• The Good Life, 'Help Wanted Nights' (Saddle Creek)

    On his fourth album as the Good Life, prolific Cursive frontman Tim Kasher revels in lyrics about booze and heartbreak while delivering a string of teary folk-rock meditations. Sound familiar? For nearly a decade, such has been the focus of this side project, and Kasher does little to modify that formula here. Granted, his lonesome drawl may sound arresting when it's 3 a.m. and you're stumbling home from the bar, but maudlin tunes like "You Don't Feel Like Home to Me" and "Some Tragedy" need more than quietly strummed minor chords to sell their hard-luck laments. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Eisley, 'Combinations' (Reprise)

    What's a young band to do when their much-hyped, long-incubated first album fails to connect with the masses? For Eisley, a wholesome group of siblings from suburban Texas, the answer is to borrow liberally from the classic-rock geezers who called it quits before they were born. Throughout Combinations, the DuPree sisters augment the slow-moving indie pop of their 2005 debut full-length with dramatic prog-guitar lines and shades of Fleetwood Mac's warm soft-rock glow. The vintage makeover suits them well, though, especially bewitching vocalists Stacy and Sherri, who have long seemed ready to twirl down Stevie Nicks' ethereal trail. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Envy on the Coast, 'Lucy Gray' (Photo Finish)

    At first glance, these eager Long Island newcomers seem like just another forgettable mainstream emo act, complete with Castro-style military caps and ridiculously overwrought song titles. Thankfully, on this rousing debut, they break away from the Warped Tour pack wit heady prog-rock arrangements and weighty lyrics that aren't exclusively about singer Ryan Hunter's last evil girlfriend. Throughout, he gets deep about death, religion, and A&R guys, but the real star here is lead guitarist Brian Byrne, whose space-metal riffs and effects-pedal bombast truly send these songs skyward. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Aiden, 'Conviction' (Victory)

    Beginning with 2004's Our Gangs Dark Oath, these flamboyant Seattle goth punks have spent more time fretting about onstage makeup than actual songs, churning out two albums that borrowed heavily from early My Chemical Romance. Here, though, they pull from a weightier set of influences -- the shimmering guitars of U2 ("She Will Love You") and the somber balladeering of Nick Cave ("The Opening Departure"). Aiden still don't sound very original, but at least they've grown ambitious about something more than their image. Now Hear This: Aiden - "One Love" DOWNLOAD MP3 Now Watch This: Aiden - "One Love" VIEW BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Powerspace, 'The Kicks of Passion' (Fueled by Ramen)

    Like Panic! At the Disco, this hyper Chicago foursome is being groomed as the next teen-scream crossover from thriving indie Fueled by Ramen. Unlike their glitzy labelmates, however, Powerspace not only apply fluttering dance pop to their hook-heavy emo, but also add a shot of late-'80s hair-metal bravado. The combination has a flashy charm, but it also results in songs like "Dancing in the Future," a disorienting rocker that changes tempos so often it may inspire you to bang your head -- if only against a wall, out of frustration. Now Hear This: Powerspace - "Right On, Right Now" WINDOWS MEDIA | REAL More on Powerspace: Powerspace at Lollapalooza '07 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Yellowcard, 'Paper Walls' (Capitol)

    This pop-punk quintet released a fan-polarizing 2006 album that included a contemporary jazz number and -- gasp! -- a cameo by a Dixie Chick, but here they return to the infectious anthems that made them Warped Tour headliners. Sure, there's still an occasional acoustic waltz, but mostly, this batch of songs is built around chugging power chords, instantly memorable choruses, and, on "Five Becomes Four," one of the finest violin solos you'll hear this side of your local Ren faire. Now Hear This: Yellowcard - "Light Up the Sky" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Smashing Pumpkins, 'Zeitgeist' (Reprise/ Martha's Music)

    Forget that he's estranged from original guitarist James Iha and bassist D'arcy--Billy Corgan was already bucking incredible odds when he announced that he was joining drummer Jimmy Chamberlin for a full-fledged Smashing Pumpkins "reunion." After all, in the high-stakes world of rock revivals, it's universally agreed that you should never record a new CD. Plan an overpriced arena tour, sure, but enter the studio and you're setting the stage for a disaster. Yet, with this blistering set of tunes, Corgan has somehow managed to create an album that doesn't feel like a sad retread. Granted, there are a few missteps, mostly a handful of drab, synth-touched ballads.

  • Straylight Run, 'The Needles the Space' (Universal Republic)

    As the only band who might show up at this summer's Warped Tour with a glockenspiel, this Long Island-based troupe is obviously more sophisticated than your average emo act. But in the past, they've struggled to find a balance between co-songwriter John Nolan's dramatic piano pop and his sister Michelle's sultry balladeering. Here, however, the siblings gel perfectly and even expand their group's melancholic sound with tunes such as "Still Alone," a brassy, theatrical romp that ditches the basements of Nassau County for the flashy footlights of Broadway. TREVOR KELLEY Now Hear This: Straylight Run - "The Words We Say" DOWNLOAD MP3 Now Watch This: SPIN.com interview with Straylight Run BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Paramore, 'Riot!' (Fueled by Ramen)

    On their second album in less than two years, this melodic Tennessee foursome deliver everything that a group of new-school mall punks angling for the big time should -- massive guitar riffs, sweetly infectious choruses, and soaring power ballads that are sure to get some play at this year's winter formal. Their biggest asset, though, is singer Hayley Williams, an 18-year-old siren with a killer fashion sense and an undeniable knack for writing contemplative love songs. In a scene overrun by boring boys with flat-ironed hair, she stands apart. Call her Karen Emo. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Maroon 5, 'It Won't Be Soon Before Long' (Octone/ A&M)

    When your first album sells four million copies, you're bound to try to play out a few musical fantasies with the follow-up, and these modern-pop lotharios are now dabbling in everything from nouveau disco to sleazy funk to big-band balladry. Such diversity suits them well, however, and the only misstep is frontman Adam Levine's raunchy lyrics, which often examine the joy of knocking boots in such skin-crawling detail that even Prince might tell him to cool it. Now Hear This: Maroon 5 - "Makes Me Wonder" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

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