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Feature Records

Buy if you like: the Fratellis, OK Go

This four-piece band from Madison, Wis., describes its sound as '50s rock 'n roll mixed with modern garage. Power pop would work just as well. On this self-titled third studio effort, Locksley delivers plenty of rocking pop anthems with shout-along choruses ("Darling, It's True," "Oh Wisconsin!" "The Whip,") mixed in with slightly more restrained tunes ("Days of Youth" and "Away From Here"). Like any self-respecting power pop (or modern garage) band, Locksley's music soars with a seemingly endless supply of hooks. They show up at every turn, in the verses, the choruses and the lead guitar parts (note "Love You Too" for one killer example). This all helps give "Locksley" a youthful exuberance to go with its impressive songcraft. No less than Kinks frontman Ray Davies has used Locksley as his backing group. In pop music, that's as good as endorsements get. — Alan Sculley


Luther Russell

The Invisible Audience

Ungawa Records

Buy if you like: Wilco, Bon Iver

With more than two dozen songs spread across two discs, it's only natural The Invisible Audience should cover plenty of musical territory. Songs range from the barroom-ready roots rock of "Sidekick Reverb" to the Byrds-ian chiming guitars of "Everything You Do." Along the way, you'll find satisfying doses of acoustic folk ("In This Time"), blues ("A World Unknown") and Beatles-influenced pop ("Somewhere in Between"). What matters most, of course, is that Russell manages to prove himself adept at all of these styles. For most artists, two full CDs would end up being serious overkill. But for Russell, it merely serves as an illustration of the breadth and depth of his songwriting and performing abilities. There's virtually no filler here, and if there's any justice, Russell soon will play for the large and very visible audiences that he truly deserves. — Alan Sculley


JD Malone & the Experts


Buy if you like: Steve Earle, Tom Petty

Combining bluesy East Coast muscle with a southerly nod toward Americana, JD Malone & the Experts provide appealingly pretense-free roots rock built on solid musicianship and seriously catchy melodies. Winners include the upbeat country-rocker "Silver From," mandolin-laden "Leave Us Alone," and blues-twanger "Still Love You," on which Malone goes from grit to grace — a terrific falsetto — in the blink of a note. But this is not, by any stretch, a one-man show. Avery Coffee adds killer electric guitar to "She Likes," while Tom Hampton plays, well, practically everything: lap and pedal steel, dobro, mandolin, acoustic, and the Byrdsy 12-string electric that gives "Just Like New" a special appeal. Their cover of "Fortunate Son" woks (and Tom Petty's "I Should Have Known It" on the companion DVD), though with originals this solid, there's no need to throw in covers. — Lynne Margolis

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