Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s, ‘Not Animal’ (Epic)
Don’t let the absurdist band name, surreal titles (“Hello Vagina,” “A Children’s Crusade on Acid”), and trippy atmospherics fool you — these Indiana upstarts are exactingly crafty songwriters. Their major-label debut is drenched in the same warm sonic haze and bizarro imagery as Flaming Lips, but any weirdness comes in service of the songs, as frontman Richard Edwards’ supple voice conveys tenderness, desperation, and wit over an inviting tangle of guitars, keyboards, strings, and horns. There’s hardly a misstep — perhaps due to Epic, which settled a problematic discussion over the album’s contents by releasing two versions. Not Animal is the tight, label-approved set; the less focused though still compelling Animal! is available only on vinyl.