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Photo: 60 Cycle Media

SKYE, Mind How You Go
Austere, warm, and direct, Skye’s new disc plays like the long-lost follow-up to Morcheeba’s 1998 classic, Big Calm. That disc perfected melodic trip-hop, but Skye, the lead singer on four Morcheeba recordings, here advances the sound on her own, making it more intimate and plaintive. Her songs are like conversations with a friend who knows her way around but is self-confident enough to admit her mistakes. The sound wraps Skye’s amiable rasp in a delicate backdrop of strings and keyboards, and the three tracks produced by Daniel Lanois are his best work since Emmylou Harris’s Wrecking Ball. —M.J.

Photo: Thomas Campbell/Matador Records

Nathan Shineywater and Rachael Hughes once spent Northern California’s warmer months living in tents, and the placid but rugged songs they make as Brightblack Morning Light are astonishingly true to the great outdoors. Powered by Hughes’s Fender Rhodes keyboard, Shineywater’s slide guitar, and pitter-patter percussion, their second album unspools the sultriest grooves in indie rock; they ripple like muscles under a fleece of echoing vocals and barely-there electronics. And the titles the two come up with—“Star Blanket River Child,” “Amber Canyon Magik”—are as familiar and innocent as birdsong. Don’t begrudge these kids their bliss; surrender to it.—N.C.

Photo: Teddybears/Girlie Action

TEDDYBEARS, Soft Machine
For its American debut, the long-running Swedish outfit has reinvented itself as a Chemical Brothers/Basement Jaxx–type electronic combo, packing this album with an incongruous mix of dance beats, pop hooks, reggae toasting, and rock riffage (Iggy Pop guests on a song). The diversity is nice, but the strongest songs here combine irresistible, spine-throttling bass lines with stadium-size choruses, hammered home with all the subtlety of a Jumbotron. Listeners find themselves exhorted to “move to a different sound,” “t’row yer ’ands up!” and are asked if they’re “feelin’ it” dozens of times per song. However, like many things Swedish, this “Soft Machine” has impressive staying power. It goes down like a guilty pleasure but leaves you longing for more.—J.A.

Photo: Andrew Strasser/Fanatic Promotion

GIRL TALK, Night Ripper
These days, mash-ups have devolved into a mostly technical pissing contest among music nerds to see who can come up with the most clever juxtapositions (“My Life” and “MMMBop”!). Enter one 24-year-old Pittsburgh D.J. named Gregg Gillis, a.k.a. Girl Talk, whose mixed-and-mashed albums push the concept to brilliant extremes. Featuring an almost unbelievable number of samples and songs—fusing Smashing Pumpkins bass lines into Beanie Sigel choruses into a snippet of Biggie Smalls into, yup, that’s the theme song from The O.C.—his mixes are loving snapshots of the great pop-culture junk shop.—S.C.

Photo: Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis

THE CURE, The Head on the Door
They’ve reissued the soundtrack to all my major eleventh-grade disappointments—that mean, pretty girl from Brearley, among other unmentionables—and damn if it doesn’t sound alive. The Cure’s Robert Smith is the great enabler of late-adolescent self-dramatization. In his woeful, just-shy-of-campy voice, bland declarations like “Uh oh oh, I want to change it all” take on stirring profundity. And the restless album opener, “In Between Days,” is my personal choice for best Cure single of all time, just ahead of “Boys Don’t Cry.”—H.L.

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