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Kimbra, New Pornographers, and Raveonettes

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Kimbra

Kimbra

The Golden Echo

Warner Bros.

File next to: Oh Land, Lykke Li, Janelle Monae

New Zealand's answer to Katy Perry won a strong U.S. cheering section when she sang with Gotye on the mega-hit "Somebody That I Used to Know." Kimbra's subsequent solo album, Vows, was as impressive a debut as Lorde's Pure Heroin. While The Golden Echo could scarcely be called a sophomore slump, its first single, "90s Music," tries too hard to be dancey-pop cute. Kimbra works with Van Dyke Parks, as well as producing her own work, so the lack of judicious editing is ultimately a burden she must bear. The frustrating thing is that songs like "Carolina" prove that Kimbra is brilliant. While she allegedly shaved 70 potential songs down to 12 (or 15 in the deluxe edition), there's still too much going on, too many clashing styles. She could benefit from a dose of DIY minimalism of the Aimee Mann variety. — Loring Wirbel

The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers

Brill Bruisers

Matador

File next to: Neko Case, Deaf School, Magnetic Fields

Given that the half-life of American and British supergroups tends to be measured in nanoseconds, it's quite a milestone to see Canada's leading all-stars reach the 15-year mark. New Pornographers veterans A.C. Newman and Neko Case seem to relish focusing on solo work in off-years, only to return to the New Pornographers fold every four to five years to deliver a wallop. Brill Bruisers may not carry the cello-driven tension of 2010's Together (arguably their masterpiece), but the joy and energy of this new release recall their first three albums. Even grumpy Dan Bejar manages to sound silly in his "War on the East Coast," while the album's heavy keyboards at times resemble Magnetic Fields. Brill Bruisers seals the group's reputation as a hit-heavy farm team that consistently knocks every ball out of the park. — Loring Wirbel

The Raveonettes

The Raveonettes

Pe'ahi

Beat Dies Records

File next to: The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Kills

Pe'ahi is a beach album from Danish duo The Raveonettes, who've relocated to Southern California and are letting the sun shine into their music. That doesn't mean they've abandoned the combination of vintage rock 'n' roll drum beats, the buzzing Jesus and Mary Chain guitars, or Sharin Foo's girl-groupish vocals. But Pe'ahi, which is named after a Hawaiian beach, is warmer than its predecessors. Sune Rose Wagner utilizes much more than just distorted electric guitars to create the music on tracks like "Killer in the Streets" while catching a mellow beach vibe on "The Rains of May." "Kill," on the other hand, is the album's harshest song, a particularly harrowing number about catching dad in the midst of an adulterous encounter. Pe'ahi wraps with "Summer Ends," a perfect close to a captivating album. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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