Teenage Fanclub Man-Made (Merge)
After 14 years and eight full-lengths, Glaswegians Teenage Fanclub give us Man-Made, which can be best described with the adjective most commonly applied to them: melodic. Perhaps it's the '60s pop song structures blended with the guitar tones, synthesizers and layering of '70s Big Star-esque rock. Or maybe it's the three-vocalist combination which creates an effect reminiscent of Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" (don't laugh, BOC rules). Whatever it is, Man-Made comes off with a beautiful and bittersweet, somewhat tragic feel which I recommend for long trips by road or plane, sitting alone by water and general introspection.
Styx Big Bang Theory (New Door)
What do you do when you've been bestowing sweet power chords on the world for 30 years? You cover a handful of classic rock songs and throw in a bunch of sweet power chords, of course. You can get rid of your Beatles version of “I Am The Walrus,” your Who version of “I Can See For Miles” and your Jimi Hendrix version of “Manic Depression” (the Styx version comes complete with maniacal laughter) because now you can enjoy them all arena-rock style as you sail your magical pegasus away into the cosmos.
The Soviettes LP III (Fat Wreck Chords)
Concerning pop-punk bands, it takes something very special to impress me because I find so many of them to be purveyors of uninspired, formulaic crap. That said, The Soviettes have accomplished what few can and won my adoration with LP III, which sounds like it could be the result of a drunken tryst between Bikini Kill and The Go-Go's. The Minneapolis female fronted four-piece work within a multi-vocalist system to create some really catchy yet tough sounding harmonies. Augmented with sophisticated yet classic punk melodies, occasional synthesizers and a somewhat lo-fi production, the result is energetic and penetrating punk wave.