• Kelley Stoltz, 'To Dreamers' (Sub Pop)

    Kelley Stoltz, 'To Dreamers' (Sub Pop)

    On his fifth full-length, this '60s-pop obsessive mostly ditches the balmy homemade chorales of his earlier work for folk-rock verities, crafting his tightest, fullest-sounding record yet. Now a savvy strategist, he mixes in all manner of relationship highs and lows to match his stylistic shifts -- a couple raring to elope on power popper "Fire Escape," a stalled affair on the multilayered psych of "I Don't Get That," a desperately pleading dude on garage rocker "Little Girl," and a hopeful dreamer on baroque pop gem "August." If R.E.M. are ever ready for a roots move, they should give Stoltz a shout.

  • Suckers, 'Wild Smile' (Frenchkiss)

    Animal Collective's layers of echoes give you a migraine? Try the foamy debut by this mask-clad Brooklyn quartet, who ground AC's sound, emphasizing the pretty flourishes and gentle, breathy chorales. Effervescent tunes like "You Can Keep Me Runnin' Around" and "It Gets Your Body Movin'" mine mid-'60s studio pop/psych obsessions -- booming slo-mo drums, charming theatrics, and whistling, lilting hooks. At its best, Suckers' baroque pop struts confidently in glam platforms, blithely eager to please. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Futureheads, 'The Chaos' (Nul/Dovecote)

    In the post-punk revival sweepstakes, this U.K. quartet has chugged along since their 2004 debut full-length, gradually expanding their update on early XTC's kooky dynamics. Their fourth album frets over dreams and queues, yet flashes Queen-like operatic vocals and Springsteen arena flourishes. Glimmers of hope eventually appear-the tense determination of "I Can Do That" ("I am not a joke!") and the raging drama of "Jupiter" ("Believe there's good out there"). Cheer up, lads, you've outpaced the Rapture and outlasted the Rakes. ?BUY:?iTunes??Amazon

  • Kleenex/LiLiPUT, 'Live Recordings, TV-Clips & Roadmovies' (Kill Rock Stars)

    As an addendum to 2001's double-CD release of these post-punk Swiss misses' remarkable studio catalog, Kill Rock Stars digs even deeper for an appropriately lo-fi 1979 concert and a tighter late-career gig from 1983. Historically obscure? Yeah, but the bonus bits from Swiss TV performances perfectly capture the goofy joy of romps like "Ain't You" and "Nice," while the companion DVD is a nonstop hoot: wonderfully no-frills, lip-synched videos; hairy hippies manically dancing at the band's shows; and Super 8 clips of European tour travails. BUY:Amazon

  • F--ked Up, 'Couple Tracks: Singles 2002–2009' (Matador)

    Think of this impressive, 25-song double-CD compilation as Singles Going Screaming -- a testament to a Canadian punk institution. Live, singer Damian "Pink Eyes" Abraham stalks the stage like a disturbed, bloody hulk, but on record his throat-shredding shouts are always focused, alongside Mike Haliechuk's relentless guitar and Jonah Falco's ferocious drumming. "Triumph of Life" has an epic, Ramones-like power, "Toronto FC" is surf music on crank, and the screed "Ban Violins" bluntly proclaims, "Born again?/ Free from sin / Let the suffering begin." The most righteously hardcore Great White North punks since D.O.A., Fucked Up play rock with a stunning, untrammeled force. BUY: Amazon

  • Circulatory System, 'Signal Morning' (Cloud Recordings)

    Retro as it is -- 17 songs split into two "sides" -- this dense, complex document is an impressive display of vitality by the Athens, Georgia–based Elephant 6 collective, as Will Cullen Hart of the late Olivia Tremor Control weds that band's bizarre breakdowns with Apples in Stereo's earnest tunefulness. Distant, filtered vocals, fuzz guitars, synth eruptions, and booming drums predominate but don't overpower the bright, jangly anthems ("Round Again") or regal rockers ("Overjoyed"). BUY:Amazon

  • Fruit Bats, 'The Ruminant Band' (Sub Pop)

    This folkie indie-pop band doesn't slam you with hooks on its fourth album -- everything is catchy in a modest, reasonable way. Backed by Allman-esque guitars (title track, "Feather Bed") and stern Band-like keyboards ("Tegucigalpa"), frontman Eric Johnson digs into tales of romantic Americana: a waitress' unrequited love on "Singing Joy to the World," the touching reverie of "Flamingo," and the singalong "Hobo Girl." It's not homey enough to make you stop mourning Silver Jews, but maybe provincial enough to make Will Oldham pay respect. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Micachu & the Shapes, 'Jewellery' (Rough Trade)

    With micro-house maven Matthew Herbert at the controls, wunderkind composer and hip-hop head Mica Levi leads her trio through this 28-minute cockeyed burst, each song a bizarre little post-punk contraption that sounds like it's ready to fly apart and wreak havoc. Yet her debut is also insanely disorienting fun. Somewhere among the almost random beats, noises, and odd samples (clearly influenced by Blectum from Blechdom's glitchy absurdism), it even swings (the brief, playful "Sweetheart") and occasionally blindsides you with a striking melody (the bhangra-flavored "Just in Case"). BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Telekinesis, 'Telekinesis!' (Merge)

    Seattle's Michael Benjamin Lerner is a one-man band that doesn't come off like one, mainly because as a drummer who plays guitar (like Dave Grohl) he has a sharper rhythmic sense than guitarists who try to play drums. On this debut, Lerner's gorgeous vocals, sunny melodies, and catchy choruses sound like a Fab Four fantasy trip as he logs extensive mileage in a breezy rush of crisscrossing travelogue songs. He races along the sunny "Coast of Carolina" to bullet trains in "Tokyo" to a wistful outing in the "Great Lakes." Matthew Sweet wishes he still had power-pop mojo like this. Listen: Telekinesis, "I Saw Lightning" BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Zach Hill, 'Astrological Straits' (Ipecac)

    On his solo half of Hella's 2005 double album, Church Gone Wild/Chirpin' Hard, drummer Zach Hill further explored the Mars Volta metal prog that Hella itself was slavishly pursuing. But the first album under his own name is stranger and more varied, a psychedelic/psychotic kaleidoscope worthy of early Animal Collective. Aided by multiple guests (Primus' Les Claypool, Deftones' Chino Moreno, No Age's Randy Randall and Dean Spunt, Marnie Stern, others), Hill busts out frequent drum solos/fills, hitching them to gabba hoe-downs ("Toll Road"), psychedelic chorales ("Dark Art"), and math rock on steroids ("Uhuru"), with alien-transmission voices everywhere. May Hella once again follow his path. BUY: iTunesAmazon

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