Hellogoodbye, Zombies! Aliens! Vampires! Dinosaurs! (Drive-Thru):
Few modern emo/punk/whatever whippersnappers
capture the essence of the decade when keyboards ruled the world -- largely because their view of the 1980s
comes secondhand via VH1
or retro-radio hours. However, an exception to this rule can be made for the young Cali quartet Hellogoodbye,
who display serious synth-smarts (and a mean Vocoder!) on Zombies!, an exuberant collection of punk-pop that nods to New Order
and �80s Top 40 radio hits
Robyn Hitchcock and the Venus 3, Ole Tarantula! (Yep Roc):
The absent-minded professor of Nuggets-style psychedelic garage rock
continues his creative resurgence with Tarantula
, a kaleidoscopic
album of melodic gems drenched in harmony and surrealistic imagery. Recorded in conjunction with the Venus 3
— a.k.a. Peter Buck, Scott McCaughey and Bill Rieflin of R.E.M./
The Minus 5 — and featuring a track co-written by XTC majordomo Andy Partridge
("�Cause It's Love [Saint Parallelogram]"), the album trades in fizzy fuzz-jangle that more often than not belies lyrical melancholy. "N.Y. Doll"
is a somber remembrance of the late New York Dolls bassist Arthur Kane
, while Hitchcock wrote the effervescent pop burst "Underground Sun"
for a late friend.
Muse, Black Holes and Revelations (Reprise):
Muse traded in pretentious prog bombast
long before it became trendy on their first three albums — and creates the Platonic ideal of the form on Revelations
with "Knights of Cydonia,"
a galloping, apocalyptic single gnarled with doom-metal riffs and robots-in-space vocals. But the supercharged UK trio
wisely expands their worldview to include sci-fi funk, stompy goth
and even Rufus Wainwright-
esque balladry on Revelations
, their poppiest and most emotionally affecting outing yet. Just try to avoid shedding a tear
during the longing "Starlight,"
where a glassy piano intertwines with diffracted synths and vocalist Matt Bellamy
croons "I just wanted to hold you in my arms"
like an anguished astronaut about to be lost forever in space.
The Shins, Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop):
Physical copies of the Shins' third album aren't in stores until 2007
, although its presence on any number of file-sharing services means that, more or less, it may as well have already been released
. More sedate and less accessible
than the band's first two discs, Wincing
is an album for those outgrowing twentysomething-borne uncertainty and settling into careers, relationships and (gasp!)
maturity. Nevertheless, the Flaming Lips-esque
psych-dreamscape "Sea Legs"
displays sonic adventurousness, and the wistful relationship-analysis "Turn on Me"
has a hollow nostalgia
reminiscent of R.E.M.'s early mysticism.
Gwen Stefani, The Sweet Escape (Interscope):
Save for the yodel-tastic "Wind It Up"
and a Pharrell
-featuring game of "disco-Tetris"
the No Doubt
vocalist wisely chooses to focus on songcraft instead of flamboyance
on her second solo effort
. This makes her staunch girl power
all the more effective
, whether she's channeling Madonna's Like a Prayer-
era balladry ("Early Winter"), embracing her inner goth ("Wonderful Life") or doing her best Sheena Easton
impression (the sunshine-soul title track featuring Akon).
Thom Yorke, The Eraser (XL):
Thom Yorke's seduction
technique with Radiohead
has always revolved around mystery — so it's no surprise that The Eraser
, his solo debut, also explores misty vistas
. Although built on a foundation of repetition
and detailed sonic atmosphere (fragmented electronica loops
, stuttering beat-blips and skeletal piano), Eraser
derives its power from Yorke's feathery falsetto
. He croons half-formed phrases and whispered slogans
like an otherwordly siren
, creating an eerily romantic song-cycle
full of enigmas that stir the heart and brain
. - ANNIE ZALESKI