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Brendan Benson

My Old, Familiar Friend


Buy if you like: Squeeze, the 88

The Raconteurs — Brendan Benson's band with the White Stripes' Jack White — has lifted him from obscurity into the rock spotlight. But those who have heard Benson's three other solo albums, dating to the mid-1990s, know he's a talented pop songwriter. For newcomers, Benson's latest solo album will give Raconteurs fans a chance to start catching up on what they've been missing. Like his other albums, this is pure pop. Sunny uptempo tunes like "Eyes on the Horizon," "Borrow" and "A Whole Lot Better" evoke thoughts of classic Squeeze with their infectious melodies and synthesizer lines woven within a guitar-pop framework. On the ballad "You Make a Fool Out of Me," Benson strips back the instrumentation, putting the attention on the song's lovely descending chord structure. Arguably Benson's best solo effort, this sharply crafted album is a strong contender for power-pop record of the year. — Alan Sculley





Amnesiac / Kid A / Hail to the Thief


Buy if you like: Beck, Arcade Fire

Some reissues feel like revelations, and other feel like, well, just rehashes. Or dredging. These Radiohead releases, which follow up on Capitol/EMI's reissues of the band's first three albums, would fall into the latter category were it not for the occasional mesmerizing B-side or live track included on the bonus CDs. Witness tracks like the live "Fog (Again)" and stripped-down "Gagging Order," both on Hail to the Thief. Devoid of the electronic blips and blurbs that characterize Radiohead's later hypnotica, they're even more powerful. Still, it's somewhat doubtful that anyone but diehard Radiohead fans would feel the need to rush out and grab these double discs, or the even more deluxe versions that include DVDs and postcards. And unlike their digital release of In Rainbows, you don't have the option of paying what you want for these packages. — Lynne Margolis


Arctic Monkeys



Buy if you like: The Fratellis, Vampire Weekend

British sensations the Arctic Monkeys hit the crucial third-album stage on Humbug, and for the most part pass the test. The band has done some growing since 2007's Favourite Worst Nightmare. The angular and spiky melodies are still present, but the music is less frenetic. Songs like ""Crying Lightning" and "My Propeller" find the group dialing back the tempos, which helps to highlight their rich melodies. The ballads on the first two CDs usually seemed like novelties, but here songs such as "Secret Door" and "Cornerstone" are fully developed and feel more integrated into the overall Arctic Monkeys sound. And yes, there are still a few frisky rockers, including "Potion Approaching" and "Dangerous Animals," as well as a couple of songs that just fall flat. But overall, this musical growth suggests the band will have much more to offer in the years to come. — Alan Sculley

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