• Circa Survive, 'Blue Sky Noise' (Atlantic)

    After a long, whiny journey, mainstream emo finally initiates its "post-" era with Circa Survive's invigorating third album. Troubled frontman Anthony Green and his mates have embraced glossier production while reconnecting with At the Drive-In's teeming passion. Powerhouse tracks "Get Out" and "Through the Desert Alone" -- on which a crushingly sincere Green sings, "'Cause you were my ally once / You were my confidant / I need somebody close / To be close to forever" -- should be revelatory to the Warped kids, and might even turn the heads of aging cynics. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Cypress Hill, 'Rise Up' (EMI/Priority)

    Cypress Hill's ninth studio album has its bangin' back-to-basics moments, especially on the B-Real–­produced groove monsters "It Ain't Nothin'" and "Get 'Em Up," as well as the smooth-tempo, 21st-century funk of "Armed and Dangerous" (coproduced by up-and-comer Jake One). Problem is, there's also plenty of guitar-driven frat rock, though at least the Latino legends recruit Tom Morello and Systemof a Down's Daron Malakian to supply the metallic pyro. Rise Up doesn't always meet the occasion, but it's Cypress' mostconsistently listenable album in 15 years. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Dr. Dog, 'Shame, Shame' (Anti-)

    Grooming their jam-band shagginess and spotlighting their songwriting chops, Philadelphia indie poppers Dr. Dog produce a clean, big-sounding album that uncannily evokes Summerteeth-era Wilco and Soft Bulletin–era Flaming Lips. And on standouts "Later" and the Jim James–aided title track, the band turn these well-worn phrases into their own distinctive mix of exuberance and melan-cholia. It's unfortunate that the lyrics of co-vocalists Scott McMicken and Toby Leamen are still so shyly generic, but it would require an excessively grumpy contrarian streak to overlook Shame's easy charms. BUY:Amazon

  • Freeway, 'The Stimulus Package' (Rhymesayers)

    On his Rhymesayers debut, Philly's bearded battle rhymer gets consistently meaty beats from producer Jake One, whose soul-stirring tracks perfectly match Freeway's energetic musicality on breathless anthems such as "Know What I Mean." Problem is, proclamations that he's "about to bring that '98 hip-hop back" gradually unravel into bizarrely dated dismissals of other rappers ("I'm the MC with the hammer that is too legit to quit") and witless warnings to competitors who are supposedly "rattin' like Fievel." By the momentum-killing third act, the rapper sounds on the verge of exhaustion from delivering Stimulus' contrived lyrical weight. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Dutchess & the Duke, 'Sunset/Sunrise' (Hardly Art)

    Singer-guitarists Jesse Lortz and Kimberly Morrison have a noted Rolling Stones/Velvet Underground jones, but their music sounds equally connected to iconic lo-fi indie naifs Beat Happening. That said, limiting the Dutchess & the Duke's sophomore album to such comparisons feels unfair, because its finest moments ("Let It Die," "Sunrise/Sunset," and the beautifully tortured opener "Hands") -- featuring the duo's heartaching harmonizing -- capture a uniquely tender gloom amid the droning atmospherics.

  • Alice in Chains, 'Black Gives Way to Blue' (Virgin/EMI)

    Once alt-rock's moribund ne'er-do-wells, Alice in Chains still have an appealing outcast aura on their first studio album in 14 years (and their only release sans late singer Layne Staley). As with latter efforts Jar of Flies and Alice in Chains, Black's most tender moments ("Private Hell") are its most essential. And while William DuVall is a serviceable Staley impressionist, this comeback would register with more purpose had guitarist Jerry Cantrell assumed the vocal lead. Instead, DuVall warbles misanthropically over too many muddy, grunge-era grind-a-thons (even Elton John's piano cameo on the poignant title track feels '90s retro). WATCH: Alice in Chains, "Check My Brain" BUY: Amazon

  • Tom Brosseau, 'Posthumous Success' (Fatcat)

    As this blues-bred, North Dakota–born folkie attests on his sixth album's standout jangle rocker, he's ready for the "Big Time" (or some variation thereof). On the bratty gem "You Don't Know My Friends," he's never been more believably torn up, and "Axe & Stump" quilts together quirky verse arrangements with a triumphant, Rhodes piano chorus. Success is bookended by two disparate takes on "My Favorite Color Blue" -- the opener a classic picker-and-crooner, the closer suggesting a half-speed, rustic mutation of New Order's "Your Silent Face." It's unclear which direction Brosseau will pursue next, but Success' provocative versatility confirms that he deserves a wider audience. Listen: Tom Brosseau, "You Don't Know My Friends" (DOWNLOAD MP3)BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Jason Lytle, 'Yours Truly, the Commuter' (Anti-)

    After dissolving his warmly existential outfit Grandaddy, singer-guitarist-keyboardist Jason Lytle escaped to the mountains of Montana. But instead of the nakedly emotional folk echoes of fellow isolationist Bon Iver, he's produced a textured homage to the lush and laid-back West Coast dream life of his youth. Yours Truly occasionally provides pummeling feedback rock ("It's the Weekend"), but when Lytle's lullaby vocals suggest, "You should hold my hand / While everything blows away / And we'll run to a brand-new sun," it's like Bruce Springsteen's open highway finally reached a melancholy kid from Modesto. BUY: iTunes Amazon

  • New Found Glory, 'Not Without a Fight' (Epitaph)

    The sixth studio album from this Florida five-piece represents a dual rebirth -- it's their return to an indie label and first full-length since experimenting with the cartoonishly thrashy side project International Superheroes of Hardcore. Produced by blink-182's Mark Hoppus, Not Without a Fight bobs and weaves between chugga-chugga riffs and poppy lead licks, with Jordan Pudnik's well-meaning whine bouncing off Chad Gilbert's more assertive (and appealing) bark. On "47" and "Such aMess" in particular, they bring a convincing ruckus, though the boilerplate inner turmoil seems a bit passé. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Thursday, 'Common Existence' (Epitaph)

    These Smiths-loving, post-hardcore pioneers most likely recruited Flaming Lips and MGMT producer Dave Fridmann to finally disassociate their sound from the second- generation emo they helped define. But rather than straining for pop sophistication, Fridmann simply brightens and focuses the band's darker, more obtuse corners. While previous stabs at atmospheric balladry rang hollow, as Geoff Rickly's voice ricocheted around purposelessly, "Time's Arrow" teems with vulnerable grit. And things really rev up on latter-half tracks such as "Circuits of Fever," which crackles with the colorful chaos of vintage Mars Volta. Listen: Thursday, "Friends In The Armed Forces" BUY: iTunesAmazon

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