Alt-rock legends, disco revisionists, country heartbreakers, the children of Def Leppard, sludge-metal mutations, the best rap record of 1987, and at least three pieces of Chicago footwork.

1. Halftime Show


Since 2012 has sputtered to its midpoint, we've decided to provide the eclectic soundtrack to your summer reading list: Alt-rock legends, disco revisionists, country heartbreakers, the children of Def Leppard, sludge-metal mutations, the best rap record of 1987, and at least three pieces of Chicago footwork. Check out what's been bumping on the office stereo non-stop!

2. Halftime Show


Since 2012 has sputtered to its midpoint, we've decided to provide the eclectic soundtrack to your summer reading list: Alt-rock legends, disco revisionists, country heartbreakers, the children of Def Leppard, sludge-metal mutations, the best rap record of 1987, and at least three pieces of Chicago footwork. Check out what's been bumping on the office stereo non-stop!

3. Action Bronson, Blue Chips (Fool's Gold)


Queens MC Action Bronson exists in a place somewhere between Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Grand Theft Auto, if the latter was focused less on violence and more on smoking weed and having sex. The first track takes us from Nagano to the Galapagos (where Bronson eats tacos and gets "high as an opera note"), while the chorus of "Tan Leather" features a rather impressively simple narration of eating roasted bone marrow on toast. Throughout, he hits Quebec and Thailand and plenty of places in between, harnessing the full power of his imagination by laying the world at his feet. Punchlines rappers can, and often do, seem dime-a-dozen, but with Blue Chips, Bronson makes a compelling argument that none of his peers are as funny or as left-field or as rich in character. JORDAN SARGENT

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4. Addison Groove, Transistor (50 Weapons)


At its heart, this is a party record — but what a fucked-up party, where the punch is spiked with speed and syrup. "Savage Henry" is a whooping call-to-arms that pits the jazzy chords of Detroit techno against moombahton’s slow-motion lope. "Skylight" suggests the spacious, bass-heavy house of the Dirtybird and Night Slugs labels, while "Sooperlooper" indulges in the cheeky lasers of "dirty Dutch" stadium rave. "Dance of the Women," featuring Africa Hitech's Mark Pritchard, cobbles together footwork, drum and bass, and a snatch of African chant; its blaring sirens and clattering rhythms sound like a 22nd Century version of Ghana's por por music, a jubilant, jury-rigged style played on honk horns and tire rims. PHILIP SHERBURNE

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5. Actress, R.I.P. (Honest Jons)


The London producer Actress isa maker of hypnotic, immersive, counterintuitive beat music. This is music about — and for — staring at screens. Bathed in YouTube hiss, the album's 15 sketch-like tracks flicker like animated GIFs. Shuddering with the hesitant movements of buffering video, R.I.P. luxuriates in waiting, but waiting without expectation — pure downtime, no-time, Zen-like, serene. If Takeshi Murakami hadn't claimed the term already, you could call this aesthetic "Superflat": Using grainy synthesizers and even grainier digital effects, Cunningham sculpts the equivalent of a 2D world, with melodies and drum patterns spreading out like the spurs of an ant farm or the tendrils of a screen saver. PS

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6. Air, Le Voyage Dans Le Lune (Virgin)


Air's Jean-Benoît Dunckel and Nicolas Godin have created a new soundtrack for the award-winning restoration of a newly rediscovered color version of 1902's Le Voyage Dans La Lune. Like its director, George Melies, Dunckel and Godin are deeply romantic conjurers, and the Versailles duo play their vintage keyboards, guitars, and so forth as if they're pulling rabbits out of hats. Floating in the wonderment of a relatively quaint past and its idealized vision of the future, Dunckel and Godin draw from prog, early synthpop, Serge Gainsbourg, and '60s European art-film soundtracks to create their own Gallic slant on steampunk. BARRY WALTERS

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7. Amadou & Mariam, Folila (Nonesuch)


The self-dubbed "blind couple of Mali" long ago pared down Malian music to a travel kit of key elements — rising and falling melodic chants, unspooling guitar curlicues — that they can reassemble to fit any sonic context. This time, they sound fully at home and identifiably themselves whether entertaining a veritable army of special guests: Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio, Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Theophilus London, Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters and Bassekou Kouyate. KEITH HARRIS

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8. Beak>, >> (Invada)


A mysterious, groggy post-punk fidget from Portishead's Geoff Barrow and his two studio-rat pals (from Team Brick and Fuzz Against Junk), Beak> is a band that insists on antiquated limitations (all recording in one room, no overdubs, using tape) even though one-third of the band could be headlining Roseland at any minute. The result isn't some Wasting Light go analog gimmick party, it’s weird, timeless gloom-funk where ancient-sounding electronics phase in Silver Apples wooze-glory, krautrock grooves melt into This Heat avant-punk minimalism, where Devo performs through a mouth full of cottonballs and a stomach full of Codiene. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN

9. Beach House, Bloom (Sub Pop)


It's remarkable how Beach House has maintained their commitment to a breathy, naïve kind of beauty while still managing to build a spine, vertebrae by vertebrae. Six years ago, Beach House sounded like children hiding out in an attic; now they're like hard-bitten mystics, people who read tarot and drive through the desert wearing scarves. Too often, it goes unmentioned that vocalist Victoria Legrand — whose name, in case your French is rusty, literally means "The Big" — was a drama major in college, which is as good a starting point as any for explaining Bloom's appeal: Like Broadway ballads, these songs are essentially swooning and frail-hearted, with pounds of makeup and gel lights thrown behind them. MIKE POWELL

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10. Willis Earl Beal, Acousmatic Sorcery (XL)


The Willis Earl Beal myth — a former soldier, briefly homeless, who now lives on the South Side of Chicago with his grandmother and staples solicitous, hand-illustrated fliers ("Greetings Ladies, my name is Willis Earl Beal") to telephone poles around town — feels like it was dreamed up by some particularly wily P.R. firm. When he's not distributing self-made personal ads, Beal records scrappy, undercooked folk songs, often to cassette, and half-plays a cornucopia of barely tuned instruments. Beal borrows a few tics from hill country blues greats like Fred McDowell and R.L. Burnside, building repetitive, mesmeric rhythms that can be deeply disorienting. But sometimes he sounds more like he's regurgitating a bizarre, possibly imagined iteration of that music, and when he starts hollering, "My lawd!" at the end of "Take Me Away," it feels disingenuous if not fully preposterous — a little joke, maybe, about what we expect from him (frenzy, rage, "soul"). It's a whole lot of weird, American story. AMANDA PETRUSICH

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11. Best Coast, The Only Place (Mexican Summer)


The sound of The Only Place sticks to what has already become Best Coast's signature recipe — Cosentino's insanely catchy tunes and her sweet, winning voice, shaped by the precise pop-rock embellishments of multi-instrumental sidekick Bobb Bruno. They're rendered more clearly than before, thanks to Jon Brion's undistorted production, but say adios to that happy-go-lucky vibe. In song after song, Cosentino's mood is pure undisguised misery, as she shares not just boyfriend woes, but confronts jealous acquaintances, feels the sting of gossipy haters, worries about money and substance excess, and generally feels like crap. Riveting drama in a rousing pop package. JON YOUNG

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12. Carter Tutti Void, Transverse (Mute)


The first two names belong to Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti of 1970s industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. Void, a.k.a., Nik Colk, is a member of Factory Floor, a London trio, formed in 2005, whose recordings for Blast First Petite and DFA combine elements of No Wave, industrial, and acid house in ways that instantly bring Carter and Tutti's projects to mind. Together, the mood is mercurial — nervous, numb, zoned-out, even cozy — and the emotional temperature will depend upon your disposition: Their haunted, glancing racket might scan as alienating, or you might find yourself swept up in the sweaty thrust. Each song is based upon a chugging machine rhythm, heavy on the downbeat, that nods to industrial and techno while suggesting something far more fundamental — innate, primal, a kind of Ur-rhythm. Above all, it's music for trance states. PS

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13. Ceremony, Zoo (Matador)


Ceremony, a Bay Area quintet who formed under the name Violent World in 2005, and played classic-sounding hardcore until recently, have put some serious thought into their evolution; and they’ve chosen to give up hardcore altogether. Judging from their new album, Zoo, "post-hardcore" is not just a genre — it's another state of mind entirely. The songs are catchy and nuanced, and the rage that defined them a mere seven years ago comes across here as measured, simmering frustration. KORY GROW

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14. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory (Carpark)


Our indie rock has been getting smarter and more sensitive, not cannier and crueler.

The melodic sweetness of Cloud Nothings burns dimly beneath mounds of sour fuzz. Big feelings. Big guitars. Very big effect. Turns out frontman Dylan Baldi's aspirations for Cloud Nothings are familiar, but his pop dream is still rooted in the '90s. He's naked at the front of the classroom, but he's unashamed. His heart's on the floor, but who cares. Banged-up Fenders and trashed Peaveys circle his head like demons. The synthesizer is someone else's nightmare. CHRIS MARTINS

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15. DJ Rashad, TEKLIFE Vol. 1 Welcome to the Chi (Lit City)


The joy of Chicago footwork's lies in its tension: a manic rat-a-tat like Stewart Copeland's jittery hi-hat gone rogue, pitched tom-toms popping like a pachinko machine, and a funky-as-hell, slow-flow groove evocative of loping Southern hip-hop, all approximating the martial chug of Chicago house sans the helpful four-on-the-floor beat to ground it. The best footwork tracks are at once body-moving and helplessly broken. Which makes Chicago rhythmalist DJ Rashad the king of excavating logic from such fragmented chaos — he's footwork's own Bomb Squad, its Meshuggah, its Billy Higgins, its Black Dice, its Timbaland. CW

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16. Kathleen Edwards, Voyageur (Zoe/Rounder)


Ain't love grand? Not according to Voyageur, the gently devastating fourth album from Canadian singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards. Smoldering resentment, dangerous lust, flaming anger, and, occasionally, intoxicating joy, ebb and flow with dizzying quickness in these unsparing vignettes of relationships gone mostly wrong. Injecting startling urgency into utterly familiar scenarios, this is easily Edwards best work to date, a stunning combination of beautiful melodies and hair-raising sentiments. JY

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17. Escort, Escort (Escort)


The long-awaited long player from these New York disco-funk revisionists represents disco at its urbane, hedonistic best. The slinky sexuality of "All Through the Night" or the decadent, snow-celebrating cover of Dillinger's badman reggae chant "Cocaine Blues" would be as at home in a modern Greenpoint nightclub as in a late, lamented New York disco space like the Loft or Paradise Garage. With astounding variety, Escort shifts shapes within itself, too, culminating in the offbeat exotica of sprawling finale "Karawane." Avoiding the concessions to perceived accessibility that once crippled the genre, Escort brings disco back to life by emphasizing its healthiest, most crucial elements — and nothing less. MARC HOGAN

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18. Future, Pluto (A1/Free Bandz/Epic)


The Atlanta MC raps infrequently on his commercial debut, Pluto, and yet it's a record that, in cultural terms, can only be defined as a rap album. He leans hard into all those post-Lil Wayne clichés — goofily aligned punch lines, spaced-out drug analogies, dope-boy boasts, designer name-drops — but delivers them in a strained, melismatic warble, drenched in Auto-Tune and constantly cracking. Imagine P-Funk's Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk re-imagined by Mike Patton, but with unbridled swagger replacing any semblance of pitch or poise. It sounds as if he's purposely affecting a Wayne-esque studio-treated water-gargle before the actual effect is added to his voice. He's mutating the mutation. And it sounds magnificent. ANDREW NOSNITSKY

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19. Daughn Gibson, All Hell (White Denim)


Daughn Gibson, the former drummer for Pennsylvania blooz-punks Pearls and Brass, boasts a rich, toffee'd baritone that puts him in a long line of men's men and cowboy storytellers, with Lee Hazelwood as perhaps the most prominent. On his solo debut, All Hell, he's able to work all sorts of dark magic, uncovering a lonesome, nocturnal space that's shared by tears-in-your-beer, end-of-the-world jukebox country and sample-based, post-Burial electronic pop. He's a honky-tonk spaceman who, at one time, earned his daily wage as a truck driver. He sounds like it. DAVID BEVAN

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20. Guided by Voices, Let’s Go Eat the Factory (Guided By Voices, Inc.)


The 21 songs here are no more or less inscrutable than the hundreds of tunes Robert Pollard has penned since he last played with this band, returning to its mid-'90s line-up. But they gel in ways that so many of those didn't, reveling in their limitations rather than trying to overcome them. It's the difference between the White Stripes and the Raconteurs. "How I Met My Mother" and "The Unsinkable Fats Domino" are stone-cold, pantheon-ready classics, clocking in at one minute and two minutes, respectively, and not requiring a second more. "Chocolate Boy" and "Doughnut for a Snowman," both also under two minutes, attest that Pollard's mindset is more about sweetness than bitterness. STEVE KANDELL

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21. Himanshu, Nehru Jackets (Greedhead)


The off-the-cuff confidence of this free offering from the Das Racist rapper -- presented by Queens-based nonprofit SEVA NY in support of their campaign against gerrymandering and redistricting -- feels like a bleary-eyed character actor strolling through a big-budget crime flick, mucking up all that once-poignant, now-rote "authenticity." It's a reminder of what was actually charming about classic Queens rap: Behind the rugged-and-raw signifying, there were weird personalities and a palpable sense of community. BRANDON SODERBERG

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22. Imperial Teen, Feel the Sound (Merge)


Imperial Teen sound like a veteran quartet with nothing to prove, but still hellbent on proving it anyway. They've always has radiated an adorable eagerness, which infused even their cattiest barbs with sly wit packaged in chewy pop goodness. But a lot more of those barbs are inward-directed nowadays, couched in manic arrangements that exude a sense of the band members feeling dazed and overwhelmed. Song titles include "Over His Head," "Don't Know How You Do It," and "Overtaken," all rendered in their respective choruses with the greatest of deadpan ease with lovely male-female harmony-vocal chants. Keeping the alternative-rock fires burning well into adulthood is an enduring conundrum, especially for bands cheeky enough to adopt an adolescent name. But Sonic Youth and Teenage Fanclub still pull it off, and so does this Bay Area crew. DAVID MENCONI

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23. Japandroids, Celebration Rock (Polyvinyl)


Vancouver drum-and-strum duo Japandroids confront the passage of time on their sophomore album. Specifically, they slap that bastard in the face and burn wheelies on his lawn before heading out for the best bender ever, secure in the knowledge that you can stave off the complacency of adult life if you just believe hard enough in the power of bro-hugs, oh-oh-oh backing vocals, and fist-pump-inducing fuzz riffs. As an old Pavement seven-inch sleeve put it, They Are Made of Blue Sky and Hard Rock and They Will Live This Way Forever. MICHAEL TEDDER

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24. Killer Mike, R.A.P. Music (Williams Street)


R.A.P. Music, the sixth album by from Atlanta firebrand Killer Mike, is a stunning anachronism. Produced to a crisp by the emphatically New York–centric El-P, it is boom and pound from front to back, easily hip-hop's greatest tribute to 1987 since "99 Problems." El-P is in strictly Raising Hell mode, all jarring scum-shards and asphalt-melting 808s; Mike is somewhere between Chuck D and Ice-T, full of righteous indignation that only can be bellowed in exasperation: "I don't trust the church or the government, Democrat, Republican / The Pope or a bishop or them other men." It's an impossible rap record that appeals directly to "golden era" purism (i.e., "back when rap was good" for people aged 35 and up), but is still noisy enough to shake off the cobwebs and scare the squares. They really should put it out on cassette. CW

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25. King Tuff, King Tuff (Sub Pop)


What sets 29-year-old glam-rocker Kyle Thomas apart from artists like San Francisco's Ty Segall or Mikael Cronin — two other rockers currently rehashing the '60s and '70s for 21st-century underground consumption — is that Thomas seems like a wimp. Yes, he knows how to play snotty, insistent songs. Yes, his voice is high and needling, and when he wants it to be, very forceful. Force, though, is a secondary concern. He'd rather be, like, carving your initials into a tree or getting a burger. Between songs that play like the musical equivalent of someone popping a pink gum bubble in your face, his tenderness and hindsight is disarming. MP

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26. Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (4AD)


The musical influences on the seventh solo album from the ex-Screaming Trees frontman are surprising match for his smoke-scarred, death-haunted baritone. Several tunes pulse with electronic beats and prominent synths. "Ode to Sad Disco" is roughly what its title promises: a woozy meditation on the emptiness of club culture ("See all the lonely children lose their minds") set to a sleek groove that wouldn't sound out of place on a Depeche Mode song, while "Harborview Hospital" lays Lanegan's troubled growls about devils, fiends, and hellhounds over chiming guitar lines, sparkling synths, and a shuffling dance beat. The effect is oddly invigorating, injecting an uncharacteristic lightness into wake-up-in-a-cheap-motel-room-head-aching-pour-me-another-drink proceedings. DAVID PEISNER

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27. Lindstrøm


Six Cups of Rebel (Smalltown Supersound)
"In Norway, there was no 'disco sucks' campaign," Norwegian cosmic-disco producer Hans-Peter Lindstrøm told the Daily last year. If that's the reason he makes the music he makes — synth-driven grooves that feel communal and cosmic at the same time — then we can wager that there wasn't much backlash against jazz-fusion or progressive rock, either. Guess that the Miami Vice soundtrack probably sold a few copies up there, too. No shame accompanies the shiny tunes and giddy chants winding through Six Cups of Rebel. MICHAELANGELO MATOS

28. Spoek Mathambo, Father Creeper (Sub Pop)


He's creepy and he's kooky, mysterious and Spoek-y — and he's altogether the most ambitious and experimental young pop musician to emerge from anywhere in Africa in recent memory. With a bottomless array of astounding vinyl reissues from the 1970s and '80s constantly bubbling into our ever-expanding download folders, we rarely stumble across great African pop that sounds uncompromisingly now in all its overdetermined complexity. During the past few years, he's evolved from a cocky local rapper into a continent-spanning, band-leading creator with a sound and vision rooted in his Soweto upbringing, but as wide and weird as the world and Web allows. RICHARD GEHR

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29. The Men, Open Your Heart (Sacred Bones)


For hardcore (or post-hardcore) Brooklyn DIY types — their lives a jumble of comically seedy underground shows held in basement dungeons, dank warehouses, condemned lofts, wisely abandoned storefronts, and so forth — no sound is so elusive and fantastical as actual crickets, no sight as wondrous as the sky’s own stars. You long for that stuff, eventually, no matter how urban and cosmopolitan you fancy yourself. Everybody's going to the country, as the song goes, if only for a day trip — even the dudes really into Jesus Lizard. We join the Men, now, in their temporarily-back-to-nature moment. Open Your Heart improves the band's focus even as it widens its range, ditching the harrowing, hacking-death-cough stuff and reaching for something more… let's say "pastoral." ROB HARVILLA.

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30. Meshuggah, Koloss (Nuclear Blast)


An average song by the Swedish metal extremists sounds like they took 30 seconds of Slayer's Reign in Blood, a minute from dissonant composer Krysztof Penderecki, and as much cacophonous free-jazz drumming as they could find, jigsawed it into a million pieces, and then collaged it back together. For their seventh album, they toyed around with tempos and grooves, even seasoning their twisted, technical melodies with different flavors of ear candy — only now there's enough space and time for listeners to savor it. Koloss is still dense and nuanced, of course — compared to new records by their contemporaries in Lamb of God or even Mastodon, it's a Francis Bacon painting next to the Mona Lisa. Yet Meshuggah have indulged their restraint in ways that make this possibly their most accessible album ever. KG

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31. Miguel, Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1, 2 & 3 (self-released)


Traditionalist in its nods to the past, and polite in its avoidance of trends — no loud pulsing beats, no guest rappers, not one reference to "haters" — the Art Dealer Chic project sound like pop radio if it could fully absorb the lo-fi tricks of "PBR&B" and the coolest contents of Drizzy's RSS feed. By combining the EPs, Art Dealer Chic becomes a nine-song, 30-minute statement of purpose — a brisk, confident, futuristic jog through decades of soul and R&B. BS

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32. Moonface, With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery (Jagjaguwar)


The ultra-prolific, increasingly nomadic Canadian singer-songwriter Spencer Krug (formerly of Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown) wrote and recorded Heartbreaking Bravery with Finnish krautrock innovators Siinai in Helsinki shortly after the end of Krug's relationship with Sunset Rubdown bandmate Camilla Wynne Ingr (which took that group down with it). The result is indeed both heartbreaking and brave. Our baby-faced British Columbian hero is buttressed by aching drones, suspended in air with drizzles of guitars, and smeared across every mesmeric surface of the recording. Siinai provides him all kinds of room to let it all out; and he does. Krug's polarizing vocal style (rich in both hiccups and bellows) often sounds like someone is beating words out of him with a cane. DB

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33. Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Cash Money)


Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, like a Whitman's Sampler, has something chewy for everyone. Minaj is showing us all sides here — singer, MC, and theater geek, complete with a few alter-egos (gay-boy Roman and his mom). Reloaded is separated into the Rap Half and the Pop Half, a nearly 70-minute monolith frontloaded with devastating proof of her skills as an MC, then transitioning into her diva bit via 10 tracks of sparkly Top 40 precision. Nicki Minaj is pop's superheroine, her image a Hulk-ed out perversion of female perfection so saccharine it's almost grotesque, all nuclear tits and neon. If it wasn't clear before, she is the future, and she's here to fuck with us. JESSICA HOPPER

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34. Pallbearer, Sorrow and Extinction (Profound Lore)


Wherein doom-metal takes a turn for the shimmering and gorgeous. This up-from-nowhere Arkansas quartet has all the oppressive sludge of your favorite acid bath (think Sleep, Yob, Electric Wizard) in 12-minute doses, but adds some church-bell-ringing clean singing scraped from the glossiest grooves of the first Sabbath record. CW

35. Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Slumberland)


Finally and truly on her own, ex-Vivian Girl, ex-Crystal Stilt, ex-Dum Dum Girl, ex-Out Rose delivers her finest work. Interstellar is a post-punk triumph, a sine wave of angel-choir bombast and baritone-guitar bliss and celestial figurativeness — like a Factory Records tribute album to "The Age of Aquarius." "Night Swim," a near-perfect standout, is either the Go-Go's playing a house party in the style of the Cure, or A-ha's "Take on Me" written from the other side of the illustration. CAMILLE DODERO

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36. Santigold, Master of My Make Believe (Downtown/Atlantic)


The Brooklyn-based pop songwriter's follow-up to her eponymous 2008 debut is crackling with discontent — with the fame game, with the political machine, with fools who think they can top her — and it's electrified by her refusal to wallow in it, pushing back via steely alto vocals and a defiantly open spirit. Her producers (Switch, Diplo, Dave Sitek, and John Hill, among others) accept her challenge, piecing together beats that both directly allude to the global bass underground and rise above it. Master of My Make-Believe turns friction into fire, its flippantly skewed pop anthems doubling as obviously personal documents of Santi White's unwillingness to let anyone get over on her. JULIANNE ESCOBEDO SHEPHERD

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37. Siinai, Olympic Games (Splendour)


Siinai are Finland's greatest krautrock band. Which is no frivolous praise — the country's crisp air is currently pulsing with electric muesli motoric. Besides this Helsinki quartet, there's the shimmering restraint-core trio K-X-P, pulse-pop melodramatists Zebra and Snake, and Mercury Revved-up space cases Joensuu 1685. Rhythmically, it's Can, it's Neu!, it's La Dusseldorf, it's chin-stroke, bong-hit, zone-out, bliss-out, nod-off, stargazing comedowns. But these bands' almost comically oversized melodies — especially Siinai's — are straight from the Church of Rock: Born to Run, Heroes, Heaven Up Here, The Joshua Tree, Neon Bible, and, um, American Idiot. CW

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38. Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (Mom & Pop)


For all their retro-reverence, Sleigh Bells aren't a nostalgia act — they're the future-perfect and imperviously eternal now of pure teenage dissonance. The duo's sophomore effort, the blaring Reign of Terror, is a long, blank stare that signifies little more than a wish to live fast and die pretty. Katy Perry's teenage dreams are some puerile Cinderella shit compared to these 11 tracks of casual hate served in a pearly-pink candy shell. The only sentimentality lies in Derek Miller's guitar tone, its shimmery whine a love letter to circa-1985 cheese metal.JH

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39. Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Double Six)


Former Spacemen 3 member Jason Pierce still may be singing almost exclusively about God, love, drugs, and rock'n'roll, but he's located the redemptive and communal aspects therein, rather than focusing solely on rejection and loneliness. Whereas 1997 career peak Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space left you emotionally spent, Sweet Heart has a galvanizing and energizing effect. Pierce steps fully back into the light, crafting a morning-after record of new-found clarity and optimism. SCOTT PLAGENHOEF

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40. Torche, Harmonicraft (Volcom)


Three albums in, Florida sludge-pop orgasm Torche are still the gold standard for cotton-candy-coated, cloud-bashing, do-the-Dü bubblegum metal. Their new unrelenting hook machine, Harmonicraft, runs the textures of subterranean doom through a posi-punk prism, resulting in the poppiest album from alternative metal's poppiest band. Call it The Unforgettable Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw, a record by an ostensibly extreme band that would rather dismantle an atomic bomb than drop one, would rather approximate the ecstasy of a church than burn one. CW

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41. Traxman, The Mind of Traxman (Planet Mu)


Planet Mu’s two Bangs & Works compilations did a heroic job of sifting through to find the stand-alone gems in Chicago footwork. Even in that select company, the inclusions by Traxman stood out. His debut album builds on the musicality of those Bangs & Works contributions — the Dilla-worthy ethereality of "The Comeback" is thankfully repeated here. The first sound you is the idyllic tinkling of a kalimba; for a moment, you start to imagine Traxman doing a Burial or Bukem, becoming an ambassador for his genre, the architect of footwork’s coffee-table-ization. But like the sugar in hot sauce, all the additional soulful and jazzy flavors — pale blue chords, sax-y loops, mellow piano comping — just bring out the stinging attack of the beats more fiercely. SIMON REYNOLDS

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42. Jack White, Blunderbuss (Third Man/Columbia)


Jack White has settled into Nashville and vice versa; the record feels rooted in traditional American rock and soul and rhythm and blues without ever feeling like a civics lesson or a minstrel show. Blunderbuss is the sound of a mid-career stride. It's kind of amazing to think that White was ever lumped in with anything as ephemeral as the millennial return-of-rock phylum: He's 36 going on 66, the only artist of his generation who can pal around with Dylan and Jagger while still sounding eight steps ahead of artists a decade his junior, and the only one we can say with confidence will have a career with the length and breadth and stature and mythology of his revered elders. SK

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