• Great Lake Swimmers, 'New Wild Everywhere' (Nettwerk)

    Sure, you Canadians have pedal steel and weepy strings, but nobody believes you own a horse.

  • AU, 'Both Lights' (Hometapes)

    Animal Collective likeness isn’t true anymore, now it’s austere indie and complex compositions for future circuses.

  • Xiu Xiu, 'Always' (Polyvinyl)

    Jamie Stewart's cutting art-rock (rape, murder, abortion) still reflects life's cruelty, but also provides pop escape.

  • Miike Snow, 'Happy to You' (Downtown)

    Whoever remarked that all music is soul music (James Brown? Florian from Kraftwerk?) would have been monumentally confused by Miike Snow, who it should be noted up top are actually three guys, none named Miike, or even Mike. Which isn't to say this U.S./Sweden exchange program's second album is soulless, exactly, but rather that its attempts at human warmth, using tools hybridized from the worlds of indie dance and full-on electronica, rarely succeed at raising temperatures. The band's self-titled 2009 debut effectively stimulated hearts and hips; this one mostly just tickles them, the sensation pleasant but fleeting.

  • Oberhofer, 'Time Capsules II' (Glassnote Records)

    Is naïveté part of this young'un’s aesthetic? Is his beachy, simple pop just green? Time to ripen.

  • Robert Pollard, 'Mouseman Cloud' (Guided By Voices Inc.)

    Non-experts: This is exactly as good as everything else he’s done in the last 10 years, from GBV down

  • Plants and Animals, 'The End of That' (Secret City)

    Never decide between Arcade Fire and classic rock again. But choose either over this pastiche.

  • Damien Jurado, 'Maraqopa' (Secretly Canadian)

    Sad-sack songwriter, 10 albums in, still finds ways to add color: this time via light psych and Roy Orbison.

  • Cursive, 'I Am Gemini' (Saddle Creek)

    More expertly angsty smart-rock from Conor’s spiritual elder. More metal and conceptual in all the right ways.

  • Carter Tanton, 'Freeclouds' (Western Vinyl)

    Carter Tanton -- of the now-defunct Tulsa and still-thriving Lower Dens -- style-jumps so restlessly that his second solo disc sometimes feels like a multi-artist playlist rather than a one-man show. His keening tenor offers a through-line on an album that rushes from R.E.M.-indebted melancholy jangle ("Murderous Joy") to slinky beats ("Gauze of Song") to a Sparklehorse cover. He even dabbles, poorly, in dub reggae on "Pasture Sound." Otherwise, nothing here falls completely flat, but if Tanton would focus more on songs like the insistent, noisy "Horrorscope" -- or settle on any one thing, really -- Freeclouds could cohere. Instead, it's a blur.

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