Sonic Reducer

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If Living Things led a revolution, it would do it wearing a leather jacket. The steady jabs of towering guitar and anarchistic rants come wrapped in effortless cool. It’s a shame the band’s so fed up with capitalism, because this brand of slick cock-rock is perfect for a sports car commercial. Living Things can’t quite rein in the slow ballad, but it rarely strays from fast-striking riot starters. The St. Louis four-piece jams its modus operandi down your throat until you choke it down, and that proves a supremely effective delivery method. (SM)

Joshua James The Sun Is Always Brighter (Intelligent Noise)

He’s not the rebel-yelling Joshua James of the band Johnny Voodoo. But this Mr. James sure wrenches his folk-filled heart out all over this album. The Sun Is Always Brighter is a classic for experiencing the world abroad, dealing with addiction and loss, and managing to place it delicately into 11 songs. It’s hard to filter the good singer-songwriters these days, considering the scene is waterlogged with too many to name. But just like any gem in the muck, Joshua James shines as only he can if brought into sunlight. (JH)

The Bran Flakes I Have Hands (Illegal Art)

This is the album hipster parents will buy their babies. Each track is a mashup of disparate artists like Lawrence Welk, Dolly Parton, Kenny Rogers, Van Halen and Strawberry Shortcake. The samples are crammed tight into three-minute amalgamations that play like hyperactive kids’ songs. The Bran Flakes consists of Otis Fodder and Mildred Pitt. They wear oversized papier-mâché smiley faces on their heads, which really drives up the already high silly quotient. It’s unquestionably gimmicky, but it’s also worth more than a quick, guilty laugh. Anything that can make you smile these days deserves the respect of your full attention. (SM)

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