• Pterodactyl, 'Spills Out' (Brah)

    Pterodactyl, 'Spills Out' (Brah)

    These psych-lite Brooklynites dip into the darker stuff a couple times on their third album, but the nauseous swirl of "Thorn" and the tonally flat "Allergy Shots" don't really suit them. It's only when Pterodactyl embrace their underlying pop core and ratchet up the jangle -- see the breezy "The Break" or the '60s sunburst "Searchers" -- that Spills Out makes an effective splash. The band's contemporaries (label bosses Oneida, in particular) explore uncertain gloom more effectively; these guys should stick to the sunny side of that street.

  • Comet Gain, 'Howl of the Lonely Crowd' (What's Your Rupture?)

    Comet Gain, 'Howl of the Lonely Crowd' (What's Your Rupture?)

    Comet Gain, your favorite indie band's favorite U.K. indie band, have toiled obscurely for nearly 20 years, and their sixth album (coproduced by Edwyn Collins) rests restlessly on the continuum of snottily sincere, punk-inspired English pop somewhere between the Fall and Los Campesinos! This kind of ramshackle songwriting immediately sounds of a certain vintage, which can net a poignant, tragic-romantic classic ("The Weekend Dreams"), but occasionally overreaches (the spoken-word "A Memorial for Nobody I Know"). Even if you download this, squint and you'll swear it's a bunch of long-lost, late-'80s/early-'90s seven-inches.

  • Gauntlet Hair, 'Gauntlet Hair' (Dead Oceans)

    Gauntlet Hair, 'Gauntlet Hair' (Dead Oceans)

    This horribly named duo's towering pop songs are buried so deep in reverberating juju that it's sometimes hard to follow them. But like obvious touchstones Yeasayer (pre-Erasure fixation) and Animal Collective (the more accessible years), the tribal rhythms and dissonance ultimately help make the melodies sound sweeter. Deep digging isn't required on "Top Bunk," which sounds like Band of Horses on (stronger) psychedelics; but a track like "That's Your Call" -- with its long, distorted drum break giving way to skipping, faraway soul -- requires more patience. Rub your eyes really hard to add the appropriate light show.

  • We Were Promised Jetpacks, 'In the Pit of the Stomach' (FatCat)

    We Were Promised Jetpacks, 'In the Pit of the Stomach' (FatCat)

    Scotland's current gang of catharsis-seeking sad bastards -- Frightened Rabbit, the Twilight Sad, and these lads -- score another win here. We Were Promised Jetpacks' second album tightens the craggy fuzz of their first, revealing twisty post-punk songs with chewy pop centers. Only a couple of songs on 2009's These Four Walls invited shout-alongs; this time they're everywhere, from crashing opener "Circles and Squares" ("Life in a coma could be quite fun!") to the bouncy "Medicine" ("Is this about me now?") to dirge-y death ballad ?"Act on Impulse." It's lyrically somber, no doubt, ?but ultimately redemptive -- like a healing calm after the storm.

  • Talkdemonic, 'Ruins' (Glacial Pace)

    Talkdemonic, 'Ruins' (Glacial Pace)

    A name like Talkdemonic suggests some sort of ?ominous incantation, but this electro-acoustic Portland duo's fourth album -- and first for Modest Mouse leader Isaac Brock's ?label -- delivers largely ?mellow, wordless mood music. When viola player Lisa Molinaro and electrician/drummer Kevin O'Connor lock their sounds together naturally, as on the gorgeous floater "Cascading," they sound beautifully out of time. However, on the rare occasions when they try to live up to their badass-sounding name -- the clattering first minute of "Violet" or the scratchy "Midnight Pass" -- it sounds a little forced. But Ruins mostly sticks to compelling, pretty surfaces and leaves the demons in the background.

  • Cymbals Eat Guitars, 'Lenses Alien' (Barsuk)

    Cymbals Eat Guitars, 'Lenses Alien' (Barsuk)

    Old-school indie purists could use a modern hero, and while it may be unfair to peg Cymbals Eat Guitars as '90s revivalists, their second album will speak to fans of Built to Spill's squall, Superchunk's chug, and Modest Mouse's string-bending strangeness. Frontman Joe D'Agostino, a.k.a. Joseph Ferocious, belongs in such lofty company: His dense, inventive songs evoke imagistic glimpses of mucus and ice-covered cars, moving from a gentle keen ("Plainclothes") to a desperate scream. Gorgeously harrowing album closer "Gary Condit" plays both sides, its prettiness collapsing into ferocity before disappearing entirely.

  • The War on Drugs, 'Slave Ambient' (Secretly Canadian)

    The War on Drugs, 'Slave Ambient' (Secretly Canadian)

    These Philly rockers conjure an ambling drone that conceals real pop hooks ?and allows classic-rock ?colors to seep through. ?Main man Adam Granduciel gets plenty of Dylan comparisons, but Slave Ambient feels like a more back-alley Byrds filtered through a gauzier Spacemen 3 lens. The chugging "Your Love Is Calling My Name" drives that road for six blissful ?minutes. But their best song, "Baby Missiles" -- in ?a different version here ?than on 2010's Future Weather EP -- overlays a synth aura, like '80s-era Springsteen with a splash of Arcade Fire. It's vexing ?in exactly the right way.

  • Woods, 'Sun and Shade' (Woodsist)

    Woods, 'Sun and Shade' (Woodsist)

    These Brooklyn folk rockers, whose leader, Jeremy Earl, runs the label that sorta bears their name, have tended to bounce from style to style over their numerous releases. But on the band's sixth album, they're most comfortable in the spot where Guided by Voices ("Any Other Day") bump into ?the Kinks ("What Faces ?the Sheet") -- slightly psychedelic and frequently sticky, breezily charming and pleasantly woozy. Unfortunately, when they wander into their hippie navels for instrumental zone-outs ("Sol Y Sombra"), Sun stops dead.

  • BC-approved-3.jpg

    The Underground Guide: Chicago with Black Cards

    With his emo-punk juggernaut Fall Out Boy on extended hiatus, bassist-lyricist Pete Wentz launched the poppy, ska-leaning Black Cards with singer Bebe Re xha. The band has just a handful of shows under its belt, including one at the Chicago outpost of Angels & Kings, a bar Wentz co-owns. Black Cards, whose debut album is imminent, will return to Chicago-Wentz grew up just outside the city, in suburban Wilmette-to play Lollapalooza this summer, on the same stage as FOB singerâ€"turnedâ€"solo artist Patrick Stump. Breakfast spot The Original Pancake House 153 Green Bay Rd., Wilmette 847-251-6000 Wentz is quick to point out that, though this is a chain, it's definitely not IHOP. "Pretty much every Sunday we would go there," says Wentz. "The apple pancake takes, like, four hours to make.

  • Eddie Vedder, 'Ukulele Songs' (Monkeywrench)

    Eddie Vedder, 'Ukulele Songs' (Monkeywrench)

    Going against self-serious type, Eddie Vedder releases an album of -- truth in advertising -- ukulele songs, taking a breather from Pearl Jam's big-rock caravan. His unadorned plucking rings sweet and simple, supporting little love songs that rely mostly on Vedder's lovely baritone. Only "Can't Keep" and "Without You" could conceivably be expanded into PJ songs; the rest feel too weightless, though duets with Glen Hansard and Chan Marshall (on uke standard "Tonight You Belong to Me" via Steve Martin's The Jerk) are pleasant enough. If you've ever fantasized about Vedder singing you, or your kids, to sleep, consider your wish fulfilled.

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