• Eleanor Friedberger, 'Last Summer' (Merge)

    Eleanor Friedberger, 'Last Summer' (Merge)

    The solo debut from the ?Fiery Furnaces' singer is a beguiling and byzantine New York-centric travelogue: "Owl's Head Park" uses an airy sax to portray a lost day in Coney Island, while the gurgling keyboards and swan-dive strings on "Roosevelt Island" sound like an ?outtake from Fleetwood Mac's Tango in the Night ?(a good thing, BTW). There are expected blips of Fiery playfulness -- pinballing "bop bop" vocals, backward-masked beats -- but this is as straightforwardly evocative as abstract pop gets, with the hazy beauty and fractured narratives of a vintage Polaroid slide show.

  • Army Navy, 'The Last Place' (eMusic Selects)

    Army Navy, 'The Last Place' (eMusic Selects)

    The second album from this jangle-drunk Los Angeles quartet is pure pop for now people: Underneath Last Place's aerial guitar riffs and chipper choruses lies an astutely observed, acutely wrenching breakup narrative. Frontman Justin Kennedy cycles through the stages of grief, from bitterness (the deceptively upbeat piano plink of "Ode to Janice Melt") to shrugging acceptance (the aptly titled "Pastoral"), emphasizing sharp hooks and partisan reportage over woe-is-me solipsism. A feel-bad record you can actually feel good about.

  • Ty Segall, 'Goodbye Bread' (Drag City)

    Ty Segall, 'Goodbye Bread' (Drag City)

    After several albums of caustic, cryptic scuzz-punk, San Francisco's Ty Segall finally cleans up his act -- or, at the very least, dustbusts it around the edges. His glassine vocals, once buried, now float high and ghostlike; and the quick shivs of guitar sound fat and happy. But even on an album pockmarked with hooks, Segall keeps it weird, turning a straightforward love song into a creepy come-on ("You Make the Sun Fry"); and on "The Floor," he throws a jaunty fiddle breakdown atop a tale of night-sweat dread.

  • Fucked Up, 'David Comes to Life' (Matador)

    Fucked Up, 'David Comes to Life' (Matador)

    Toronto's fucked up possess quite a few barriers to entry. There's the fitting yet unfit-for-print name, for starters. Then there are the band's chaotic live shows, during which gargantuan frontman Damian Abraham -- imagine the Neverending Story's Rockbiter, ?only beardier -- often bonks his noggin till it bleeds. Finally, there's the music itself, a hardcore punk-indebted slurry of grunt-gargling vocals, serrated feedback squalls, and densely packed lyrics that cover everything from police brutality to metaphysical phenomena.

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    Breaking Out: The Henry Clay People

    In the last year, the members of the Henry Clay People have played Lollapalooza, toured the West Coast with Drive-by Truckers, and signed to the same label as Radiohead. So they're living the high life, right? "Actually, I had to sell a guitar today to make my credit card payment," says guitarist Andy Siara, 24, from his apartment in L.A.'s Glendale suburb. Luckily, the buyer was Joey Siara, his 27-year-old brother, and the Henry Clay People's frontman. And since Joey's broke, too, there's a good chance Andy will be able to buy back his instrument before the next bill is due. Formed in 2006, and named for the 19th-century Whig statesman, the Henry Clay People specialize in raggedy power chords, barreling piano, and desperately boyish vocals -- what Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers would sound like if they'd taken temp work and listened obsessively to Crazy Horse.

  • The Besnard Lakes, 'The Besnard Lakes Are the Roaring Night' (Jagjaguwar)

    This Montreal orchestral rock combo's previous efforts were lush and woozy, like a half-remembered dream, but Roaring Night is the stuff of nightmares. The guitars tremble and crash, the harmonies drift like weary ghosts, and the lyrics, while opaque, conjure up cloistered armies and resolute stalkers. The highlight is "Chicago Train," a demented lullaby that culminates in a wave of fuzzed-out riffs; like much of the album, it's beguiling but disorienting. BUY:Amazon

  • The Wildhearts, 'Chutzpah!' (Backstage Alliance)

    Over eight studio albums, the Wildhearts have flaunted smash-and-grab riffs and airborne choruses with such certitude that it's easy to take the U.K. outfit for granted. But Chutzpah! does offer a few stylistic overhauls: There's a new-wave throb on the where-did-our-love-go? lament "You Took the Sunshine From New York," while the title track combines robo-pop vocals, thrash guitars, and a big-ballad piano coda. Yet frontman Ginger never abandons the aggressive hookery that's kept him going for nearly 20 years. That titular exclamation point is well deserved. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Franz Ferdinand, 'Tonight: Franz Ferdinand' (Domino/Epic)

    How did Scottish people ever have sex before the existence of Franz Ferdinand? No offense to the Highlands' cozy twee-pop lineage, but until this Glasgow band's lusty2004 debut, the height of Scot-rock ribaldry was either (a) Shirley Manson or (b) Rod Stewart in a kilt. Tonight is Franz's boldest attempt at a full-on disco record. The synths on "Twilight Omens" recall Giorgio Moroder, while the bass line on "Can't Feel Anymore" is straight outta Larry Levan's Paradise Garage. But because the dance floor is far less interesting when couples pair off and leave, Tonight is all about the art of the extended flirt.

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    Album of the Year: TV on the Radio

    "Do the butt dance. Do the butt dance!" It's a Tuesday afternoon at Minneapolis' First Avenue nightclub, and three members of TV on the Radio -- guitarist and producer Dave Sitek, drummer Jaleel Bunton, and bassist-keyboardist Gerard Smith -- are beginning their soundcheck with an offering to the local deity: Prince. This is where Purple Rain was filmed, and as Sitek strums the title track, Bunton propels himself across the stage with the same glute-shaking strut perfected by the Purple One nearly 25 years ago. This is followed by a few Morris Day vamps and an a cappella "Little Red Corvette." If Prince were to suddenly ride in atop a velour-covered, minotaur-driven sleigh, he'd either beam with pride or sue.

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    Fucked Up: Crazy/Beautiful

    Damian Abraham is a formidable­looking dude -- he describes himself, accurately, as "a 300­pound balding lead singer, covered in hair in all the wrong places" -- and when he steps to a basement studio microphone in Toronto, he resembles a squishy giant preparing for combat. Abraham (a.k.a. Pink Eyes, a.k.a. Father Damian) is the frontman and default spectacle for Fucked Up, and tonight he's recording the vocals for "Year of the Rat," a 12­minute single in which he doesn't sing so much as tactically bark. Shoulders hunched, knuckles down and inward, Abraham takes a breath and emits the last line: "HhuurrrRRAAAAAATTTTTtttuuhh," corrugating the word nearly beyond the point of recognition.

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