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Seeing Sounds
Sounds like: Hip-hop and soul melded into urban anthems

Short take: Flying high again

Getting out-of-sight-freaky and club-kinky is the modus operandi of the Neptunes' side project N*E*R*D, which recently released its third studio effort, Seeing Sounds. The 12-track dance-floor-friendly album is filled with copious amounts of lyrical hooks ("Kill Joy") and insidiously clever melodies ("Windows") that instantly create unforgettable urban anthems. To put N*E*R*D in context, the act stems from the same hip-hop-based tree as, say, Gnarls Barkley; however, N*E*R*D's Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo purposely eschew Easy Street. A perfect example is "Yeah You," which has the potential to be a monster hit like Gnarls' "Crazy" but instead stays rougher around the edges. All this speaks to the creative spirit of N*E*R*D, which finds pop genius in choosing obscure over obvious. John Benson

Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog
Party Intellectuals
Pi Recordings
Sounds like: Schizophrenia ... and noise

Short take: I regret attending this Party

Marc Ribot has dabbled in a variety of genres throughout his career, and on Party Intellectuals, he and his band, Ceramic Dog, try to include a little bit of each. They do, but it makes for a difficult listen. The album can be divided into two categories: songs that sound like songs, and noise. Five of the 12 tracks fall into the latter group; they lack an identifiable rhythmic pattern and consist of electronic blips, guitar feedback and occasional spoken words. The seven song-like tracks rely on many of the same sounds laid over a beat. The worst, "Todo el Mundo es Kitsch," features robotic vocals over what sounds like the synthesized soundtrack to a late-night Cinemax flick. The best, "For Malena," has a distinct Latin flavor, with dramatic horns and gentle guitar-plucking. But ultimately, Ribot's Ceramic Dog brings too many conflicting influences to this Party. Meghan Loftus

Wolf Parade
At Mount Zoomer
Sub Pop
Sounds like: Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse's conservatory final

Short take: Free-form and high-concept are back

Before this album was even leaked, Wolf Parade's second LP was drawing comparisons to Television's Marquee Moon and Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. Those are lofty words during a time when the Mars Volta passes for progressive, but Wolf Parade's strings-vs.-synth composition passes muster. The 11-minute "Kissing the Beehive" almost feels token when compared to the marching twang and ambience of tracks such as the Dan Boeckner-sung "Fine Young Cannibals" and the Spencer Krug-fronted "California Dreamer." What's unexpected, however, are the undertones of fun, indie bounce that manifest themselves in "The Grey Estates." That such a song blends seamlessly into the pseudocountry-turned-electronica track "Language City" makes this album not only progressive, but eminently playable. Jason Notte

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