Terry Lynn, Kingstonlogic 2.0 (Phree Music) – Exploding out of the rawest Jamaican war zones, this bad sister’s matter-of-fact violent imagery is tempered only by her utterly exhilarating way with a groove. 2.0’s wicked, relentless ghetto-tech draws fluently on everything from old-school dub to austere French electro, and Lynn raps like an AK-47 in nervous hands. Her bleak but electrifying videos are a metaphor-drenched carnival of blood and guns. Hot, hot shit, yuh. — Ken Scrudato
Little Joy, Little Joy (Rough Trade) – In the tradition of famous band members coddling their offspring (hear, or don’t, Tom DeLonge and Angels & Airwaves) emerges Little Joy. Subtly led by the Strokes’ drummer Fabrizio Moretti, pulling his weight on everything from bass to piano, the band’s first album skillfully drifts from upbeat anthems about love (“Brand New Start”) to somber ballads about loss (“Play the Part”). With hypnotic vocal backing from Moretti’s girlfriend, Binky Shapiro (“Unattainable”), and support from Los Hermanos singer/guitarist Rodrigo Amarante, the end result is an eclectic, at times hypnotic, album about the trials and tribulations of love, L.A. and growing up.— Cory Carroll
Love Is All, A Hundred Things Keep Me Up at Night (What’s Your Rupture?) – Like most spastic amalgams of lo-fi and pop, Love Is All hails from… Gothenburg? Most famous for its dense population of melodic death metal bands, the Swedish municipality provides us with its finest export ever, probably. At times opaquely percussive, at others airy and innocent, A Hundred Things… straddles the liminal space between hipster insouciance and effusive drama. Beat-driven songs make way for cherubic back-and-forth vocals that seem to channel the Brunettes, as on “A More Uncertain Future.” But it’s on impassioned Lolita-punk tracks like “Movie Romance” and “Sea Sick” that the quintet shines brightest. — Nick Haramis
Glasvegas, Glasvegas (Columbia) – On their debut album, these four Scottish newcomers shrug off saccharine radio fare in favor of early U2-inspired tracks. Frontman James Allan’s refreshing burr is strongest on “Daddy’s Gone” and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart That Makes Me Cry” — rich jams that tackle family strife with traces of the Clash’s confident aplomb. Allan’s accent brings an aching, forlorn quality to the 10 tracks, which contain nary a trace of the mindlessness typical of foppish Brit-pop. “Flowers and Football Tops,” written about the brutal murder of a 15 year old in their hometown of Glasgow, is simply heartbreaking. And, as one might expect, they tend to wear black. — Delia Paunescu
Free Blood, The Singles (DFA/Rong Music) – Given their hematic moniker and electronic hardwiring, one expects the debut album from this Brooklyn duo to sound aloof and clinical. Such couldn’t be further from the case for drummer and vocalist John Pugh, fresh off his retirement from !!!, and singer Madeline Davy, who go straight for the jugular on the frenetic yet impatiently sexual “Never Hear Surf Music Again.” Like an IV injection of inspired, New York cacophony, “Royal Family” stumbles over James Murphy and TV on the Radio with salty wails that cut, and sting, deeper than most. — N.H.
Wild Beasts, Limbo, Panto (Domino) – Beasts may be Britain’s latest buzz band, but on their debut album, they prove to be their own animal. Unlike the brash guitar aggro of, say, the Arctic Monkeys, Wild Beasts pursue decidedly fey, emotional cabaret-pop. Their heart lies in singer Hayden Thorpe, who alternates masterfully between sincere croon and artful falsetto. He’s like Bowie in his Kurt Weill phase, or David Sylvian at his most theatrical: a frontman who thrillingly refuses to be bound by ideals of masculinity or music trends, preferring to set them instead. — Matt Diehl
Late of the Pier, Fantasy Black Channel (Astralwerks) – Prog. Terrifying as it sounds, do remember that it mostly resulted from the staggering overuse of brilliant drugs — and, well, Englishness. We can’t comment on their illicit intake, but Britain’s oddly monikered Late of the Pier certainly do have a way with the bonkers. Straight out of Nottinghamshire, they’ve got all the snappy pop grooves of the Franz Ferdinand boys, but freak up the proceedings with mad ’80s electro flourishes, while fearlessly veering off into all manner of King Crimson-esque pandemonium. It’s all a bloody riot, if you can possibly imagine. Alternately titled: Gone Raving at Stonehenge. — Ken Scrudato
Mavis Staples, Live: Hope at the Hideout (Anti-) – During the civil rights era, Mavis Staples became a soulful icon of resilience. Her gruff, heavyset vocals recount the stark segregation of yore that is at once haunting and relevant — stories about locking arms while being kicked out of a restaurant in “We Shall Not Be Moved,” for example. A close friend to Bob Dylan, Staples is relentlessly uplifting and metaphorically truthful when she sings, “When you moan, the devil don’t know what you talking about.” — Pauline Pechin
Bloc Party, Intimacy (Atlantic) – From opener “Ares,” it’s clear that Bloc Party are stretching their wings on their third release: frontman Kele Okereke sounds like Dizzee Rascal rapping grimy over a Chemical Brothers raga groove. These revered heroes of U.K. neo-post-punk split the difference between their earlier releases and then some, expanding on the prickly immediacy of their 2005 debut, Silent Alarm (on jagged rocker “Halo”), and its follow-up, Weekend In The City’s more elaborate, electronic-based production. Okereke’s pained revelations remain the crucial core — true to the title, Intimacy’s best songs evoke unblinking reportage from a shattered soul. — M.D.
Lucinda Williams, Little Honey (Lost Highway) – On her ninth studio album, country rock’s deftest songwriter oscillates between dispensing friendly advice to “little rock star[s]” and marveling at the layers of passion and intimacy — and despair — she continues to discover, almost 40 years after she was a 16-year-old “little miss playgirl making the scene,” as she sings in “Tears of Joy.” From raging-hormone blues to heartfelt love songs, Williams writes poetic, searing insta-classics etched with fire by Doug Pettibone’s guitar and the rest of her band, Buick 6. Guest appearances by Elvis Costello and Matthew Sweet don’t hurt, either. — Evelyn McDonnell
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