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Vampire Weekend, LL Cool J, The Dillinger Escape Plan

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Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City

XL Recordings

File next to: Ra Ra Riot, Local Natives,Paul Simon

Vampire Weekend frontman Ezra Koenig was the first to realize the group needed to tone down the Afro-pop references or risk repeating itself. Modern Vampires of the City, he says, represents a sober turn to adulthood after a romp through privileged frat life. In live performances, the band diverts from its Graceland sounds to bring in elements of rockabilly, electronic sampling, and even Greek rebetiko. In a studio recording, there is a quieter sound that the listener must work to absorb. And while new tracks like "Diane Young" and "Finger Back" are instantly infectious, there's rarely a riff in Modern Vampires as catchy as "M79" or "Horchata." Still, the move toward maturity does not mean Vampire Weekend has become a boring band. Koenig and co-songwriter Rostam Batmanglij simply demand we listen from a more adult perspective. — Loring Wirbel

LL Cool J, Authentic

LL Cool J

Authentic

429 Records

File next to: Shaggy, Sean Kingston

For his return to music after a five-year absence, hip-hop veteran LL Cool J takes some chances on Authentic, branching well beyond hip-hop and R&B and letting his many guests at times steal the spotlight. In fact, the only song that features LL Cool J on his own is "Bath Salt," one of the strongest and purest hip-hop tracks here. The other candidate for that title is the Snoop Dogg-enhanced "We Came to Party." Elsewhere, the Gap Band's Charlie Wilson joins LL for some sassy, slamming soul on "New Love," while Seal brings his soulful croon to "Give Me Love." Other guests include Blink-182's Travis Barker, Eddie Van Halen, Chuck D and Tom Morello. The multi-genre approach makes Authentic the kind of hip-hop album that invites the interest of rock and pop devotes, while at the same time giving long-time fans enough to keep them satisfied. — Alan Sculley

The Dillinger Escape Plan, One of Us Is the Killer

The Dillinger Escape Plan

One of Us Is the Killer

Sumerian / Party Smasher

File next to: Converge, Drive Like Jehu, System of a Down

Mathcore is a difficult sub-genre, even for erstwhile metal and hardcore fans. Guttural snarls are combined with time signatures that would confuse even Bartok or Stravinsky. Maybe that's why Dillinger Escape Plan lead singer Greg Puciato felt the need to feature a few more melodic and traditional elements here on Killer, which is the band's most diverse album, if not its best. Some may feel that vocals resembling Serj Tankian of System of a Down, with a falsetto or two thrown in, are sell-out by nature. But it's hard to dismiss an album with song titles like "Understanding Decay" and "The Threat Posed by Nuclear Weapons" as mainstream. Maybe this album serves the same function as introducing linear equations to art majors, making mathcore less obtuse for the rest of us. — Loring Wirbel

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