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In Brief

139. Kaiser Chiefs: Yours Truly, Angry Mob (2007)

Ignore the ass-backwards review on Pitchfork and enjoy zippy XTC-derived pop from a group that has improved on its exciting but uneven debut. Ruby is joy and fear all mixed together, Heat Dies Down is as good of a meet-then-break-up-messily song as you could ask for, and the thrilling Everything Is Average Nowadays is anything but. On album closer Retirement lead singer Ricky Wilson claims, "I want to retire" but let's hope it doesn't happen anytime soon. Grade: A

140. The Broken West: I Can't Go On, I'll Go On (2007)

Mining the same indie power pop territory as The New Pornographers is a good approach, and Los Angeles' The Broken West do it well, even without Neko Case's gorgeous voice. The album never quite acheives full lift-off, but nevertheless cruises at a smooth, enjoyable altitude. Check out Brass Ring or Abagail. Grade: B

141. Alexa Ray Joel: Sketches (2006)

Billy and Christie's little girl, who was previously only known in pop music for being named after a boat which was featured in a song (The Downeaster Alexa), is trying her hand at being a singer songwriter. The results on her debut EP are promising if not spectacular. The good news is that she's got talent as a performer (especially evident on a cover of Neil Young's Don't Let It Bring You Down) and as a writer (see the excellent Now It's Gone). Grade: B

142. Elliott Yamin: Elliott Yamin (2007)

The most likable American Idol contestent since Kelly Clarkson makes his white soul debut. As much as I'd like to report otherwise, this is still an American Idol album, which means it has its share of cringeworthy ballads (One Word), an out-of-comfort-zone embarassment (Alright) and an obligitory cover (a too-showy version of his staple A Song For You). Even so, if Elliott charmed you on the show you'll embrace the hand-clappy Movin' On, the gospel-y Find A Way and the Stevie Wonder-evoking Free. Grade: B-

143. Robbers On High Street: The Fatalist & Friends (2006)

On this cheaply-priced ($0.99!) EP, the Robbers offer a sassy and groovy preview of their upcoming album. Judging by the chugging The Fatalist and jabbing Married Young, the band is more Spoonish than ever. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Most surprising and electrifying is a loose-limbed cover of Paul McCartney's little-known Monkberry Moon Delight. A good appetizer. Grade: A-


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