- The Raconteurs, Help Us Stranger
The Raconteurs, Help Us Stranger (Third Man Records) – From the opening chords of “Bored and Razed,” it’s evident Jack White’s decision to take his side project out of a decade-long dormancy was wise, as this third Raconteurs album rocks harder than any of White’s recent solo work. White strives not to overlap styles with The White Stripes or The Dead Weather. Near the final tracks, some tunes show clichés, only to have the final “Thoughts and Prayers” end with countrified violin.
- Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy
Hot Chip, A Bath Full of Ecstasy (Domino) – London’s Hot Chip has spent two decades consistently offering danceable synth-pop that rises above its genre. A former focus on funk has changed on the seventh album to unexpected psychedelic moments that meander early in the album, but come back to rhythmic focus.
- Richard X. Heyman, Pop Circles
Richard X. Heyman, Pop Circles (Turn-Up Records) – Power-pop solo musician and Doughboys member Richard X. Heyman has perfected a melodic, driving sound across a dozen albums. This calls upon a perfect mélange of five decades of riffs, particularly when his piano suggests a Ben Folds flourish. The only misfires: A desire to include all ‘70s influences leads to too many suggestions of Journey or Boston.