By Divine Right Sweet Confusion (Linus/spinART)
By Divine Right are Canada's answer to Ohio's Guided By Voices, both in terms of having a former band member roster well into double digits and that kind of vaguely psychedelic power pop that can make you downright ecstatic. Jose Contreras, BDR's lone remaining founding member, writes with a Pollard-like grasp of imagery and Wayne Coyne's sense of slippery little melodies that work their way into your psyche and refuse to leave, leading you instead on a blissful ride through kaleidoscopic pop. Sweet Confusion is BDR's best effort to date. Buy it and fall instantly in love.
Loretta Lynn Van Lear Rose (Interscope)
It took American Recordings producer Rick Rubin to revive Johnny Cash's career. And legendary country singer Loretta Lynn seems to have picked up on the genius of having a rock dude produce your first new record in over a decade. Only she chose Jack White. It's a pairing that works to startling effect. White's arrangements of Lynn's original songs are towering achievements that bend the rules of both rock and country into something unrecognizable and entirely magical. Let's just hope the Thin White Stripe doesn't beat the shit out of Ms. Lynn at the record release party, Von Bondies-style.
Sloan Action Pact (Koch)
Canada's Sloan have always sounded to me like an odd fusion of the Who, Sonic Youth, the Fab Four and the Greg Kihn Band. And their eighth album fits neatly into their catalog, sounding nearly identical to past Sloan records. That's not necessarily a bad thing. The music Sloan make is easily accessible and digestible pop, built on that bright Rickenbacker guitar platform that made Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers famous. The harmonies on Action Pact are seamless, the performances tight and the production nearly perfect. There are even a couple of potential hits here. Still, something's missing.