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Love Letters

Metronomy

We Need Medicine

The Fratellis

#2 (Deluxe Version)

Thees Uhlmann

>20<

Tocotronic

Happy Ending

Glenn Tilbrook

The Classic

Joan As Police Woman

Caravan Girl

Goldfrapp

Boys Will Be Boys

Goldfrapp

Wonderful Electric (Live In London)

Goldfrapp

Reanimation

Flatline

That's Why Everything Burns - EP

Utopia Banished

Under a Full Moon

Northern Star

INCANTATIONS

PHILIPPE

Lebenswahn

Schattenlust

The Living Within

Thomas Schnura

Phoenix

Angela Kinczly

Indie Beats - By Mixmasterlord

mixmasterlord

Birds of Tartary (Ep)

City of the Lost

Wood And Wire

Peter Munters

Mafia Music - Hit Classics

Various Artists

WOMAN IN LOVE PHILIPPE COUPET

PHILIPPE

FREEDOM - SINGLE2MINGLE MIX

M.

Top Albums

American Idiot

Green Day

Heartthrob

Tegan And Sara
Having wooed the world with their post-punk indie-rock sound, Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara Quinn decided to embrace a lighter and more synth-driven sound for album number seven. They may still sing about heartbreak, frustration and disappointment in songs like 'How Come You Don't Want Me?' and 'Goobye, Goodbye,' but the duo's lyrics are now lit up with a fresh layer of optimism that's a fine fit for the sparkling electro-pop production. This change of mood imbues the album with a pleasing buoyancy which pairs well with the sisters' enduring knack of coining a catchy killer hook. Heartthrob is a successful new direction.

Rory Ford, Google Play

American IV: The Man Comes Around

Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash's fourth project with producer Rick Rubin continues on the same path as many of their previous releases: Cash's warm and rumbling baritone over minimal production and gentle duets with some surprising guests. One of the things that sets American IV: The Man Comes Around apart from the others is Cash's song selections. The success he experienced with his previous interpretations of contemporary songwriters (Soundgarden's "Rusty Cage," Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat") is applied to this album with varying degrees of success. His throaty reading of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" easily fits into his "Man in Black" persona, and the spiritual conviction underlying Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" is certainly powerful. Unfortunately, the inclusion of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (featuring a lost-sounding Fiona Apple) and a passionless snooze through the Beatles' "In My Life" should have been so much stronger (given the subject matter of both songs and Cash's prolific life story). One of the reasons his previous covers were so successful is that in the past he had chosen some pretty obscure songs (Bonnie Prince Billy's "I See a Darkness" and Beck's "Rowboat," to name a couple) and reinterpreted them with his unique perspective and unmistakable voice. However, there is really no need to hear his versions of the Irish standard "Danny Boy" or the clunky rendition of Sting's "I Hung My Head," since something about them just doesn't fit -- either Cash wasn't entirely comfortable with the song or the performance was never fully realized. Luckily, the new songs Cash wrote for the album are pretty strong, and his cover of the standard "We'll Meet Again" is among the best versions of the song ever recorded. It is a relief to hear that, although Cash's voice is clearly older and not the booming powerhouse it was in the earlier Sun and Columbia days, he's still got some punch left in him, and the wisdom he's gained in his later life seeps through between the grooves, revealing a man who has lived through it all and lived to tell the tale. [American IV was also released with a bonus DVD featuring the award-winning video for "Hurt."]

Zac Johnson, Rovi

Fallen

Evanescence
Fallen is the major-label debut of Evanescence, a Little Rock, AR-based quartet led by the soaring vocals of 20-year-old Amy Lee. Emboldened by the inclusion of its single "Bring Me to Life" on the soundtrack to the hit film Daredevil, Fallen debuted at an impressive number seven on Billboard's Top 40. But "Bring Me to Life" is a bit misleading. A flawless slice of Linkin Park-style anguish pop, it's actually a duet between Lee and 12 Stones' Paul McCoy. In fact, almost half of Fallen's 11 songs are piano-driven ballads that suggest Tori Amos if she wore too much mascara and recorded for the Projekt label. The other half of the album does include flashes of the single's PG-rated nu-metal ("Everybody's Fool," "Going Under"). But it's the symphonic goth rock of groups like Type O Negative that influences most of Fallen. Ethereal synths float above Ben Moody's crunching guitar in "Haunted," while "Whisper" even features apocalyptic strings and a scary chorus of Latin voices right out of Carmina Burana. "Tourniquet" is an anguished, urgent rocker driven by chugging guitars and spiraling synths, with brooding lyrics that reference Evanescence's Christian values: "Am I too lost to be saved?/Am I too lost?/My God! My tourniquet/Return to me salvation." The song is Fallen's emotional center point and defines the band's sound.

Battle Born

The Killers
The Killers' 2004's debut Hot Fuss and 2006 follow-up Sam's Town—their best and most career-defining works—came with a sound clearly dated to the 1980s, mining foppish new wave on the former record and letting in Springsteen-ian Americana on the latter. Fourth album Battle Born suggests that in the four years since their last release, that clock hasn't advanced a minute. Their songs still swell with grand arena rock ambition, riding glassy synth leads into crescendos of guitar, and Brandon Flowers' lyrics still go for broad, broken-hearted melodrama, their occasional clunkiness carried by his clear and capable singing voice. The most successful tracks here might be hidden in the album's final half, as with the appropriately looming yet elevating "The Rising Tide" or the muted "Sweet Jane"-ish guitar strums of "Heart of a Girl."

Eric Grandy, Google Play

Hybrid Theory

Linkin Park
Linkin Park originally called itself Hybrid Theory and has retained that phrase for the title of its debut album. The "hybrid" in question is one of rap and metal. The guitars and drums lock into standard thrash patterns, over which singer Chester Bennington and rapper Mike Shinoda alternate in furious expressions of rage and frustration. "One Step Closer," the track released to radio in advance of the album's release, is a typical effort, with lyrics like "Everything you say to me/Takes me one step closer to the edge/And I'm about to break."

William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Greatest Hits

Foo Fighters
Almost 15 years on from their debut, Foo Fighters deliver their first Greatest Hits, a 15-track (16 if the double dip on "Everlong" counts) retrospective covering their six albums from 1995 to 2007. Greatest Hits isn't arranged chronologically, which isn't a detriment; if anything, skipping through the years emphasizes just how consistent the Foos have been, always delivering oversized rock & roll where the hooks are as big as the guitars. The only exceptions to the rule are the two lo-fi cuts "Big Me" and "This Is a Call," with "I'll Stick Around" qualifying as this comp's inexplicable omission ("Walking After You," "DOA," "Stacked Actors," and "No Way Back" all also didn't make the cut), plucked from their 1995 debut, where the band was only Dave Grohl recording at home. Apart from this pair of tunes, this is all muscular, melodic modern rock, the kind that Foo Fighters almost patented, and if their consistency has occasionally made their albums blend together, it does result in one strong hits collection.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

El Camino

The Black Keys
Picking up on the ‘60s soul undercurrent of Brothers, the Black Keys smartly capitalize on their 2010 breakthrough by plunging headfirst into retro-soul on El Camino. Savvy operators that they are, the Black Keys don’t opt for authenticity à la Sharon Jones or Eli “Paperboy” Reed: they bring Danger Mouse back into the fold, the producer adding texture and glitter to the duo’s clean, lean songwriting. Apart from “Little Black Submarines,” an acoustic number that crashes into Zeppelin heaviosity as it reaches its coda, every one of the 11 songs here clocks in under four minutes, adding up to a lean 38-minute rock & roll rush, an album that’s the polar opposite of the Black Keys’ previous collaboration with Danger Mouse, the hazy 2008 platter Attack & Release. That purposely drifted into detours, whereas El Camino never takes its eye off the main road: it barrels down the highway, a modern motor in its vintage body. Danger Mouse adds glam flair that doesn’t distract from the songs, all so sturdily built they easily accommodate the shellacked layers of cheap organs, fuzz guitars, talk boxes, backing girls, tambourines, foot stomps, and handclaps. Each element harks back to something from the past -- there are Motown beats and glam rock guitars -- but everything is fractured through a modern prism: the rhythms have swing, but they’re tight enough to illustrate the duo’s allegiance to hip-hop; the gleaming surfaces are postmodern collages, hinting at collective aural memories. All this blurring of eras is in the service of having a hell of a good time. More than any other Black Keys album, El Camino is an outright party, playing like a collection of 11 lost 45 singles, each one having a bigger beat or dirtier hook than the previous side. What’s being said doesn’t matter as much as how it’s said: El Camino is all trash and flash and it’s highly addictive.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

The Black Parade

My Chemical Romance
The Black Parade is the third studio album by My Chemical Romance. Released on October 24, 2006 through Reprise Records, it was produced by Rob Cavallo, known for having produced multiple albums for Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day. It is a rock opera centering on a dying character with cancer known as "The Patient". The album tells the story of his apparent death, experiences in the afterlife, and subsequent reflection on his life.
Four singles were released from the album: "Welcome to the Black Parade", "Famous Last Words", "I Don't Love You", and "Teenagers". The Black Parade has received generally favorable reviews, and the band achieved its first Number 1 single in the UK with "Welcome to the Black Parade". The album debuted at number two on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart and is also certified as platinum by the RIAA, as well as a Platinum certification in the UK and a Gold certificacion in Argentina by the CAPIF and in Chile by the IFPI Chile. The Black Parade was given the Platinum Europe Award by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry for 1 million sales in Europe. The limited edition boxed set also earned My Chemical Romance a Grammy Award nomination. In the video game Guitar Hero II, the song "Dead!" was added to the game's track list prior to the earlier PS2 version, and the three songs "Teenagers," "Famous Last Words" and "This Is How I Disappear" are available for download. The Black Parade has sold 1,610,000 copies in the US as of October 2010, and has sold 3,000,000 copies worldwide.

~ Provided by Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Black_Parade) under Creative Commons Attribution CC-BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/legalcode)

Greatest Hits

Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Greatest Hits is a compelling listen, culling tracks from the band's 1989 breakthrough, Mother's Milk, to its melodic 2002 release, By the Way. In some ways, one could view this as the best of the John Frusciante years, charting most of the band's work with the talented guitarist after the death of original member Hillel Slovak. The tracks here are all hits, including such stellar singles as "Give It Away," "Under the Bridge," and Frusciante's first single after his phoenix-like resurrection from heroin addiction, "Scar Tissue." It should be noted, though, that as a Warner-issued hits collection such fan favorites as "Taste the Pain" and the touchstone antidrug anthem "Knock Me Down" -- both from the 1989 EMI release Mother's Milk -- aren't included. (Similarly, nothing from the Chili Peppers' rambunctious early efforts -- including 1984's Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1985's Freaky Styley, and 1987's The Uplift Mofo Party Plan -- appears on this hits collection.) Nonetheless, Greatest Hits still portrays the band as one of the most consistently brilliant groups of its generation. Helping to paint this picture are such solid cuts as the group's searing, albeit overplayed, 1989 cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground" as well as its rarely available addition to the Coneheads movie soundtrack, "Soul to Squeeze." Not surprisingly, "My Friends" is the sole cut to make it from the band's disappointing one-off effort with Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, One Hot Minute. Throw in two new tracks ("Fortune Faded" and "Save the Population") that easily match the quality of the material collected here, and you've got one of the most consistently listenable Chili Pepper releases since Blood Sugar Sex Magik. For fans who gave up after Frusciante left the band, Greatest Hits is the perfect reintroduction.

Matt Collar, Rovi

Sigh No More

Mumford & Sons
English folk outfit Mumford & Sons' full-length debut owes more than a cursory nod to bands like the Waterboys, the Pogues, and the Men They Couldn’t Hang. The group’s heady blend of biblical imagery, pastoral introspection, and raucous, pub-soaked heartache may be earnest to a fault, but when the wildly imperfect Sigh No More is firing on all cylinders, as is the case with stand-out cuts like "The Cave," "Winter Winds," and "Little Lion Man," it’s hard not to get swept up in the rapture. Like their London underground folk scene contemporaries Noah & the Whale, Johnny Flynn, and Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons' take on British folk is far from traditional. There’s a deep vein of 21st century Americana that runs through the album, suggesting a healthy diet of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, Blitzen Trapper, and Marah. That melding of styles, along with some solid knob-twiddling from Arcade Fire/Coldplay producer Markus Dravs, helps to keep the record from completely sinking into the quicksand of its myriad slow numbers -- tracks like "I Gave You All," "Thistle & Weeds," and "After the Storm" are pretty and plain enough, but they neuter a band this spirited. Sigh No More is an impressive debut, but one that impresses more for its promise for the future than its wildly inconsistent place in the present. [A Deluxe Edition of Sigh No More was released in December 2010, and featured the original album, a second disc of 12 live recordings, and a DVD that included all three installments of the documentary "Gentlemen of the Road."]

May Death Never Stop You

My Chemical Romance

Infinity On High

Fall Out Boy
A funny thing happened to Fall Out Boy on the road to Infinity on High: they got famous. Before 2005's From Under the Cork Tree they were just another pop-punk unit from suburban Chicago happy to break even at shows with gas money. Next thing anyone knew, they were headlining arenas and being heralded as the new face of pop-punk alongside their peers in My Chemical Romance. It was a position that never seemed to rest easy with the guys, and because of this, Infinity on High seems a bit conflicted. Fall Out Boy wants to charm everyone here. They want to prove themselves to critics by moving past the confines of emo, allowing a love of all things pop to come right to the forefront. Yet they also want to resonate directly with those day-one fans who may long for the intimate VFW shows of yesterday. This disparity makes points of the record seem awkward, and for the first time, the band appears to over-think things. Pete Wentz's lyrics are oftentimes resentful, full of fame-induced angst, and really emphasize his need to drive home his position that stardom has not changed the band. So it's in weird contrast to these sentiments that Jay-Z is the one opening the album and calling out haters who said FOB would fail. The glorification of their celebrity abruptly switches into Patrick Stump stating (pleading?) that the band is not buying into the hype -- nor do they even want it. "Make us poster boys for your scene/But we are not making an acceptance speech" is defiant, and when his sweet voice asserts, "Crowds are won and lost and won again/But our hearts beat for the diehards," it's clear that FOB still holds their roots close. But this is contradicted by the fact that the album's majority is far and away their poppiest material to date, more pop/rock than pop-punk, which inevitably means more interesting to those who know them just as that "Dance, Dance" band with the media-whoring bassist, Pete Wentz.

So the results are hit-and-miss. The Maroon 5-ish "I'm Like a Lawyer..." is glaringly one of the Babyface-produced tracks, and with a vocal hook uncomfortably close to Phil Collins' "Groovy Kind of Love," it plays like the guys were the ruffled house band for a prom. It's ill-fitting, a notion that continues in cuts like the soft rock piano of "Golden" and the airy "The (After) Life of the Party." But on the flip side, the fizzy urban-pop nugget "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" dances around double-time hardcore choruses and backing choral singers with dizzying precision and infectious results, while dramatic gospel flair excellently lines "Hum Hallelujah." Stump's vocal control and agility is incredible; he truly brings songs alive in a way uniquely his own, and it's a toss-up as to whether he or drummer Andrew Hurley should get this record's gold star. So it's not to say the pop explosion that is Infinity on High is all bad. Even the studio extravagances -- multiple producers (Babyface and Butch Walker handle a few outside Neil Avron) and decadent layers of horns, string sections, and choirs -- don't detract from its overall enjoyability. Yet unlike My Chemical Romance, who knew exactly what they wanted in the grand theatrics of 2006's Welcome to the Black Parade and completely went for it without apology, Fall Out Boy is at odds. Previously, they could easily skip around with pop baggage, hardcore tension, cunning wordplay, and infectious melodies without losing their edge. Now they just seem too self-aware. Don't misunderstand: once Infinity on High sinks in, it's indeed a fun record. But for a band that was once so self-assured and able to utilize its talents so compellingly, the album is regrettably haphazard. Fall Out Boy may hate people who "dissect us 'til this doesn't mean a thing anymore," but in trying to appeal to all of them, they lost something unique along the way.

Corey Apar, Rovi

Good News For People Who Love Bad News

Modest Mouse
After more than a decade with Modest Mouse, Isaac Brock still sounds young and weird and searching, and never more so than on Good News for People Who Love Bad News, which follows the band's meditative The Moon & Antarctica with a set of songs that are more focused, but also less obviously profound. The occasionally indulgent feel of The Moon & Antarctica allowed Modest Mouse the room to make epic statements about life, death, and the afterlife; while Good News for People Who Love Bad News is equally concerned with mortality and spirituality; it has a more active, immediate feel that makes its comments on these subjects that much more pointed. The band hits these points home with a louder, more rock-oriented sound than they've had since The Lonesome Crowded West, particularly on "Bury Me With It," which embodies many of the contradictions that continue to make Modest Mouse fascinating. For a song loosely about contemplating death, it sounds strikingly vital and liberated; Brock delivers finely shaded lyrics like "We are hummingbirds who've lost the plot and we will not move" with a barbaric yawp; it's nonsensical but oddly climactic, conveying how what seems trivial can be anything but. "The View"'s angular bassline and scratchy guitars underscore the Talking Heads influence on Modest Mouse, but since the Heads have become a more trendy touchstone (mostly for bands with less creativity than either Talking Heads or Modest Mouse), it's nice to hear how Brock and company take that influence in a different direction instead of just rehashing it with less inspiration. Feeling stuck is a major theme on Good News for People Who Love Bad News, but the same can't be said about the album's sound, which spans the forceful rock of the aforementioned songs, to the pretty guitar pop of "Float On" and "Ocean Breathes Salty," to the lovely, rustic "Blame It on the Tetons." That's not even mentioning the contributions of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who open Good News for People Who Love Bad News with the aptly named "Horn Intro." They also add a theatrical jolt to the wickedly funny, Tom Waits-inspired "Devil's Workday," which along with the noisy stomp of "Dance Hall" and "Bukowski"'s witty self-loathing, underscore that Modest Mouse haven't lost the edge that made the band compelling in the first place. Other standouts include "Satin in a Coffin," a creatively creepy mix of rattling bluegrass-rock with a tango beat that nods to the group's backwater roots; "One Chance," an unusually open and straightforward ballad; and the dreamlike "World at Large," on which Brock sings, "I like songs about drifters -- books about the same/They both seem to make me feel a little less insane," once again proving that he's a past master of lyrics that are both abstract and precise. Even though this album isn't as immediately or showily brilliant as The Moon & Antarctica, Good News for People Who Love Bad News reveals itself as just as strong a statement. By drawing an even sharper contrast between the harsh and beautiful things about their music, as well as life, Modest Mouse have made an album that's moving and relevant without being pretentious about it. [The album's Japan edition featured bonus tracks.]

Heather Phares, Rovi

Meteora

Linkin Park
Perhaps if the cut-'n'-paste remix record Reanimation hadn't appeared as a stopgap measure in the summer of 2002, Linkin Park's second record, Meteora, would merely have been seen as a continuation of their 2000 debut, Hybrid Theory, instead of a retreat to familiar ground. Then again, Reanimation wasn't much more than a way to buy time (along with maybe a little credibility), so it's unfair to say that its dabbling in electronica and hip-hop truly pointed toward a new direction for the group, but it did provide a more interesting listening experience than Meteora, which is nothing more and nothing less than a Hybrid Theory part two. Which isn't to say that Linkin Park didn't put any effort into the record, since it does demonstrate that the group stand apart from the pack by having the foresight to smash all nu-metal trademarks -- buzzing guitars, lumbering rhythms, angsty screaming, buried scratching, rapped verses -- into one accessible sound which suggests hooks instead of offering them. More importantly, the group has discipline and editing skills, keeping this record at a tight 36-minutes-and-41-seconds, a move that makes it considerably more listenable than its peers and, by extension, more powerful, since they know where to focus their energy, something that many nu-metal bands simply do not. (It must be said that there will surely be consumers out there that will question paying a $19.99 retail for a 36-minute-and-41-second record, though some may prefer getting a tight, listenable record at that price instead of a meandering 70-minute mess.) So, it must be said that Meteora does deliver on the most basic level -- it gives fans what they want, and it does so with energy and without fuss. It's also without surprises, either, which again gives the album a static feeling -- suggesting not a holding pattern for the band, but rather the limits of their chosen genre, which remains so stylistically rigid and formulaic that even with a band who follows the blueprint well, like Linkin Park, it winds up sounding a little samey and insular. Since Meteora is only their second go-round, this is hardly a fatal flaw, but the similarity of Meteora to Hybrid Theory does not only raise the question of where do they go from here, but whether there is a place for them to go at all. [This version of the album includes a DVD of bonus material.]

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

Brothers.

The Black Keys
Retreating from the hazy Danger Mouse-fueled pot dream of Attack & Release, the Black Keys headed down to the legendary Muscle Shoals, recording their third album on their own and dubbing it Brothers. The studio, not to mention the artwork patterned after such disregarded Chess psychedelic-era relics as This Is Howlin’ Wolf’s New Album, are good indications that the tough blues band of the Black Keys earliest records is back, but the group hasn’t forgotten what they’ve learned in their inwardly psychedelic mid-period. Brothers still can get mighty trippy -- the swirling chintzy organ that circles “The Only One,” the Baroque harpsichord flair of “Too Afraid to Love You” -- but the album is built with blood and dirt, so its wilder moments remain gritty without being earthbound. Sonically, that scuffed-up spaciness -- the open air created by the fuzz guitars and phasing, analog keyboards, and cavernous drums -- is considerably appealing, but the Black Keys' ace in the hole remains the exceptional songwriting that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are so good at. They twist a Gary Glitter stomp into swamp fuzz blues, steal a title from Archie Bell & the Drells but never reference that classic Tighten Up groove, and approximate a slow ‘60s soul crawl on “Unknown Brother” before following it up with a version of Jerry Butler’s “Never Gonna Give You Up,” and it’s nearly impossible to tell which is the cover. And that’s the great thing about the Black Keys in general and Brothers in particular: the past and present intermingle so thoroughly that they blur, yet there’s no affect, just three hundred pounds of joy.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi

A Fever You Can't Sweat Out

Panic! At The Disco
A Fever You Can't Sweat Out revealed the state of pop-punk/emo in 2005: it was hip to be self-aware. "Dear studio audience," Panic! at the Disco vocalist Brendon Urie quavers in "The Only Difference Between Martyrdom and Suicide Is Press Coverage." "I've an announcement to make/It seems the artists these days are not who you think." He goes on to shout out, "Applause! applause!" His lyrics also say he's the narrator, but that's for debate, because later on Fever Urie hoots about meeting the press and his band being a "wet dream for the webzines," so who was actually worrying about stardom, the narrator or Panic! at the Disco? With Fever it was clear that the MySpace revolution had come full circle -- no longer just a convenient promotional tool, the site had become something to sing about.

Johnny Loftus, Rovi

Rearviewmirror: Greatest Hits 1991-2003

Pearl Jam
Joe Strummer once claimed that the Clash had stardom in their hands, then they dropped it on the floor and broke it. Pearl Jam took the opposite tact: they purposely left stardom behind. Nirvana may have ushered in the age of grunge and alternative rock, but Pearl Jam were the biggest band in the land during the first half of the '90s, dominating radio airwaves, MTV, and college dorms alike. Most bands would have embraced such widespread acclaim, but the quintet bristled at this vein, and started to restlessly explore new musical territory, a move that eventually whittled their fan base down to just the hardcore by the beginning of the next decade. That hardcore following was still large, and the band could still have the occasional surprising crossover hit, like the 1999 cover of J. Frank Wilson's teen tragedy classic "Last Kiss" that went to number two on the Billboard charts, but they were no longer the biggest band in the land. Spanning two discs, Rearviewmirror (Greatest Hits 1991-2003) chronicles that journey and it does an expert job not only of capturing the moment when Pearl Jam were monstrously popular, but proving that they still turned out good music even when they were fading from the spotlight. Unlike most career-spanning, multi-disc retrospectives, Rearviewmirror does not emphasize latter-day albums in order to achieve a sense of balance that's inherently phony. Of the 33 tracks, only 12 date from the post-Vitalogy era, which means that the bulk of the collection concentrates on their early-'90s heyday, and nearly every radio hit and concert staple is here, outside of the Victoria Williams cover "Crazy Mary" and "Tremor Christ." While their presence would have been nice, they're not terribly missed, partially because such non-LP cuts like "State of Love and Trust," "I Got ID," "Last Kiss," and "Man of the Hour" are collected here, but mainly because the compilation plays so well. The songs are divided into the "Up Side" and "Down Side," meaning the first disc has all the rockers and the second disc has all the ballads. At first, this seems like a questionable strategy, since it's usually preferable to have all the hits follow in chronological order, but what makes this work is that the songs on each disc "are" presented in chronological order, and they sustain their mood quite well (this is partially helped by Brendan O'Brien's new mixes of "Once," "Alive," and "Black," which retain the feeling of the original songs but remove much of the dated glossy sheen in the production). Distilled to their hits and anthems, all of Pearl Jam's best qualities shine through and they sound bigger, better, and frankly more coherent than they do on their full-length albums. And that's why Rearviewmirror is a cut above most '90s hits collections: it not only gives casual fans all the hits, but it captures why the band mattered, while providing a better listen than their proper LPs in the process.

Megalithic Symphony

AWOLNATION
Following his group sojourns with major-label projects Home Town Hero (on Maverick) and Under the Influence of Giants (on Island), Aaron Bruno resurfaces as a one-man band (albeit with a lot of help, including longtime partner Drew Stewart) under the name AWOLNATION on Megalithic Symphony. A megalith is a large stone, so a megalithic symphony would seem to be an ambitious suite of rock music, and the album fits its title if one interprets the ambition as an unfettered eclecticism and sense of whimsy, as tethered to constant dance beats. Bruno seems to have built his tracks up from the percussion patterns, and once he got the beats he liked, he was willing to put whatever came to hand or mind on top. That includes poppy melodies supporting nonsense lyrics sung in falsetto or a gritty tenor, with plenty of goofy electronic sounds in between. The "anything goes" quality takes in an odd spoken word track ("Some Sort of Creature") and tracks that recall everything from Prince to Men Without Hats. (Remember "The Safety Dance"?) It all comes together on the 15-minute closer, "Knights of Shame," which begins with Bruno imploring, "Dance, baby, like the world is ending," continues through various sections including a rap by Cameron Duddy, and ends, after a minute or so of silence, with a hidden track that finds Bruno strumming his acoustic guitar and croaking, "It's been a long time waiting for you." What does it all mean? Who knows? But Megalithic Symphony engages the ear from moment to moment and allows Aaron Bruno to try out a variety of ideas, many of them half-baked, but all of them entertaining.

William Ruhlmann, Rovi

Elephant

The White Stripes
White Blood Cells may have been a reaction to the amount of fame the White Stripes had received up to the point of its release, but, paradoxically, it made full-fledged rock stars out of Jack and Meg White and sold over half a million copies in the process. Despite the White Stripes' ambivalence, fame nevertheless seems to suit them: They just become more accomplished as the attention paid to them increases. Elephant captures this contradiction within the Stripes and their music; it's the first album they've recorded for a major label, and it sounds even more pissed-off, paranoid, and stunning than its predecessor. Darker and more difficult than White Blood Cells, the album offers nothing as immediately crowd-pleasing or sweet as "Fell in Love With a Girl" or "We're Going to Be Friends," but it's more consistent, exploring disillusionment and rejection with razor-sharp focus. Chip-on-the-shoulder anthems like the breathtaking opener, "Seven Nation Army," which is driven by Meg White's explosively minimal drumming, and "The Hardest Button to Button," in which Jack White snarls "Now we're a family!" -- one of the best oblique threats since Black Francis sneered "It's educational!" all those years ago -- deliver some of the fiercest blues-punk of the White Stripes' career. "There's No Home for You Here" sets a girl's walking papers to a melody reminiscent of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" (though the result is more sequel than rehash), driving the point home with a wall of layered, Queen-ly harmonies and piercing guitars, while the inspired version of "I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" goes from plaintive to angry in just over a minute, though the charging guitars at the end sound perversely triumphant. At its bruised heart, Elephant portrays love as a power struggle, with chivalry and innocence usually losing out to the power of seduction. "I Want to Be the Boy" tries, unsuccessfully, to charm a girl's mother; "You've Got Her in Your Pocket," a deceptively gentle ballad, reveals the darker side of the Stripes' vulnerability, blurring the line between caring for someone and owning them with some fittingly fluid songwriting.

The battle for control reaches a fever pitch on the "Fell in Love With a Girl"-esque "Hypnotize," which suggests some slightly underhanded ways of winning a girl over before settling for just holding her hand, and on the show-stopping "Ball and Biscuit," seven flat-out seductive minutes of preening, boasting, and amazing guitar prowess that ranks as one the band's most traditionally bluesy (not to mention sexy) songs. Interestingly, Meg's star turn, "In the Cold, Cold Night," is the closest Elephant comes to a truce in this struggle, her kitten-ish voice balancing the song's slinky words and music. While the album is often dark, it's never despairing; moments of wry humor pop up throughout, particularly toward the end. "Little Acorns" begins with a sound clip of Detroit newscaster Mort Crim's Second Thoughts radio show, adding an authentic, if unusual, Motor City feel. It also suggests that Jack White is one of the few vocalists who could make a lyric like "Be like the squirrel" sound cool and even inspiring. Likewise, the showy "Girl, You Have No Faith in Medicine" -- on which White resembles a garage rock snake-oil salesman -- is probably the only song featuring the word "acetaminophen" in its chorus. "It's True That We Love One Another," which features vocals from Holly Golightly as well as Meg White, continues the Stripes' tradition of closing their albums on a lighthearted note. Almost as much fun to analyze as it is to listen to, Elephant overflows with quality -- it's full of tight songwriting, sharp, witty lyrics, and judiciously used basses and tumbling keyboard melodies that enhance the band's powerful simplicity (and the excellent "The Air Near My Fingers" features all of these). Crucially, the White Stripes know the difference between fame and success; while they may not be entirely comfortable with their fame, they've succeeded at mixing blues, punk, and garage rock in an electrifying and unique way ever since they were strictly a Detroit phenomenon. On these terms, Elephant is a phenomenal success.

Heather Phares, Rovi

Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge

My Chemical Romance
My Chemical Romance's 2002 debut was a particularly strident entry in that shifty genre of bands tortuously slamming together elements of emo, hardcore, and even metal. Rightly signed to a larger label (in this case, Reprise Records), MCR has returned in 2004 with Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. With the aid of production major-leaguer Howard Benson, they've edited the slight rookie excesses of I Brought You My Bullets You Brought Me Your Love, resulting in a rewarding, pretty damn relentless product. Ghosts wander through this Sweet Revenge, and the blood-stained lovers of its cover are no joke. "Would I die for you? Well here's your answer in spades...Got you in my sights," Gerard Way wails in "Hang 'Em High." There's also cinematic concepting here -- "The story of a man. A woman. And the corpses of a thousand evil men..." the liners intone. "You Know What They Do to Guys Like Us in Prison" begins "In the middle of a gunfight/In the center of a restaurant." Musically the cut's claustrophobic, messy, and juiced with adrenaline, just like the Tokyo crime caper shootout it was probably inspired by. Picture antiheroes leaping sideways with twin pistols blaring -- in slow motion, you know -- and you're close. Put an old At the Drive-In record on in the background, and suddenly you're shot in the arm and down to your last clip. Economic, treble-kicking production, consistently hyper, "Let's get to the next note NOW!" instrumentation, and great thematic songwriting -- Three Cheers teems with the influences MCR shares with its peers, but recent efforts from fellow travelers Thursday and A.F.I. don't have this furious immediacy, this coarseness that's so appealing. My Chemical Romance seems to have built-in restrictive bindings that prevent it from flying off the handle into quiet-loud screamo stereotyping or odd-bird stopovers into choral parts or maudlin piano. Something like "Ghost of You" might slow the pace, but it doesn't touch the railing guitars or inventively explosive drumming. Album highlights include the propulsive chain shots "Give 'Em Hell Kid" and "To the End," where layers of vocals increase urgency over modernist post-punk, or the raucous "Thank You for the Venom." There's no question of Reprise's high hopes for My Chemical Romance and Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge. But its accessibility pays tribute to anger and bullet holes in black leather. [Reprise issued a special, red vinyl edition in 2008 - complete with alternate cover art.]

Johnny Loftus, Rovi

Collide with the Sky

Pierce The Veil
Following their 2010 release Selfish Machines, San Diego hardcore quartet Pierce the Veil returned with Collide with the Sky in the summer of 2012. This full-length was Pierce the Veil's third studio album as well as their first for Fearless Records, following the release of their first two albums on long-running punk and hardcore label Equal Vision Records. The album incorporates more than one duet between high-pitched vocalist Vic Fuentes and other peers from the post-hardcore scene. The first single, "King for a Day," features guest vocals from Kellin Quinn from Sleeping with Sirens, and "Tangled in the Great Escape" features Jason Butler from Letlive., Rovi

Riot!

Paramore
Move over, Avril; there's a new gun in town. And even though Paramore's lead singer Hayley Williams is a few years younger than her predecessor, she has a way bigger set of vocal pipes. Lavigne and Williams share a similar register, but Williams belts it out with way more control and authority. She may even be more of a respectable pop idol since her image isn't manufactured to be rebellious and angst-ridden; instead, Williams appears to be a genuinely sweet girl, bottling up a huge voice and a heart full of lost loves. On 2008's Riot!, she fills the majority of her punk-pop tales with emo angst and declarations of boy woes. Contrived as this may sound, her lyrics feel authentic and representative of actual teenage puppy love, where a breakup feels like the end of the world. Filled with crossover potential, the songs are consistant and zippy with catchy hooks in the vein of Boys Like Girls fronted by a young Shirley Manson. Meanwhile, the production is sparkling and heavily compressed due to the golden hands of David Bendeth, but these ultra-clean sonics also tend to cramp up the band -- clouding the dynamics and turning the listening experience into a relatively risk-free one. When the group breaks away from the chugging guitar Fall Out Boy formula, they're at their best. Mid-song breakdowns and cathartic power ballads (think "Don't Speak") showcase the band's maturity as musicians. More importantly, Williams shines through in these openings. In the last track, "Born for This," she takes a break from her love confessions and commands everyone to sing like it's the last song they will ever sing, making for a sentimental finale and a perfect closer for the live shows.

Jason Lymangrover, Rovi

Cage The Elephant

Cage The Elephant
The more things change in rock, the more they inevitably stay the same -- and in the case of Cage the Elephant, that's a good thing. Actually, it's a "very" good thing. Cage the Elephant didn't exist until 2005, but as this self-titled album demonstrates, their ability to be influenced by alternative rock and classic rock simultaneously is a definite plus. Drawing on influences from different eras, this Kentucky-based band has an appealing sound that combines a strong appreciation of the Rolling Stones with elements of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, hip-hop, and punk. This isn't full-fledged R&B, but it is certainly funky by rock standards -- and that funkiness serves Cage the Elephant well on bluesy, gritty, infectious offerings like "Free Love," "Back Stabbin' Betty," and the single "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." When one analyzes the band's sound, it makes perfect sense that classic rock-loving alterna-rockers who are into the Stones would also be into the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, and the Beastie Boys; after all, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were absolutely obsessed with both Northern and Southern soul in their 1960s/1970s heyday. The Stones were more than happy to cover gems that had been previously recorded by the Temptations ("Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Just My Imagination"), Marvin Gaye ("Hitch Hike"), Rufus Thomas ("Walking the Dog"), and Irma Thomas ("Time Is on My Side"). Similarly, the Red Hot Chili Peppers have always been heavily into Parliament/Funkadelic and Sly Stone and covered the Ohio Players' "Love Rollercoaster" in 1996. So there are major parallels between Cage the Elephant's influences even though their influences come from different eras. But instead of trying to sound exactly like those influences, Cage the Elephant have developed their own sound -- a sound that is hardly groundbreaking by 2000s standards, but is nonetheless their own sound. And they show considerable promise on this excellent album.

Alex Henderson, Rovi

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