solo albums in the '70s. Other than a jazzy take on the classic "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," Act III of his life is best represented here--the twisted, modal interpolation of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in "Anthem" is his career in miniature: arguably inappropriate, undeniably beautiful, and deeply, importantly weird. Now Hear This: Lee Hazlewood - "Baghdad Knights" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to Lee Hazlewood on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Mute Math, 'Mute Math' (Teleprompt/Warner Bros.)

    Mute Math can seem hopelessly dorky -- they wear skinny ties, singer Paul Meany sounds like Sting, and they sued Warner Bros., charging that the label tried to market them as a Christian band and dump them on a Christian label. But here they put that behind, appending startling sonic codas to already blissed-out songs like "Stare at the Sun," with drummer Darren King finding space between skillfully echoing electric pianos, dub bass, and reverbed guitars. It's hard to capture on record how ecstatic the band's sweaty live shows feel, but "We All Break the Same" comes close. Now Watch This:Mute Math - "Typical"WINDOWS MEDIA | QUICKTIME Now Hear This:Mute Math - "Noticed" WINDOWS MEDIA | QUICKTIME >> Listen to Mute Math on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Portastatic, 'Be Still Please' (Merge)

    With his eighth album as Portastatic, Mac McCaughan still has his feet on the ground -- befitting what began as a subdued side project to his now-shuttered main band Superchunk. But these days he's also reaching upward, using a string section to back the soaring melodies of "Sour Shores" and "Black Buttons." Death imagery is everywhere, and on the bracing "You Blanks," he openly wrestles with his regrets: "All my songs use to end the same way/'Everything's going to be okay'/You fuckers make that impossible to say." Now Hear This:Portastatic - "Sour Shores" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Jet, 'Shine On' (Atlantic)

    The pitiless logic of the music biz goes something like this: Your first album is the one you put all the work into, and if it becomes a hit, you spend the next two years touring, so your next one is almost bound to suck or fizzle quietly. And Jet are nothing if not logical. Shine On finds the Aussies navigating their two most obvious influences -- AC/DC and the Beatles -- trying to recapture the magic of the two songs that made their debut album, 2003's Get Born, a hit: "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" and "Cold Hard Bitch." And for a moment, they do.

  • Darkel, 'Darkel' (Astralwerks)

    "TV Destroy," the best song on the solo debut of Air's Jean-Benoit Dunckel, is a near-perfect confluence of early-'90s indie guitar noise, Daft Punk-style disco, and French-chick-who-can't-say-her-r's vocals, and its three minutes go by way too quickly. But the rest of Darkel is so aceless that it'll make you hanker for Dirty Vegas deep cuts. Dunckel puts an AM-radio-pop spin on his other band, but the highlights -- "My Own Sun," "At the End of the Sky" -- sound like background music, and Dunckel's breathy vocals unintentionally underscore the project's lightweight character.

  • Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League, 'The Longest Meow' (Bloodshot)

    Eleven songs recorded in 11 hours by an 11-person pickup band (featuring members of ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and My Morning Jacket), The Longest Meow could've been a hipster train wreck. But Bobby Bare Jr. is no ordinary hipster. He's able to give both the calypso-country ballad "Sticky Chemical" and sloppy rocker "Borrow Your Cape" an off-kilter incandescence. And on winking tearjerker "Demon Valley," it's hard to tell what's sadder: the lyrics or the fact that the Replacements stopped writing songs this good when they grew up. Now Hear This: Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminals Starvation League - "The Heart Bionic" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Emily Haines, 'Knives Don't Have Your Back' (Last Gang)

    Occasionally beautiful and often brain-meltingly boring, the solo debut of Metric's Emily Haines is mostly frustrating. Songs such as "The Maid Needs a Maid" boast clever wordplay and Haines' girlish contralto, but the spare instrumentation (usually just piano) and samey melodies wear you down. Still, there are some saucy moments, like on the otherwise sluggish "The Lottery," when Haines sings about wanting "what everyone wanted since bras started burning up ribs in the '60s." Now Hear This:Emily Haines - "The Lottery" (Download MP3) On SPIN.com:Metric's Emily Haines Talks SoloQ&A: Metric's Emily Haines BUY: iTunesAmazon

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