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POP/ROCK

Latest releases reviewed

Latest releases reviewed

TEN PAST SEVEN
Shut Up Your Face
Out on a Limb
****

Few live experiences come close to matching Ten Past Seven in full flight, so the fact that these three wild-eyed Kerrymen have knocked out an album which replicates their ragged riffing and strutting so perfectly is something to be cheered. Operating in that dangerous no-man's-land where hardcore attitudes and post-rock action usually come together to produce po-faced anonymity, Ten Past Seven succeed in kicking out more exhilarating jams than the vast majority of their peers. There are riffs and thrusts to treasure as you rumble through the furious crash, bang and wallop that punctuates Comedy Night and Back in Business. Add in No Bother, a track that is more dramatic, telling and engaging than an entire series of Pure Mule, and the shrill lunacy of Egg Language and you have the first noteworthy Irish release of the year. www.outonalimbrecords.com  - Jim Carroll

THE ELECTED
Sun, Sun, Sun
Sub Pop
****

Last year, US indie band Rilo Kiley were a crossover and critical success. This month sees the release of a debut solo album by lead singer Jenny Lewis and this, co-songwriter Blake Sennett's side project group. There is no bad news in all of this - whatever about Lewis's all-too-charming and pretty take on Americana, Sennett's view of essentially the same genre is adventurous and gritty. Textured by lachrymose swipes of lap steel guitar, lyrics that treasure the value of reminiscence, and the kind of pop/folk last heard on the last two Rilo Kiley albums, this album is drenched in subtlety, distinction and class. What a cool way to start the Best of 2006 list. www.subpop.com - Tony Clayton-Lea

COUGAR
Law
Layered
***

Improvised instrumental music with mighty helpings of heart and soul is what you get when this Cougar starts to purr. Formed in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2003 as an offshoot of sorts to the dynamic Youngblood Brass Band (and with Tortoise handler John McEntire providing some of the studio steering for Law), Cougar's sound shifts between different shades and shapes. While there's an undoubtedly epic drawl to much of their emergency rock, Cougar's real panache can be found in those soft, subtle notes between grooves when the electronics and acoustic elements find common ground. As tracks bend and gyrate between different perspectives, there's an emotional intensity at work that pulls the listener closer. Spotlighting individual tracks is pointless - it's the overall sound that makes the most impact. www.cougarsound.com  - Jim Carroll

TALKING HEADS
77/More Songs About Buildings and Food/Fear of Music/Remain in Light
WEA
*****

1977 may have been punk's annus mirabilis, but it was also the year when four nerds from Baltimore brought art rock to a new, poptastic level. Now, Talking Heads' fantastic first four albums have been re-released, each with a bonus DVD featuring rare vids, concert footage, TV appearances, lyrics and photos. Their debut, 77, features the classic Psycho Killer but also such fine, angular tunes as Don't Worry about the Government, The Book I Read and Uh, Oh, Love Comes to Town. The follow-up didn't live up to fevered expectations, but still boasted Warning Sign, Artists Only and their twisted cover of Al Green's Take Me to the River. Fear of Music was wildly and wonderfully varied, while Remain in Light was a groundbreaking foray into African polyrhythms and another fine specimen of social anthropology. Looks like my Arcade Fire album's getting shelved for awhile. - Kevin Courtney

CLEARLAKE
Amber
Domino
***

The name sounds like a sleepy Californian town, but Jason Pegg and his cohorts are based in lively old Brighton, and Amber is their third attempt to break free of the post-Coldplay pack and show there's life after Athlete. Clearlake's weapons are a frontman who can swing, from Syd Barrett's psychedelic stroll to Damon Albarn's cocky strut, and a clutch of songs that effortlessly traverse the retro rock obstacle course while largely avoiding the pitfalls of pop's past. No Kind of Life, Good Clean Fun and Far Away are whiplashing, 1960s-haired wig-outs; You Can't Have Me is shadowed by a nicely self-contained signature; Dreamt That You Died hangs on a slowly swinging country sad melody; and the title track is drenched in brooding cellos and chimes. But closer It's Getting Light Outside hints at one too many late nights talking rubbish. www.clearlake.co.uk  - Kevin Courtney