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Middle Brother

Middle Brother

Partisan Records

Buy if you like: The Replacements, Jayhawks

John McCauley of Deer Tick, Matt Vasquez of Delta Spirit and Taylor Goldsmith of Dawes met last year to form Middle Brother, an indie alt-country, rock 'n roll supergroup. It lives up to that designation on this debut album. Sounding like the Gear Daddies on the harmony-filled, hangover-lament opener "Daydreaming" and John Lennon on the stately ballad "Theater," Middle Brother rocks and rambles, telling stories of a "good girl who'll wear a black bra" ("Blue Eyes") and of life on the road ("Theater," "Mom and Dad"). You gotta love any band that cops the Replacements' "Portland," with its signature "It's too late to turn back / Here we go" and, via a smokes-and-drinks shuffle, makes it work anew. And, like the 'Mats, Middle Brother can rock with the best of them, blasting and swinging through "Me, Me, Me." Here's hoping it's not just a one-off for the trio. — L. Kent Wolgamott


Ellie Goulding



Buy if you like: Little Boots, Imogen Heap

Ellie Goulding is being hyped as a star in the making thanks to considerable success in the United Kingdom, where she won the Critics' Choice Award at the 2010 BRIT Awards and saw Lights debut at No. 1 on the UK album chart. It's easy to see why label folks love her: Goulding's airy pop songs split the difference between Lady Gaga's dancey stylings and the sensitive pop of John Mayer or Colbie Caillat. As for whether the music is actually good ... Goulding comes up short. Like sticks of gum, songs like "Under the Sheets," "Your Biggest Mistake" and the title track may deliver an initial pop thrill (and maybe a little titillation), but before long, the sugary taste fades and you're left with rather pedestrian pop. Goulding's lyrics sometimes offer more than frothy tales of sex, romance and partying, but there's not enough juice here to keep Lights shining for long. — Alan Sculley


New York Dolls

Dancing Backward in High Heels

429 Records

Buy if you like: Iggy Pop & the Stooges, the Replacements

Since reuniting, the New York Dolls have released a pair of excellent albums filled with brash rockers in the tradition of the original band's early '70s output. Dancing Backward in High Heels is a very different animal, marking a shift into more of a campy, retro-pop sound. It doesn't always work, as "Kids Like You" and "Baby, Tell Me What I'm On" attest. "Fool for You Baby," "I Sold My Heart to the Junkman" and "Streetcake" have a classic pop feel that works well with vintage touches, and the big-beat sass of "Round and Round She Goes" is fun. Much of Dancing Backward will probably catch fans off guard, and it'll be hard to argue with those who say this release can't stand up to other post-comeback Dolls albums — as long as those people acknowledge that there's still plenty of creativity flowing here. — Alan Sculley

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