• Adam Green, 'Minor Love' (Fat Possum)

    Juno soundtrack star Kimya Dawson has far outshone her former Moldy Peaches bandmate, so with his sixth solo effort, Adam Green tries maturity on for size. It's a good fit, even if you keep waiting for a punch line that never comes (he's the author of "Choke on a Cock," after all). But Minor Love still packs some Jonathan Richman–esque quirk, as Green croons in a Lou Reed deadpan about goblins, flatulence, and other concerns over solidly constructed lo-fi tunes. He's certainly not growing up too fast, but he is growing up. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Gemma Ray, 'Lights Out Zoltar!' (Bronzerat)

    Gemma Ray has a dramatic flair for jarring contrasts -- chanting the title of "Tough Love" in a shell-shocked deadpan as a toy piano plunks in the background or perfectly copping Beach Boys–style wooos in "Fist of a Flower." Had Phil Spector forced his girl groups in a more noir-soundtrack direction, this might've been the result. Ray has a truly impressive feel for vintage pop flourishes, layered to lavish effect. And all those details are what you're supposed to be paying attention to, right up until the blade hits your back. LISTEN: Gemma Ray's Lights Out Zoltar! 100mph (in 2nd Gear) by Gemma Ray BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Ettes, 'Do You Want Power' (Take Root)

    Straightforward and no-nonsense, this Nashville foursome boasts no agenda other than to make you shimmy and nod your head. Do You Want Power hits those marks, though it suffers just a bit from being all over the place -- the folksy twang of "Love Lies Bleeding" rests uneasily alongside the revved-up rock elsewhere. Still, that's a minor complaint. The album benefits from the solid production of Memphis garage-punk icon Greg Cartwright (Oblivians, Reigning Sound), who cleans 'em up without taking out the trash completely. Somewhere, Joan Jett is smiling. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Pere Ubu, 'Long Live Pere Ubu!' (Hearpen)

    Pere Ubu have never been easy listening, but the Ohio art-punk legends have never been quite this difficult, either. Long Live Pere Ubu! is the exceptionally odd soundtrack to frontman David Thomas' absurdist play Bring Me the Head of Ubu Roi -- an adaptation of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi, which caused riots and scandal upon its Paris debut in 1896. So there's lots of theatrics to go with the Beefheart skronk, which will clear most rooms. But the folks who stay are the ones you'll want to hang with. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Megafaun, 'Gather, Form & Fly' (Hometapes)

    This shaggy freak-folk trio's second album boasts more than coolness by association (Bon Iver's Justin Vernon is a former bandmate). Gather, Form & Fly extends Megafaun's back-porch mad science into unexpectedly epic realms, including straight blues and even pure pop, embellished with skronky, experimental sound effects. None of it feels forced, proceeding as naturally as raindrop becomes river becomes ocean. Standouts include the majestic chime of "The Fade" and "Kaufman's Ballad," a tribute to the man who stole Gram Parsons' corpse and drove it into the desert to burn. Spookily, this could be exactly what it sounded like. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Various Artists, 'Wheedle's Groove/Kearney Barton' (Light in the Attic)

    Here's proof that Seattle is an underrated R&B paradise -- 37 minutes of the hot-test funk and coolest grooves you'll hear all year. Wheedle's Groove is a supersession crew of Seattle old-timers, most in their 60s, and Kearney Barton plays like the soundtrack to the greatest blaxploitation flick never made. It's all fantastic, but the money shots are covers of the Stone Roses ("Fools Gold") and Soundgarden. Ever wonder how "Jesus Christ Pose" might sound as a slow-burn gospel throwdown? Trust me, you need to hear it. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Avett Brothers, 'I and Love and You' (American/Columbia)

    The great divide between the Avett Brothers' raucous live shows and their records' restraint continues on the North Carolina quartet's major-label debut. But I and Love and You still represents a serious change-up. With Rick Rubin producing and all parties bearing down as never before, the album is poppy enough to make Ben Folds jealous -- and not just because there's more piano than banjo. No, they're not hollering so much, and this is as close to perfectly in tune as the Avetts have ever sounded. But more than anything, I and Love and You proves how miscast the Brothers were as folkies, because their ambitions are so much larger.

  • Patterson Hood, 'Murdering Oscar (and Other Love Songs)' (Ruth St.)

    Although most of the songs on Patterson Hood's second solo album predate the existence of Drive-By Truckers, they'd easily fit on any of his band's records -- same low-life characters, busted dreams, and black humor, rendered in solidly gothic Southern rock. The body count starts on the title track, with Hood sounding both regretful and turned on as he howls, "I killed Oscar and I forgave me." Then he attempts to claim self-defense. Hood's unreliable narrator is always lookin' for forgiveness in all the wrong places, even if he's the only one listening to his confession. Listen: Patterson Hood, "I Killed Oscar" (DOWNLOAD MP3)BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, 'hERE aND nOW' (Bar/None)

    Peter Holsapple and Chris Stamey, best known as cofounders of early-'80s indie legends the dB's, have done fine work individually, but they're still meant to be heard together-and hERE aND nOW deftly proves it. Their first full-length collaboration since 1991's stellar Mavericks is a beautiful set of grown-up pop, meshing Holsapple's emotional directness with Stamey's headier approach. It's a highly effective counterpoint that even works on songs they didn't write themselves: The duo's lilting version of "My Friend the Sun," originally by the late-'60s/early-'70s British art-rock band Family, has the jingle-jangle shimmer of a lost Beatles single, a hit in an alternative universe far, far away. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Todd Snider, 'The Excitement Plan' (Yep Roc)

    Todd Snider was born in Oregon, but he's a spiritual Texan -- a hardheaded, sharp-penned Americana songwriter whose character-actor croon fits somewhere between Lyle Lovett and Jerry Jeff Walker. But like Robert Earl Keen, he has a way with a punch line and the frat-boy fans to prove it -- they're gonna love "America's Favorite Pastime," which recounts the 1970 no-hitter Dock Ellis pitched on LSD. The rest of us will admire "Bring 'Em Home," a spirited call to get our troops the hell out of harm's way. Listen to the man. Watch: Todd Snider, "Slim Chance" (Live) BUY: iTunesAmazon

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