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Sound advice

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Bob Mould

Silver Age

Merge Records

File next to: The Pixies, X

As frontman for Hüsker Dü and Sugar, Bob Mould always had a special talent for writing guitar riffs, an ability that shines through on Silver Age. In fact, this is one of his hardest-rocking and catchiest albums yet, beginning with the one-two punch of "Star Machine" and the title song, which contains the lyric "I'm never too old to retain my rage." Nearly all of the songs on Silver Age burn white hot, with Mould's driving riffs matched by furious but tight drumming from Jon Wurster (of Superchunk fame) and propulsive bass lines from Jason Narducy. It's all balanced by the pop sensibility that informs Mould's vocal melodies and chord progressions, making songs like "Fugue State," "Briefest Moment" and "Keep Believing" as approachable as they are bracing. Nearly 30 years after Hüsker Dü laid the groundwork for the indie-rock genre, Mould sounds as energized and inspired as ever. — Alan Sculley

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Divine Fits

A Thing Called Divine Fits

Merge Records

File next to: Spoon, Modest Mouse

Although Divine Fits may be a new band, one principal member is especially well known: Britt Daniel imbues the first two songs, "My Love Is Real" and "Flaggin' a Ride," with the kind of minimalistic arrangements and angular melodies that have long defined his band Spoon. There's nothing wrong with that, but the other members of Divine Fits have notable résumés as well. Dan Boeckner was a guitarist in Wolf Parade, while Sam Brown plays drums in New Bomb Turks. The varied influences lead to traces of Kraftwerk on "The Salton Sea," while "Baby Get Worse" evokes elements of an edgier Depeche Mode. The ballad "Civilian Stripes," with its stripped-back, mostly acoustic sound and warm vocal melody, is also a real change up. Comparisons aside, what matters is that Daniels, Boeckner and Brown have come up with compelling songs for a side-band that's more substantial and satisfying than most similar ventures. — Alan Sculley

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Cat Power

Sun

Matador Records

File next to: Feist, Bat for Lashes

Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, is celebrating her 40th birthday with a decidedly downbeat yet resilient album. Gone is the Stax-style soul of recent albums, replaced by loops and layers of synths. Some rootsiness remains, most notably on "3, 6, 9" and the dream pop of the opening "Cherokee." But mostly Marshall — who plays just about everything on the record — has created a cool sound with a few world music influences along the way. The intimacy of her songs is complemented by a warm, reserved voice that carries a touch of her native Southern soul tinged with regret, doubt and a little optimism. There are missteps — most notably a guest appearance by Iggy Pop on "Nothin' but Time" that will use up 10 long minutes of your life — but on balance, Sun stands out as the best and most mature album of Marshall's career. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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