• Sweet Apple, 'Love and Desperation' (Tee Pee)

    Two dudes from bong rockers Witch, including Dinosaur Jr. ax godJ. Mascis, and two more from middle-aged glam junksters Cobra Verde, including singer John Petkovic, make for a three-guitar, super-ish group that actually gets somewhere rather than just revving its engine (see Them Crooked Vultures). Petkovic loses his mom and has death on the brain, while his mates thunder away cathartically, one stomp box in the power pop of their youth, one in the heavy indie thud they invented, sounding like they're thrilled to be alive. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, 'The Brutalist Bricks' (Matador)

    Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, 'The Brutalist Bricks' (Matador)

    Ten years into a solo career that has outlasted two stalwart indie labels (Lookout! and Touch and Go), Ted Leo still writes songs like a guy who believes complex ideas require complex sentences -- or at least very specific ones. "There was a resolution pending on the United Nations floor / In reference to the question 'What's a peacekeeping force for?'?" is not a lyric that allows much room for interpretation. Leo's on-message approach -- the antithesis of the D.C. hardcore admixture of powerful music and vague sloganeering that he grew up on -- will always keep him from power-pop perfection, although "Ativan Eyes" and "Even Heroes Have to Die" have righteous spring in their riffs.

  • Nirvana, 'Live at Reading' (Universal)

    Nirvana's headlining gig at the 1992 Reading Festival looms infamously large because of (a) that amazingly creepy photo of Kurt getting wheeled onto the stage looking like Norman Bates' mother, and (b) the show was a mind-blower -- sloppy indie rock as stadium-filling psychedelic punk. Most of Nevermind and a fair portion of Bleach are here, as are fetal versions of "All Apologies" and "Dumb," and a cover of über-influences the Wipers' "D-7." As one might imagine, Kurt sounds alternately world-destroying and already dead. On November 3, the Reading Festival set is getting a CD and DVD release. Better yet, you can catch Nirvana Live at Reading the night before on Fuse TV in its entirety at 11 P.M.

  • The Mountain Goats, 'The Life of the World to Come' (4AD)

    Drawing his 17th studio album's title from the fourth-century Christian text the Nicene Creed, Mountain Goats singer-songwriter John Darnielle then uses Bible verses to launch into taut, unpretentious tunes that sound flawless (hard-strummed acoustic guitar, spare piano and strings, fat round drums) and scan smartly (finest non-hip-hop lyricist in American pop). Turn to the Good Book for context -- it's only the basis for most Western lit, people -- but there's more than enough here (fear, love, spray paint, etc.) for the most devout atheist.

  • Vic Chesnutt, 'At the Cut' (Constellation)

    Reprising the underground all-star lineup from Chesnutt's 2007 opus North Star Deserter (Fugazi's Guy Picciotto, members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion) yields similar results. Start minimal ("When the Bottom Fell Out"), drift into chamber rock ("Chinaberry Tree"), explode into methodical roar ("Philip Guston"). The songwriter has been reading a lot (quotes from Auden, Ferlinghetti, Joseph Roth, et al. are duly footnoted) and he can still get at the ick of life with passion. Plus, it's great to hear Picciotto's guitar again. BUY: Amazon

  • Polvo, 'In Prism' (Merge)

    In the '90s, before cardigan kids got into metal, and indie rock was actually capable of heaviness, the go-to act for complicated riff science was Polvo, four dorks from North Carolina whose guitar weave could hold up a bridge. This reunion packs no shortage of vintage wank -- knotty, largely instrumental songs that surge together and drift apart with a proggy, loose-limbed precision, from the oddly martial "Beggar's Bowl" and massive "Link in the Chain" to the lighter "D.C. Trials" and fiercely melodic "Dream Residue/ Work." BUY:Amazon

  • Jay Reatard, 'Watch Me Fall' (Matador)

    Jay Reatard tells a big fat lie with the title of his second solo album's shortest song, the one-minute, 45-second "Can't Do It Anymore." Instead, he's giving the distinct impression that he can make his roller-coaster guitar roar for as long as he likes. It's an unlikely story: Pudgy fellow with annoying stage name moves from garage gunk to some of the highest-octane power pop since college radio was guided by voices. Reatard, born Jay Lindsey in 1980, started making a three-chord thud in his teens with the Reatards, the Lost Sounds, and a host of other bands. But jaws hit the floor in 2006 upon hearing the squirmy, pedal-stomp guitar fuzz and pogo-ready energy of his solo debut, Blood Visions. Six perfect singles followed in 2008; few indie rockers have ever been on a roll like this. Watch Me Fall is even more melodic.

  • Blank Dogs, 'Under and Under' (In the Red)

    Blank Dogs, a.k.a. Mike Sniper (formerly of garage punks DC Snipers), spent the past few years spewing dim-fi post-punk at a logorrheic pace, a Guided by Voices for überhipsters who worship the Cure's "Seventeen Seconds" and leave the house only when forced off the sofa. Just seven of the 15 songs here break three minutes, which is smart, as Sniper turns rubbery bass lines and thin synths into goth-flavored bubblegum pop.But one wonders what would happen if the music was scaled up in size: "Disintegration" or disintegration? BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Oneida, 'Rated O' (Jagjaguwar)

    Oneida are into full-immersion music, with complete devotion to epic jams that mix digital blips, guitar frenzy, and overblown amp buzz until you can't tell the difference. This triple CD (yes, the length of a Grateful Dead live album) is only part two of a three-part series called "Thank You Parents" (presumably for teaching them that patience is a virtue). Of course, it's much too much, but the fact that it works at all is a testament to their commitment to well-honed rock hypnosis. Good luck finding the front door when it's done. BUY: Amazon

  • Jarvis Cocker, 'Further Complications' (Rough Trade)

    At first, hearing Steve Albini's production of Jarvis Cocker's excellent new album is like finding out that your beloved aunt, the one who introduced you to Fellini and Wilde, had a fling with your favorite science teacher, the one who showed you how to explode sulfur in a tub of water. You love them both for completely different reasons and kind of wish they had never crossed paths. Neither Cocker's chewy structures nor his voice's subtle shadings are particularly well suited to Albini's you-are-there engineering. Fortunately, this collection of surging and reeling tunes is the former Pulp frontman's strongest since Different Class. Tall, bearded, and suavely funny, dude still has a mighty tight pimp game; you just have to listen more closely to appreciate how tight that game is.

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