• The Accidental, 'There Were Wolves' (Thrill Jockey)

    The debut from this London quartet, founded by laptop folkies Sam Genders (Tunng) and Stephen Cracknell (the Memory Band), lulls you along with its sparsely melodic tinkering and blippy slow burn. The muted "Knock Knock" exhales ethereal boy-girl chorales, and the strings-swept "Wolves" purrs with electro pitter-patters. Elsewhere, the group awaken from their dream state and turn earnestly twee, warmly exhorting: "To thine own self be true / There's nothing more to do" on the jangly acoustic closer, "Time and Space." BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • We Are Scientists, 'Brain Thrust Mastery' (Astralwerks)

    The title of the second LP by this Brooklyn synth-rockduo (formerly a trio) loosely alludes to singer Keith Murray's newly discreet, mind-over- body m.o. On 2006's flashy major-label debut With Love and Squalor -- a surprise gold-seller in England -- Murray boozed until he blacked out and invited ladies to use and abuse his body. But on the glitzy rave-ups here, he's hesitant, intoning on "Altered Beast," "I should take my time / I should think this through." Spiky single "After Hours" -- which bites some moves off the Killers' Hot Fuss -- may nod to his band's former reckless ways, but Murray doesn't sound like he's going anywhere but straight home after last call. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Radar Bros., 'Auditorium' (Merge)

    Radar Bros.' Jim Putnam was once a downcast drifter, but very little seems to be troubling the singer/guitarist on his Los Angeles–based band's fifth album. Dulcet, sun-hazed textures score lyrics that conjure pretty pastoral landscapes, contentedness, or both (on "Happy Spirits"). For these rather meandering tunes, Putnam channels a post-K-hole David Berman, singing wobbly ditties stocked with seemingly offhand lines about rabbits and coyotes ("Warm Rising Sun"), or an earthbound Wayne Coyne, singing drowsy ones about, well, pretty much the same thing ("Morning Bird"). Now Hear This:Radar Bros. - "Warm Rising Sun" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Rumble Strips, 'Alarm Clock EP' (Kanine)

    The Rumble Strips would sound exactly like other scrappy U.K. upstarts (the View, the Fratellis) if it weren't for their skank-inducing horn section; even a cover of Thin Lizzy's "The Boys Are Back in Town" bounces along with 2-Tone jollity. Their affable U.S. debut showcases Charlie Waller's hyperbolic, hyper-British wail. If sometimes whiny, it's spot-on for delivering wryly chipper lyrics, as on the foot-shuffler "My Oh My," when he asks a party-line lady to pretend that she's his ex-lover: "She said, 'That's fine!' / But now she's talking dirty, and it's just not right / Doesn't she know you're always polite?" Now Hear This:The Rumble Strips - "Alarm Clock" STREAMING MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Dimes, 'The Silent Generation' (Pet Marmoset)

    The hooky debut from this tuneful quartet is a moving meditation on hard times, delivered with a Death Cab for Cutie light touch. Each track, cooed by Johnny Clay in a high, sincere tenor not unlike that of boyish charmer Ben Gibbard, is a sad snapshot: A remorseful youth is condemned to the chair ("Jersey Kid"), a mother and her five children are trapped in an ice storm ("The Silent Generation"). Though they teeter on the maudlin, the Dimes employ an array of flutes, glockenspiels, melodicas, tambourines, and handclaps to heighten the mood, with "Catch Me Jumping" and "Paul Kern Can't Sleep" skyrocketing exuberantly. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Small Sins, 'Mood Swings' (Astralwerks)

    On his 2006 debut as Small Sins, Thomas D'Arcy set his lovelorn laments to Moog-filled, Postal Service pop. Here, the Toronto native employs the same mid-tempo drum-machine beats and steady synths, but behind the warm electro purrs, he's gone from bummed to bellicose. Thinly reverberating album opener "I Need a Friend" introduces D'Arcy's affinity for firearms, and by the penultimate track, "Bullet," the singer/producer is packin' a piece ("On the Run") and has threatened to use it ("On the Line"). He's more convincing as a sad romantic than a badass renegade. Now Hear This: Small Sins - "On the Line" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Johnossi, 'Johnossi' (The Control Group)

    When it comes to bluesy guitars-and-drums duos, there are generally two camps: the fuzzy fury of the White Stripes and Black Keys or the bar-stool-bound mopiness of Two Gallants. Johnossi, a pair of Southern-sounding Swedes, try out both approaches on their debut, moving from unpolished, thrashy romps to more honeyed, tumbleweed ditties. But it's lyrically where they're most refreshing, as singer John Engelbert encourages his parables' moribund and wayward subjects to "eat a caramel and be happy" ("The Show Tonight") or to consider lemonade as a panacea ("Santa Monica Bay"). Now Hear This: Johnossi - "Man Must Dance" DOWNLOAD MP3 Now Watch This: Johnossi - "Execution Song" BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Most Serene Republic, 'Population' (Arts&Crafts)

    This orchestral art-pop sextet from the Toronto suburbs up the triumphant racket on their second album, sounding as if labelmates Broken Social Scene recruited Polyphonic Spree's Tim DeLaughter and his giddy cohorts to sing and shout along. Except for one capable foray into cool jazz ("A Mix of Sun and Clouds") and one somnambulant string interlude ("Agenbite of Inwit"), these tracks are more concerned with mass than melody. Barely-there intros rise into warm, weighty epics, cluttered impressively with a clamoring assortment of keyboards, rallying horns, whispering reverb, and other (sometimes literal) bells and whistles. Now Hear This: The Most Serene Republic - "Present of Future End" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Photo Atlas, 'No, Not Me, Never' (Stolen Transmission/ Morning After)

    These dance-punks exude At the Drive-In's blistering intensity, ¡Forward, Russia!'s wiry delivery, and Bloc Party's rhythmic pulse ("Cutback" could even serve as a comedown from the last's "Little Thoughts"). While it's never wholly apparent what Alan Andrews is going on about in his wordy vignettes (though most touch on drinking, dancing, chemical dependence, or paranoia), it doesn't matter when each nervously aggressive track, filled with both chiming and fuzzy guitar, reaches a blissful frenzy. Now Hear This: The Photo Atlas - "Handshake Heart Attack" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to the Photo Atlas on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Annuals, 'Be He Me' (Ace Fu)

    The debut album by this Raleigh, North Carolina collective sprawls with confidence, combining sunny layers of strings, classical piano, stomp-rock riffs, entrancing space noises, and triumphant shouts. Twenty-year-old frontman Adam Baker writes melodically intricate and ecstatically dissonant songs that recall Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene, but Annuals have their own utterly exotic aura. Now Hear This: Annuals - "Dry Clothes" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to Annuals on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

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