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Jukebox

Three critics with different musical tastes offer competing takes on noteworthy recent albums.

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RATING SYSTEM
1 = Skip it
5 = Try it
10 = Buy it
Reihan the Politics-and-Economics Journalist
When he was 12, his sister gave him They Might Be Giants’ debut album, and from then on he deferred to her taste: the Smiths, the Sugarcubes, Portishead. Favorite albums of the year so far are Yeasayer’s Odd Blood and the Das Racist mix tape Shut Up, Dude.

Julia the Yoga-Studio Manager
Says the best show she ever saw was Broken Social Scene at the Mercury Lounge in 2008, with Bon Iver as a close second (“I get goose bumps to this day thinking about it”). Is currently crushed out on Beach House’s Teen Dream.
James the Performance Artist
Grew up listening to Love, Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, and the Kinks, then switched to jazz and punk. Just saw Echo & the Bunnymen at the Fillmore (and once toured with the guitarist). Doesn’t own an iPod.
Band of HorsesInfinite Arms The third album (and major-label debut) from this South Carolina–via–Seattle indie-rock band. Critics love their dulcet alt-country harmonies, fans love their rockin’ beards. This record left me sleepy and disappointed. I was massively into their first album, Everything All the Time, but I worry that they’ve been overtaken by various twangy clones and epigones. I can imagine these songs being played in high-end retail stores, or while preparing and eating steamed vegetables. Bland but healthy. Rating: 5Best track:
“Factory”
Okay, so Infinite Arms is not Everything All the Time. It’s not Cease to Begin. It stumbles, it takes more than a few songs for the record to pick up momentum and find its groove, but it’s still gosh-darn good. At times you feel them trying to be something else, something they aren’t, but the middle of the album is Band of Horses at their best, beautiful and sweet and fun and sentimental. Rating: 8Best track:
“Evening Kitchen”
Band of Horses is commercial schlock. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone except an ad-executive friend who needed innocuous background music for a pitch. On this new album, there’s one decent song that sounds like R.E.M., but I don’t really want to listen to R.E.M. either. I put it on while cooking dinner, and if I wasn’t consciously paying attention, it disappeared, like sonic perfume. Rating: 4Best track:
“Infinite Arms”
HoleNobody’s Daughter Courtney Love channeled twelve years of professional disasters, epic legal trouble, self-loathing, sexual catastrophe, addiction, mother-daughter drama, and peroxide rage into the first new Hole album in over a decade. To my great surprise, I liked this album a lot. It’s dark but not somber—I wouldn’t say positive but pleasantly sludgy. And I love Courtney Love’s voice, which invoked memories of, well, Courtney Love, but also Billy Corgan, appealingly dissolute and sleazy. Although “Skinny Little Bitch” was a little like catching your friend’s mother scratching her privates: embarrassing for both parties. Rating: 7Best track:
“Nobody’s Daughter”
I don’t know who should be more ashamed—Courtney Love for making this or me for finding parts of it catchy. You can bite every hand that feeds you, suffer the suicide of your husband, totally fuck up raising your kid, come out of rehab, and put out a heavily produced pop-rock record that sounds kind of like 1994 … but why? The girl I was in the early nineties needs to stay there, and so does Courtney. Rating: 3Best track:
“Honey”
I want artistry and real emotion from my music, and this is a product. Courtney has apparently gotten clean and wants us all to know how hard that’s been for her. She’s been such an annoying mess for so long I can’t imagine why we should care. This record sounds just as good as the early Hole albums, I suppose, but does the world need another passable grunge album? Rating: 5Best track:
“Nobody’s Daughter”
Court Yard HoundsCourt Yard HoundsThe first album from the alt-country duo formed by Martie Maguire and Emily Robison, also known as the Dixie Chicks. Oh, lord. This isn’t my genre, and I found this album unlistenable. It sounds like it was made by a robot, and I say this as an enthusiastic Taylor Swift fan. Please, no more. No more. (Just so you know, this isn’t anti-country prejudice: My college roommates took me to the woodshed for playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” 500 times in a row at high volume.) Rating: 1Best track:
“The Coast”
I don’t know how to be fair about this album. I didn’t enjoy it. I mean, it’s not Shania Twain–quality, it’s not even Dixie Chicks–quality. I do fear that I wasted about an hour of my time listening to this.Rating: 2Best track:
“See You in the Spring”
This is music for people who have given up or who never cared in the first place. If this record becomes a hit, I guess I should just move to Europe. Maybe I would recommend it to suburban Fort Worth housewives on anti-depressants.Rating: 2Best track:
(Grudgingly chosen) “Ain’t No Son”
LCD SoundsystemThis Is HappeningThe third and allegedly final album by the band that kept New York rock from devolving into total garage-band clichédom this past decade. “Drunk Girls,” the first single, is already in contention for song-of-the-summer status. This one’s not quite as awe-inspiring as Sound of Silver, but LCD Soundsystem is just good, clean genre-bending fun. They occupy a Talking Heads–ish cultural space: accessible but smart. Anyone who played eight-bit video games will love it, and the kids will, too. People should listen to this while making out. I listened to it while dancing in my socks pre-bedtime, showering, and making a collage. Rating: 9Best track:
“Dance Yrself Clean”
So much fun! It’s dancey and catchy and quirky and sophisticated and clever. Listening to a song like “You Wanted a Hit,” I was thinking, I can still be the over-30, often-too-serious nerd that I am and bop around to these tunes? Thank you, LCD Soundsystem, thank you.Rating: 9Best track:
“You Wanted a Hit”
This band has potential—I really enjoyed listening to the album, several times. I played it while hanging out with my family, and everyone was dancing around the living room. But why are they pushing “Drunk Girls” as the single? Why do they push the crappy songs? Rating: 9Best track:
“One Touch” (With “Pow Pow” a close second)
The NationalHigh VioletThe fifth album by this Brooklyn indie band whose melancholy, cacophonous noise rock and eviscerating, insightful lyrics have made them cool with the hip kids and increasingly popular with everyone else. I picture married couples listening to this while refurbishing Victorian homes in Flatbush. It has an anthology-of-short-stories vibe, like a downbeat Hold Steady album. I worry about the lead singer, Matt Berninger. He sounds really glum—someone needs to give this guy a slice of pie à la mode. I feel as though I should’ve enjoyed it more than I did, so maybe there’s some grade inflation here. Rating: 7Best track:
“Sorrow”
The National has an unmistakable sound and musical experience and doesn’t deviate—same distinct baritone voice, same building musical tension. I was afraid it would be safe and boring, but I was hooked immediately. High Violet is not a record I would have sought out, but I can see myself listening to it while sitting in a U-Haul, the sun warming my arm, moving to the other side of the country for love. Rating: 8Best track:
“England”
The lead singer’s got a great voice, and that grabbed me right away. But it’s a downer, in a fake-angst kind of way. Maybe his parents gave him everything he ever wanted and now the world is letting him down because it won’t do the same or maybe he just needs to change his meds. If this album becomes a big hit, it doesn’t speak well for the mental health of America.Rating: 7Best track:
“Bloodbuzz Ohio”


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