• Bright Eyes, 'The People's Key' (Saddle Creek)

    Bright Eyes, 'The People's Key' (Saddle Creek)

    As "Jejune Stars" builds into a sweeping, Evita-worthy address to the masses, it seems clear that Conor Oberst wishes to bid Bright Eyes farewell. "So it starts again / At our childhood's end / I'll die young at heart," croons Omaha's moody prodigal son over sunny folk-rock strumming. And yet, although Oberst once described this seventh record as his most famous project's last, he's since quieted such hints of finality. Perhaps, looking back on his maturation from a trembling lo-fi wisp of a boy (1998 debut A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997) to sure-footed Americana frontman (2007's Cassadaga), Oberst realized that Bright Eyes was an adult ensemble worth holding on to. The People's Key is his most straightforward rock offering yet, with Oberst's sullenness tamped down by bracing guitars and crisp keyboards.

  • Rihanna, 'Loud' (Def Jam)

    Rihanna, 'Loud' (Def Jam)

    Oh, lady, you just earned our 15 bucks. Rihanna will sell millions of copies of Loud, her fifth album, and she'll deserve every penny of it -- not because it's a dependably excellent club-shaker, though it is, but because no woman should have to endure the kind of pick-up line Drake shoots her way on "What's My Name," the record's second single. "I heard you good with those soft lips / Yeah you know word of mouth," purrs the Canadian rapper (and Ri-Ri's rumored fling). "The square root of 69 is 8 something, right / 'Cuz I been trying to work it out." Woof. But while Casanova rolls over in his grave, Rihanna smirks and takes it in stride.

  • Elizabeth & the Catapult, 'The Other Side of Zero' (Verve Forecast)

    Elizabeth & the Catapult, 'The Other Side of Zero' (Verve Forecast)

    Don't expect any lighthearted "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" shenanigans here -- Brooklyn chamber-poppers Elizabeth & the Catapult lace their levity with foreboding and undercut their sweeping melodies with gritted-teeth growls. Their sophomore effort, the result of a song cycle commissioned by WNYC DJ John Schaefer, shows a thoughtful maturation from winsome debut Taller Children. The title ballad glides easily on pretty piano and slide-guitar twangs, reaching a beautifully devastating climax as singer Elizabeth Ziman mourns the era when "I was determined to believe every prayer's accounted for." But she wears disenchantment well.

  • The Thermals, 'Personal Life' (Kill Rock Stars)

    Staunch skepticism propelled the Thermals through their transcendent 2006 concept album, The Body, the Blood, the Machine, as the Portland trio merrily scorned the foundations of Christianity with a pop-punk adroitness that belied their lo-fi roots. That resolved, a thoughtful optimism bookends the band's fifth album, which opens with singer Hutch Harris' recalcitrant claim, "I'm Gonna Change Your Life," and ends with the bittersweet reversal, "You Changed My Life." Along that painful path, Harris harmonizes with bassist-singer Kathy Foster in steady, three-chord entreaties to the lovely Judas who upended him. Newly aching but still introspective, the Thermals remain a revelation. BUY: iTunes Amazonsrc="http://www.spin.com/sites/spin.com/files/imagecache/huge_page_view/site s/spin.com/files/amazon.jpg">

  • Brian Wilson, 'Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin' (Walt Disney)

    The most brilliant Beach Boy has always cited "Rhapsody in Blue," American composer George Gershwin's prodigal 1924 meeting of jazz and classical, as his favorite song. Here at last, he takes it for a joyride; Wilson's cover is bright and romantic, anchored in rich harmonies and fluttering woodwinds. His weathered croon lends similar affection to other Gershwin standards, from a flamenco-tinged "?'S Wonderful" to a seamless surf-rock spin on "I Got Rhythm" to the previously unheard 1924 composition "The Like in I Love You," which features his sweetest symphonics since Smile. (Gershwin's estate bequeathed Wilson more than 100 unfinished songs for this project, and he completed two.) Wilson is clearly energized, and it's delightful to hear one virtuoso finally meet up with another. BUY:Amazon

  • 3OH!3, 'Streets of Gold' (Atlantic)

    As anyone who's ever worked retail will attest, some people are so unfathomably thickheaded you suspect that they're stealth sociopathic geniuses. 3OH!3 are the punk-crunk equivalent.?Over brutish synths and hammy bleats, the puerile brosefs' third album shares, among other witticisms: "Gonna have a house party in my house" ("House Party") and "We can do an album / Or we can do it viral / Spread it like an STD you got back in high school" ("I Can Do Anything"). Hopefully, ?they're sipping a Chianti, finishing a Sudoku, and laughing hysterically at ?all of us right now. ?BUY:?iTunes??Amazon?

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    Eminem Does Surprise Performance in New York City

    Call him, for Monday night at least, the worst-kept secret in showbiz. When Eminem took the stage as the covert headliner of the "Red Bull Emsee: The Road to 8 Mile" freestyle battle, not a single person in New York City's sold-out Bowery Ballroom looked surprised. Groggy after a protracted set by Slaughterhouse, sure. Wild-eyed after one too many caffeinated cocktails, definitely. But surprised that Slim Shady was pacing the tiny stage at just past midnight on the release day of his seventh album? Not in the slightest. The show's name gave it away; even hip-hop neophytes know Marshall Mathers from the movie 8 Mile and its Oscar-winning anthem "Lose Yourself" (who knew rhymes about upchucking mom's spaghetti could be so galvanizing?).

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    Weezer's Bonnaroo Set Draws a Mixed Reaction

    Nowadays, Weezer's Rivers Cuomo squanders the majority of his genius on KISS-lite arena riffs and regressive rhymes about malls and homies (see: 2009's Raditude and the preceding two albums), but his musical prowess isn't dead; it's just dormant. Cuomo has jumped deeply down the rabbit hole of his current endeavor, which is to subvert the brilliant introspection of Weezer's Blue Album and Pinkerton albums (the crux of their fame) into a prosaic second adolescence. Unfortunately, he hasn't entirely mastered how to become a frantic frontman and also an agile musician. During Saturday's dusktime set at Bonnaroo, he climbed the scaffolding and leapt in scissor-kicks during The Red Album's "Troublemaker," but the theatrics caused him to trail his bandmates' pace by half a count and never fully catch up. Audience response was indifferent.

  • edward_sharpe-kyle_dean_reinford-02-main.jpg

    Edward Sharpe Draws a Huge Crowd at Bonnaroo

    If anyone still doubts that Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros are the new Pied Pipers of hippie kids and trustafarians, they were not in the Other Tent audience on Friday. The latest melodic mini-cult from singer Alex Ebert (formerly of Ima Robot) lured an impressively large crowd to their early-afternoon performance: Young Bonnaroo patrons in tie-dye bikini tops and board shorts spilled out from the awnings for a hundred feet in every direction, craning to see their messianic Ebert, who, for his part, seemed bewildered. "I bet you haven't seen this on a stage yet, people onstage not knowing what to do," he said, strolling languidly among the nine other stock-still members of his folk-pop militia. "It's a new concept. People are going to start copying us." And indeed, the Zeros' set list was like a shakily construed shuffling of their 2009 LP, Up From Below.

  • The Dead Weather, 'Sea of Cowards' (Third Man/Warner Bros.)

    Between Jack White and Alison Mosshart, there's a whole lotta id spilled out on the garage floor. Either she's his evil twin, or he's hers, but their dirty, ferocious urges seem uncontainable. On the Dead Weather's second album, they harness this icy alpha-dog tension into a distorted call-and-response aggression that's now greater than its parts, a rudely heavy swath of rock'n'roll authority. When the White Stripes' mad hatter and Kills' board stomper first joined forces last year (with guitarist Dean Fertita of Queensof the Stone Age and bassist Jack Lawrence of the Raconteurs), their influences blended rather smoothly on debut album Horehound.

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