Keane Under the Iron Sea (Interscope)
In the same vein as Coldplay but dropping the sweet from the bittersweet formula, England’s own Keane concoct melancholic and mesmerizing tunes that have a lyrical bite as vicious as the band’s melodies are elegant. The candidness of the band’s identity is in no small part due to Tom Chaplin’s intentionally imperfect vocals that flair out of control just when their melodic potential peaks. As with many bands that rely on a consistent atmosphere on their records, Keane’s tracks do start to blend together at times but, overall, their brand of piano pop is as good as any I’ve heard.
Silversun Pickups Carnavas (Dangerbird)
Silversun Pickups sound like a band your friend from Los Angeles claims to have discovered and that you “have to hear!” So you listen to the CD a few times. It’s good. It’s clever, uncontrived and seems to shoot from the hip with musicians who have a strong grasp of their instruments, but, at the same time, you can’t help but feel like you’re missing something. Like an inside power-pop joke, you feel like maybe if you had been to their shows from the beginning you’d like it a little more, but you haven’t, so you’re left feeling unfulfilled.
MSTRKRFT The Looks (Last Gang)
Innocent without making you feel warm and fuzzy, MSTRKRFT (I’m not sure how I feel about the name) brings us techno-trance that’s fun, flirty and, at times, terribly annoying. The irritation’s primary cause is the overly distorted vocals that are essentially unintelligible. What you can make out, however, are lyrics that are objectionably cute. “Whenever you want me, you need me” is a typical line of refuse. Musically, I have no major qualms with the danceable rhythms and party-time synth leads. But the few times the music starts to mimic the syrupy lyrics significantly weaken the album as a whole.