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Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Flaming Lips, Iron and Wine

Sound advice

Mosquito CD

Yeah Yeah Yeahs



File next to: The Mars Volta, PJ Harvey

If the songs on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' fourth LP were stripped down and presented as straight-ahead garage punk numbers, it would still be an enjoyable listen. But Mosquito is thoughtfully produced and filled with impressive details: A train sample becomes a percussion loop on "Subway," a blast of gospel choir bursts forth from the squall of "Sacrilege," "Area 52" sounds like latter-day Ramones bleeding through an inter-dimensional rift, and Karen O's alternately strident and breathy voice is slathered in reverb at just the right moments. That said, the excessively processed vocals on "These Paths" gets a bit irritating, but that's the lone production misstep; even Dr. Octagon's cameo rap fits seamlessly. Anchored by Nick Zinner's ever-colorful guitar textures, and capped with three glacial ballads, Mosquito is an eclectic fusion of guitar skronk, electronic soundscapes and indie rock well-suited to fans of all three. — Collin Estes

The Terror CD

The Flaming Lips

The Terror

Warner Brothers

File next to: Brian Eno, David Bowie

Somewhere between donning a Santa suit and jumping into an inflatable ball, Wayne Coyne realized the Flaming Lips might be getting a bit bombastic. The band subsequently followed the grandiose Embryonic with a cover version of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, as well as an odd 2012 jam session, Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends. This time around, Coyne gives us a frightened, synthesized Flaming Lips that dwells somewhere between David Bowie's Low and Fripp & Eno's Evening Star. The Terror may be too dark for Lips traditionalists, but tracks like the 13-minute "You Lust" are among the most interesting the band has spun. Fans who demand the silly Flaming Lips can always spring for the four-LP vinyl version of Zaireeka released on Record Store Day; at last count, Independent Records had plenty of leftover copies. — Loring Wirbel

Ghost on Ghost CD

Iron and Wine

Ghost on Ghost

Nonesuch Records

File next to: Belle & Sebastian, Badly Drawn Boy

Sam Beam has made a conscious effort to add odd instruments and increase the number of major chords in newer Iron & Wine albums, with a resulting shift from troubadour into a twee-pop version of Elliott Smith or Belle & Sebastian. But even 2011's Kiss Each Other Clean preserved at least some of the inherent tension present on older albums like The Shepherd's Dog. There are many intriguing stories being told lyrically in the new album, such as a fascination with briar patches that shows up on three separate songs. And tracks like "Winter Prayers" and "Grace for Saints and Ramblers" prove Sam is not treading water musically. But Ghost on Ghost in its entirety sounds like Iron & Wine on Prozac. It's great that Sam is happy these days, he just needs to preserve a little more unpredictability and mood shifting than is present in this album. — Loring Wirbel

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