It takes more than gumption to cover one of the most perfect of all rock 'n' roll records. Tucson, Arizona-based musician Brian Lopez doesn't overdo it on his version of Phil Spector and the Roneettes' "Be My Baby"; he lets his expressive voice and personal vision of the wall of sound make this baby his own.
With layers of acoustic and electric guitars, Boston's Sleepyhead invokes classic guitar-chime bands like R.E.M. and twee-pop groups like Camera Obscura, but with a distinctively arch tone. "Liberation Theology" testifies to the band's melodic ambitions and lightly-worn influences.
If you didn't know better, you'd think "No One Is Lost," the title track to the new album by Canadian band Stars, was cut in a closed-down gay discotheque in Montreal. Turns out you really didn't know better, and the song (like the album) was in fact recorded just above said disco. It's a state-of-the-art, dance-pop track from a band that still has some surprises up its glitter-covered sleeves.
Memphis, Tennesse isn't generally thought of as a hotbed for chamber-folk music, but it depends on your vision of "chamber" and "folk." The vision of Memphis Dawls -- featuring a varied cast of musicians, including Holly Cole, Jana Misener and Krista Wroten -- is as inspired by classic Memphis soul as it is the complex, emotional pop of Big Star (the group recorded in the hallowed halls of Ardent studios). The new song "Please Don't Leave Me Now" expresses a string-drenched yearning that defies narrow definitions.
All kinds of '60s pop illuminate "Home Again," a new track by Dam Gila (aka Adam Gil of Chicago band YAWN): Beach Boyish harmonies, Byrdsian guitars and T. Rexian proto-glam.
New York City band Hollands (husband-and-wife duo John-Paul and Jannina Norpoth) lets it all rip -- clever lyrics, charming harmonies, a string interlude, a whole lot of groove and even more fuzz -- on the new track "Great White Shark." A song with so many elements shouldn't have so much bite, but somehow its orchestral-rock teeth sink in deep.
The Swedish duo of Ola Frick and Carina Johansson, who've been making music together since the late '90s as Moonbabies, have decisively departed from their shoegazy origins with the beautifully-tailored, incessantly-pulsing pop of their latest single "Chorus."
The anti-SEF band S features Jenn Ghetto from long-lost, pre-Band of Horses cult group Carissa's Wierd with production assistance from Chris Walla from very-much-not-a-cult-band Death Cab for Cutie. "Brunch" is as delicious and darkly satisfying as indie guitar pop gets.