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Cage the Elephant, Pearl Jam, Polvo

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Melophobia by Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Melophobia

RCA

File next to: Wilco, Vampire Weekend

The Shultz brothers of Bowling Green, Ky., brought Cage the Elephant to an adoring world in 2008, trying to capture the type of adolescent effervescence present in early Blink-182. By their second album, Thank You, Happy Birthday, they had matured enough to diversify their influences, rack up late-night TV slots, and release a live CD/DVD to appease a manic fan base. Melophobia, Cage's third studio album, is a chameleon of interests and influences, recalling everyone from Elliott Smith to Generation X. It moves from the spoken-word psychedelia of "Teeth" to the hard funk of "It's Just Forever," which features Alison Mosshart of The Kills and Dead Weather. Some might be perplexed, looking for Cage the Elephant's center of gravity. It hardly matters. The band just wants to have fun, and leans on brilliant mentors while doing so. — Loring Wirbel

Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam

Lightning Bolt

Monkeywrench / Republic

File next to: Foo Fighters, Neil Young

The problem faced by many bands of multi-decade longevity is not so much keeping up the quality of their music as it is navigating those obligatory comparisons to their "classic" work. While Lightning Bolt is a good — perhaps even great— Pearl Jam album, its punky overtures suffer a bit when put to the inevitable comparisons with ferocious albums such as Vs. and Vitalogy. Which is not to say that the album is by any means tepid. On "Mind Your Manners," Mike McCready's guitar solo and squalling weirdness fondly recall the noisy fretboard acrobatics of the Dead Kennedys' East Bay Ray. Elsewhere, the title cut's fiery stomp has a touch of Guided by Voices, "Pendulum" is hypnotically subdued, and "Sirens" is a superlative, multi-layered ballad that perfectly showcases Eddie Vedder's vocals. — Collin Estesw

Siberia by Polvo

Polvo

Siberia

Merge

File next to: Unwound, Blue Oyster Cult

Sci-fi legend Kim Stanley Robinson has a new novel, Shaman, about the Ice Age, and Polvo's Siberia would make the perfect soundtrack. When the '90s math-rock legends reunited to release 2009's In Prism, it had the feel of the best Polvo moments from the past, but was shot through with an infinite sadness. Minor keys remain prevalent in Siberia, but the synthesizers are louder, the soundscapes expanded into a snowy wash. Lovers of precise dissonant guitar might find the sound muddy, but Polvo is aiming at something more ethereal. Album notes are minimal, clues to inherent meaning are few. Long-time fans will understand right away, while newcomers might be confused. But Polvo aims for clarity only rarely. Tracks like "The Water Wheel" and "Light, Raking" are seen through gauze, prisms or a blizzard of unknown origin. — Loring Wirbel

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