• Sloan, 'The Double Cross' (Yep Roc)

    Sloan, 'The Double Cross' (Yep Roc)

    Fans of Argy Bargy-era Squeeze will find a lot to love on the tenth studio album by this Canuck quartet, whose impeccable power pop has often felt like the apotheosis of the genre. "Follow the Leader," "Shadow of Love," and "Your Daddy Will Do" in particular gleefully flaunt their makers' keyboard-patterned skinny ties. But while the hooks and harmonies rarely disappoint, the presence of multiple lead vocalists on each record has, over 20 years, led to a niggling colorlessness, which may account for the band's cult status in these lower 48. Democracy: not always a good idea.

  • Rival Schools, 'Pedals' (Photo Finish/Atlantic)

    Rival Schools, 'Pedals' (Photo Finish/Atlantic)

    In the ten years since Rival Schools' underappreciated debut, United by Fate, main man Walter Schreifels has been busy starting new bands (including the magnificent Walking Concert), reuniting with his NYHC posse Gorilla Biscuits, producing others, and releasing a solo album. While this comeback attempt lacks the brash, anthemic crunch of their grunge-U2 debut, it does display the same knack for twisty, melodic tunes girded by knotty guitars and Schreifels' likably straining vocals. From squealing lite-psych nuggets ("Shot After Shot") to earnest but not gooey heart-tuggers ("Small Doses"), Pedals reveals a group of reenergized vets who've hardly mellowed with encroaching middle age.

  • Elbow, 'Build a Rocket Boys!' (Fiction)

    Elbow, 'Build a Rocket Boys!' (Fiction)

    Call it dream pomp. On the fifth studio album from these Manchester-based Mercury Prize winners, drama king Guy Garvey once again lends his soothing, pashmina-smooth voice to casually hypnotic tracks that occupy the space between So-era Peter Gabriel and OK Computer-era Radiohead. The title's missing comma notwithstanding, there's tremendous attention to detail, particularly on the swooning "Lippy Kids"and glorious, gospelly "With Love." Expansiveyet intimate, ornate yet seductive, this is capital-A Art rock without pretense,but with tremendousheart.

  • The Jim Jones Revue, 'Burning Your House Down' (Punk Rock Blues)

    The Jim Jones Revue, 'Burning Your House Down' (Punk Rock Blues)

    Those still crowing that rock'n'roll is dead clearly haven't heard this righteous London band who play frantic Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano stomp with the leering menace of late-'60s proto-punkers. Like a hellspawn hybrid of Nick Cave and Jon Spencer, the strutting, testifying, preening, hectoring Jones leads a quintet of garage lifers stinking of Vitalis and sweat through 11 turbulent originals ("Big Len" and "Elemental" chief among them). By exhuming and reanimating the past, they've made a forward-thinking masterpiece.

  • Toadies, 'Feeler' (Kirtland)

    You've been touring nonstop in support of your first new album in seven years. What do you do next? If you're Texas-based scrungers Toadies, you redo your unreleased second album, recorded in 1997 and rejected by Interscope, presumably for lacking another "Possum Kingdom," which drove their debut Rubberneck to platinum sales. The label was perceptive -- the closest to a "hit" here is the insistently melodic "City of Hate" -- but that doesn't mean Vaden Todd Lewis and crew were slacking. No one does sinister arena rock better, and on the rabid "Dead Boy," they offer a bottleneck-guitar solo seemingly played by Satan himself. BUY:Amazon

  • The Divine Comedy, 'Bang Goes the Knighthood' (Divine Comedy)

    Three decades and ten albums into a stealth career as one of pop's greatest unsung tunesmiths, Neil Hannon keeps the in -- a -- perfect -- world hits coming. This time, he fixes his decidedly non -- rocking melodic swoon and urbane wit on recessions both financial and romantic, politicians' sex scandals, as well as the disconnections among commuters wearing earphones. But he saves his most affecting words for the sharply observed "At the Indie Disco," where "she makes my heart beat the same way as at the start of 'Blue Monday.'" Just beautiful. ?BUY:?iTunes??Amazon

  • Devo, 'Something for Everybody' (Warner Bros.)

    On their first album in 20 years, the spud boys return to show dancey electro-pop pretenders how it's done -- syn-drums and all. While name producers Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, Sia) and Santi White add a thoroughly postmodern sheen to songs that reference Tased bros and Obama's challenges, others like "Mind Games" and "Later Is Now" seem cryogenically preserved from 1982. And on "What We Do" the band sound like they're biting Gang of Four's "To Hell with Poverty" howls. Woof! BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Divine Comedy, 'Bang Goes the Knighthood' (Divine Comedy)

    Three decades and ten albums into a stealth career as one of pop's greatest unsung tunesmiths, Neil Hannon keeps the in-a-perfect-world hits coming. This time, he fixes his decidedly non-rocking melodic swoon and urbane wit on recessions both financial and romantic, politicians' sex scandals, as well as the disconnections among commuters wearing earphones. But he saves his most affecting words for the sharply observed "At the Indie Disco," where "she makes my heart beat the same way as at the start of 'Blue Monday.'" Just beautiful. BUY: Amazon

  • Danko Jones, 'Below the Belt' (Bad Taste/Caroline)

    Expect nothing resembling subtlety on this Toronto trio's latest batch of retribution anthems -- all brutal punch-pop riffing, rumble-gut bass, and accusatory posturing. But despitehis exaggerated bluster, their namesake singer- guitarist revels in the genre's inherent humor, adding high harmonies on the otherwise furious "I Wanna Break Up With You," even throwing away a Kiss in-joke. The sex metaphors don't get more creative than active volcanoes, dynamite, and magic snakes, but when the cowbell's getting this kind of workout, who has any right to complain? BUY:Amazon

  • Walter Schreifels, 'An Open Letter to the Scene' (Academy Fight Song)

    With his surprising solo debut, this hardcore and alt-rock vet (Gorilla Biscuits, Quicksand, Rival Schools) nods in the direction of his last band, Walking Concert, offering low-key, mostly acoustic reveries, highlighted by his keening, vulnerable tenor. But he's still daydreaming about his roots: name-checking Evan from Biohazard, turning a song he wrote for CIV into a retro-garage nugget, quoting NYHC skins Warzone, and stripping down Agnostic Front so they sound like Nirvana. And on the flip, just imagine what Rod Stewart could do with "She Is to Me." BUY:Amazon

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