• What's on Your Mind (Free Energy)?

    Free Energy, 'Love Sign' (Free Energy)

    Dramatic cowbell use by a rock band in 2013 could almost be considered a political act, or at the very least a statement. It's either ironic — "Hey, we get how dated this sounds!" — or it’s some sort of reclamation. It's never been easy to tell whether Free Energy's unabashed embrace of '70s and '80s radio rock was sincere, or delivered with a massive wink.

  • The Evens / Photo by Charles Previtire

    The Evens, 'The Odds' (Dischord)

    The further he gets from Fugazi, the more Ian MacKaye seems comfortable with allowing his current band to echo the legitimately legendary D.C. post-punk powerhouse he once co-fronted. (Though officially "on hiatus," they haven't played a show since 2002, and if there's one band in the world you can count on to never cash in….) When MacKaye and Amy Farina — herself a D.C. punk vet, via the Warmers — launched the Evens in 2005, their relative lack of volume and stridency felt like a deliberate flight from all those years of loud guitars and righteous shouts.With album number three, delivered a full six years after their debut, the duo — him on baritone guitar, her on drums, both singing — flares up like never before, and they're more compelling than ever.

  • Jason Lytle, 'Dept. of Disappearance' (Anti-)

    Grandaddy ended with a whimper in 2006, six years after hitting an artistic and commercial peak with The Sophtware Slump, an album that forward-thinking trucker-hat enthusiasts recognized as the sweet-hearted little stoner brother of OK Computer and Transmissions from the Satellite Heart. These were rural Northern California dudes who somehow evoked the sensation of moss growing on disused robots, all by delivering quiet, unassuming indie-rock epics littered with vintage synthesizers.Naturally, they caught the reunion bug and convened this year for a handful of triumphant, belated-victory-lap shows, but "unassuming" remains the operative word in Grandaddy Land, and that shyness continues apace with the second solo album from frontman Jason Lytle. Considering how much Dept.

  • Divine Fits, 'A Thing Called Divine Fits' (Merge)

    Dan Boeckner's musical report card should be emblazoned with the words "Plays well with others." He has shared the spotlight in Wolf Parade (now two years dormant) and the more recently split Handsome Furs (the latter a collaboration with wife Alexei Perry). Britt Daniel, on the other hand, is probably the only guy in Spoon you know by name; he's the singer (and, for the most part, sole credited songwriter) for a band that, while not quite enjoying superstar status, can and will secure an early-evening slot at your friendly neighborhood major outdoor festival. Together, they're the Divine Fits, a supergroup of sorts — also including garage-rock drum maestro Sam Brown, late of a dozen bands and currently of the still-chugging New Bomb Turks — that sounds more like two of indie rock's most important and talented frontmen playing near, rather than with, each other.

  • Eternal Summers, 'Correct Behavior' (Kanine)

    Twee trio recalls '90s indie-swirl like Tiger Trap and the reverb-iest bits of Best Coast.

  • Dusted, 'Total Dust' (Polyvinyl)

    Holy Fuck and Final Fantasy guys strip bare and make heartbroken bedroom rock on shitty gear: Calling Lou Barlow…

  • DZ Deathrays, 'Bloodstreams' (INgrooves/3qtr/Hassle Records)

    Two long-haired Aussies impress more with volume than skill....Still, there’s nothing wrong with grunge.

  • Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, 'The Lion The Beast The Beat' (Hollywood)

    Potter’s country lean gives way to cliché rock moves: It’s Heart sans heart.

  • The Mynabirds, 'Generals' (Saddle Creek)

    Indie-soulsters drop the '60s wisp for darker, buzzier moods, nicely adding Cat Power, Siouxsie, politics.

  • Tallest Man On Earth, 'There's No Leaving Now' (Dead Oceans)

    Big-named tiny Swede still loves Dylan, doesn't think twice about copping his early strum.

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