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Elbow, ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’ (Fiction/Geffen)

Nicer than Pulp, less sappy than Coldplay, Elbow excel at meticulous orchestral pop that doesn’t take itself too seriously. For all his husky sincerity and literate lyrics, singer Guy Garvey often comes off as playful, not proper, whether chasing romance (“Mirrorball”), hitting the pub (“Grounds for Divorce”), or joining guest crooner Richard Hawley on “The Fix,” a jaunty caper tale with a spy-movie aura. Anyone who’s anxious for heavier fare can skip to the closing track (“Friend of Ours”), an ode to a deceased pal that will break the hardest heart.