• Vampire Weekend, 'Vampire Weekend ' (XL)

    At 1:32 a.m. last Valentine's Day, a demo titled "Oxford Comma" by a band of Columbia University buds was posted on the blog Music for Robots. Good Weather for Airstrikes reposted the song, with two others, a month later, declaring Vampire Weekend "the best unsigned band in New York City." In June, The New York Times weighed in with a smitten live review. Stereogum posted the band's cover of Radiohead's "Exit Music (for a Film)" in July. And by August, Vampire Weekend had signed to XL Recordings, current U.K. label of, yes, Radiohead. So here we are with their debut album, as pure a product of high-speed, broadband blogger love as indie rock has coughed up (see also Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Black Kids), though you can imagine the backlash to come ("I mean, the new versions aren't much different from the MP3s -- plus, their fans dance kinda like hippies").

  • Gnarls Barkley, 'The Odd Couple' (Downtown/Atlantic)

    In 2006, two avantgarde hip-hoppers -- a producer known for DJ'ing in a mouse costume and a Dirty South MC who abandoned a legendary crew to make psychedelic soul and wear a pink feather boa -- released a little indie project. Suddenly, shit was crazy. Or, to be specific, "Crazy": that year's Great Pop Moment, a song that topped charts worldwide and propelled sales of the little indie project, St. Elsewhere, past the two million mark.So what would you do if you were Gnarls Barkley? You know damn well what you'd do: try to duplicate the recipe. Which is roughly what Cee-Lo Green and Brian "DangerMouse" Burton have done on their sophomore set.The title is a little misleading, though.

  • PJ Harvey, 'White Chalk' (Island)

    In 1973 Michael Lesy published Wisconsin Death Trip, an intoxicating collection of images shot by Charles Van Schaick -- the town photographer of Black River Falls, Wisconsin -- around the turn of the last century. Framed by news items illuminating the pictures, the volume is a grim history of madness, murder, suicide, smallpox, poverty, and babies in coffins. But for that particular time and place, these were also the facts of life, which helps explain the book's disturbing beauty. I've no clue if Polly Jean Harvey has ever seen Wisconsin Death Trip. But her music has always held a similar allure, and never more so than on her eighth solo album, whose cover art resembles a Van Schaick portrait: the singer in a bone-colored Victorian-style dress, gaze steady, mouth expressionless, unmanicured hands folded in her lap.

  • 0710_nyc_roundtable.jpg

    Punk Reunion: New York

    Like a mushroom on a pile of shit, punk came up in one of New York City's foulest periods. Probably no other era could have produced it: Urban decay and lawlessness made Lower Manhattan a cheap place to live, and the desperate street vibe -- combined with the art community's down-forwhatever attitude -- made for take-no-prisoners music. Punk would spread around the world, mutating as it went. But New York (with due respect to Detroit) invented it. The musicians who assembled for the following roundtable are all "lifers," as Suicide's Alan Vega put it, and all were part of punk's birthing.

  • Wilco, 'Sky Blue Sky' (Nonesuch)

    The pastorale LP is a rock'n'roll tradition. It's what happens when a band -- motivated by tinnitus, bankruptcy, drug-crazed meltdowns, or merely an aesthetic conversion -- strips things down to the gentle, the pretty, the chillin'-by-the-fishin'-hole-with-my-Martin-D50-acoustic-which-incidently-is-worth-ten-times-what-you-paid-for-your-car. Rock pastorales usually follow darker, noisier records and tend toward the soberly optimistic, or at least the comfortably fatalistic, offering up salt-of-the-earth verities about life and death and love and loss. The Grateful Dead had Workingman's Dead. Springsteen had Nebraska. Nirvana had MTV Unplugged in New York. Now Wilco -- in their continuing quest to rank with rock's Big Machers -- have Sky Blue Sky. Build a campfire and break out the pot brownies. Or not.

  • Palomar, 'All Things, Forests' (Misra)

    Like the Bangles with a death wish, this indie-rock girl gang (and a token guy) begin their fourth CD with Shangri-Las harmonies on a song about being buried. And though they aren't afraid anymore of sounding bigger than four kids in a rented room, singer Rachel Warren still comes off as disenchanted. "The best times / We were dead drunk with multiple visions," she intones on a song about time's lamentable passage, suggesting nostalgia is as good an excuse to rock as it is to wallow. Now Hear This: Palomar - "Our Haunt" DOWNLOAD MP3 >> Listen to Palomar on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Isobel Campbell, 'Milkwhite Sheets' (V2)

    As Belle and Sebastian's original belle, singer/cellist Isobel Campbell helped transform the pedestrian lives of her bandmates -- and, by extension, fans -- into something more magical. Solo, her music has grown less tethered to the present, and Milkwhite Sheets is the sound of her swan dive into the cosmos of psychedelic folk that's so widespread these days. Recorded concurrently with last year's Ballad of the Broken Seas (dirtbag-meets-seraph duets with gutter prince Mark Lanegan), Sheets is Campbell's hallucination of a cozy English garden party: Reverb drenches her flutelike voice, with acoustic guitar, dulcimer, recorder, hand drums, and ominous drones providing the backdrop.

  • Lady Sovereign, 'Public Warning' (Def Jam)

    Lady Sov is a brilliant example of how hip-hop adapts to any lowlife's expressive needs. She's white, British, female, and at five-foot-one, a self-proclaimed "midget." But what may be most striking about her is how annoying she already finds the rap grind. "I wake up late every morning, manager's calling, I'm still yawning," she begins her debut album, eventually pitching a tantrum, passing out at a video shoot, and dreaming that her label wants to change her image from cheeky London hood rat to "a pink-lipstick chick" who is "posing in a bikini next to a Lamborghini." C'mon, nothing's realer than hating your job. Signed by Jay-Z, Sov -- who just turned 20 -- could do more Stateside than U.K. partners in grime Dizzee Rascal, the Streets, and M.I.A.

  • Basement Jaxx, 'Crazy Itch Radio' (XL)

    Still the savviest dance act on the planet, the Jaxx are beat connoisseurs whose fetishes have grown increasingly exotic. Here, the duo hallucinate an urban dance-music radio show in which a Romanian brass band backs a disco diva and British grime gets remade as electronic samba. No instant classics like 1999's "Rendez-Vu," but the productions remain fresh, hype, and kaleidoscopic. If you won't remember them in the morning, c'est la vie. Now Hear This: Crazy Itch Radio player QUICKTIME BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Sleepy Brown, 'Mr. Brown' (Purple Ribbon/Virgin)

    With his Marvin Gaye tenor, Curtis Mayfield falsetto, and Isaac Hayes dome, the hook-singing OutKast cohort and producer (as a member of Organized Noize) comes on like a lovable, if genetically engineered, soulman on his long-brewing debut. Sleepy's a modest dude, happily playing third string on his own single ("Margarita") behind Big Boi and Pharrell. And if the songs aren't indelible, the floating-pool-chair vibe and digitally morphed pre-disco flavor make for a seamless backyard-BBQ backdrop. Now Watch This: Sleepy Brown - "Margarita" WINDOWS MEDIA | REAL PLAYER >> Listen to Sleepy Brown on Napster BUY: iTunesAmazon

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