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Mellow but catchy acoustic indie rock from this North Carolina five-piece. Think Mazzy Star meets Scott Walker. Plenty of reverb and female vocals.

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Schooner Hold on Too TightMellow but catchy acoustic indie rock from this North Carolina five-piece. Think Mazzy Star meets Scott Walker. Plenty of reverb and female vocals. Moody songs backed by a variety of unusual sounds like accordion, pedal steel, viola and lampshade. Good stuff that grows on you.

Feist The ReminderPeppy songs, breathy vocals, and a good mix of genres and instrumentations come together to make this a great album that will stay in your player for a long, long time. At times soulful, at times folky, the songs here are compelling and mixed with such care and nuance they demand repeated listening.

The Mother Hips Kiss the Crystal FlakeThey call their style “California soul,” but it’s more like late 60s/early 70s Cali rock. Their no-nonsense sound calls to mind Buffalo Springfield and Friends-era Beach Boys. Not groundbreaking music, but pleasant enough and should please fans of the newest Wilco album.

Mirah and Spectratone International Share This PlaceGypsy-sounding folk tunes from this percussion/cello/accordion/oud foursome, with Mirah singing on everything. This group just played the Seattle Children’s Festival, so maybe your kids, nieces or nephews will enjoy it. Not childish music at all though. For fans of: the soundtrack to Amelie, The Paris Combo and Pink Martini.

VietNamVietNamThis Brooklyn-based four-piece makes a decent racket using classic rock and soul as their chief inspiration. The lead singer occasionally sounds like Dylan or John Fogerty. For fans of: The Band, Dr. Dog and bearded indie-rockers.

WilcoSky Blue SkyWilco has sure mellowed out. They are either like a fine wine or like flat soda, depending on your point of view. On one hand, this music isn’t nearly as exciting as anything on Summerteeth or Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. On the other hand, the songs are good, the mix is great and Jeff Tweedy has an appealing voice. This may disappoint anyone expecting YHF v2.0, but it should appeal to fans of their earlier, more straightforward efforts.

Oxblood RecordsFirst Blood (Compilation)Nice compilation of indie rock bands from Kansas City, all recorded at the same studio by the same producer. Standouts include the intriguing electro-pop of The Republic Tigers and the slow burning rock of Olympic Size.

Various artistsSpider-Man 3: Music From and Inspired by As easy as it is to hate the blatant commercialism of songs “inspired by” the most expensive movie ever produced, it’s hard to hate a mix that includes The Walkmen, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Flaming Lips, Rogue Wave and even Jason Schwartzman. Just skip over the Chubby Checker. Or remember his collaboration with The Fat Boys.

ArizonaWelcome Back Dear ChildrenSolid, laid-back alt guitar pop five-piece from Brooklyn. Lots of acoustic guitars and romantic, double-tracked lead vocals. A few pianos here and there, but nothing too outlandish. A warm mix and pleasant vocals make for a good album. For fans of: Rogue Wave and The Shins.

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On the Last DayMeaning in the StaticA boring post-hardcore/metal effort from five Seattleites. A weak lead singer doesn’t help anything either, nor does the limp mix. For fans of: double-kick pedals, screaming and four-part harmonies.

Bone Thugs-N-HarmonyStrength & LoyaltyA new album from a trio of Bones: Krayzie, Wish and Layzie. There is, however, no Funny Bone here. Decent beats with breakneck rhymes, most of which are nearly impossible to understand without a lyric sheet. File under: “Holy crap! These guys are still alive?!”

BAMNLeft out in the OpenCookie-cutter “punk/pop” four-piece band with absolutely nothing to distinguish them from about a thousand other similar sounding bands.

Tenderhooks VidaliaNot bad southern/indie rock, but lead singer Jake Winstrom has a distractingly androgynous voice. Complicating matters are the harmonies from Emily Robinson. This Knoxville four-piece has a lot of potential but would benefit from a better-mixed album, as the good songs here are marred by an amateurish-sounding recording.

Gang Gang DanceRetina RiddimIt’s hard to say what’s more irritating, the CD booklet which looks like the deranged scribbling of the Son of Sam, or the single, tuneless 24-minute track of random sounds, beats and samples on this album. Either way, the gorilla on the CD cover is far more interesting.

Rick ShaperoThe RamEasily the worst album I’ve heard this year. Rick Shapero is a horrible singer and an even worse songwriter. The meandering songs on this album are all from a first-person narrator, who happens to be a freaking RAM. Apparently, Rick Shapero is a millionaire who created his own record label to put out this garbage; therefore, he’s able to hire pros like Marc Ribot and Jim Keltner to play his ridiculous ditties. Don’t be fooled by the high-caliber session players though. Avoid The Ram like the plague.