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New releases from Cymbals Eat Guitars, Mystery Lawn Music, and The Legal Matters

Sound Advice

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Cymbals Eat Guitars
  • Cymbals Eat Guitars

Cymbals Eat Guitars

Pretty Years

Sinderlyn/Omnian

File next to: Built to Spill, Titus Andronicus

The Staten Island/New Jersey band Cymbals Eat Guitars seldom gets respect for trying to fuse '90s Built to Spill-style indie rock with '70s-era anthems of a Mott the Hoople variety. Lead singer Joe D'Agostino has a husky tenor midway between John Mellencamp and Julian Casablancas — nice for angst, though a tough reach for understatement. The band can be its own worst enemy when it uses sound manipulation to excess for the sake of drama, as is the case on Pretty Years tracks "Finally" or "Wish." But overall, the mood here is brighter than 2014's despair-infused LOSE. After four major-label albums, the Springsteen cover "4th of July Philadelphia (Sandy)" and the sincerity of "Dancing Days" should win the working-class heroes new well-wishers. Even so, Cymbals Eat Guitars still needs to hone a tighter, less derivative identity. — LW

Mystery Lawn Music
  • Mystery Lawn Music

Various artists

Friends & Frenemies

Mystery Lawn Music

File next to: Sloan, Matthew Sweet

Based in the redwoods of Northern California, Allen Clapp's Mystery Lawn Music has in recent years become a trademark of pop music quality. Originally formed as a vehicle to self-release 20/20 — perhaps the best album by his group, the Orange Peels — Clapp's label has grown into a collective of like-minded yet stylistically varied artists. Friends & Frenemies is an 18-track sampler of the riches to be found in MLM's growing catalog, and features a number of new and/or previously unreleased tracks. Highlights include "Friend Collector" from Clapp's newest solo release Six Seasons, as well as ace tunes from stablemates Agony Aunts, Alison Faith Levy, the Corner Laughers, Marshall Holland, Anton Barbeau, The Paul & John and many more. Think of this as a sort of power-pop and tuneful-rock mixtape made for you by a really good friend. — BK

The Legal Matters
  • The Legal Matters

The Legal Matters

Conrad

Omnivore Recordings

File next to: Wings, Lannie Flowers

Power pop is the Rodney Dangerfield of the rock world: It gets no respect. Detractors call it shamelessly derivative and lightweight. Those with a soft spot for the subgenre appreciate its chiming, sticky-sweet melodies and sharp hooks. Michigan's The Legal Matters — a trio featuring Keith Klingensmith, Chris Richards and former Verve Pipe guitarist Andy Reed — self-released a fine eponymous debut in 2014, gaining the attention of Omnivore Recordings, which promptly signed the band. On Conrad, Reed's high voice (with able harmony vocals from his bandmates) contrasts nicely with the McCartney-esque "I'm Sorry Love." Occasional melancholy minor-key outings such as "More Birds Less Bees" contrast with the preponderance of upbeat (yet midtempo) songs. Klingensmith only gets one writing credit ("Pull My String") but it's one of the best tunes on a strong album. — BK

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