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Beirut, PiL, and Low 

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click to enlarge Beirut
  • Beirut

Beirut

No No No

4AD

File next to: Hall & Oates, Okkervil River, Little Joy

Zach Condon made fans nervous when he talked of scrapping a sprawling and sad follow-up to 2011's The Rip Tide in its final stages of mastering. No No No is a short, bright, keyboard-driven release offered as a Beirut placeholder. Often an unexpected gem can emerge from tossing material out and starting over, as was the case with Laura Marling and this year's Short Movie; the new Beirut album features only nine tracks and less than 30 minutes of music, but it has that endearing bounce of happy soul bands like The Foundations. Tracks like "Gibraltar" and "Perth" have a palliative feel, as though Condon wants to achieve healing through smiles. Perhaps Beirut will someday release the album that might have been. In the meantime, No No No finds the band following the maxim, "Avoid over-thinking." — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Public Image Limited
  • Public Image Limited

Public Image Limited

What the World Needs Now...

PiL Official

File next to: The Fall, Killing Joke, Gang of Four

Try wrapping your mind around this: It's been nearly 40 years since Never Mind the Bollocks was released. Back then, the idea that vocalist Johnny Rotten (né John Lydon) could somehow carve out a career niche for himself would have been laughable. But in many ways, his post-Sex Pistols group Public Image Limited were as musically groundbreaking as the Pistols, if not more so. On What the World Needs Now... Lydon shouts insistently while his band cranks out surprisingly melodic (yet menacing) one-chord jams. The phrasing on "Know Now" recalls some of the best moments on PiL's 1986 release, Album. Surf-n-spy guitar enlivens "Bettie Page." Lydon's caterwauling is a decidedly acquired taste, but the overall accessibility of this disc — combining elements of rock, no-wave, dub and hip-hop — renders it quite listener-friendly. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Low
  • Low

Low

Ones and Sixes

Sub Pop

File next to: Bill Callahan, Songs: Ohia, Czars

As low-key as its band members are, virtually every song Low releases demands attention, declaring, "I am important — listen closely." When drummer Mimi Parker takes center stage, Low offers a little more soothing happiness, while husband Alan Sparhawk handles the tension and terror. Ones and Sixes fits into the category of mid-2000s albums like The Great Destroyer or Drums and Guns. Low's scary side carries its own stark beauty, like winter days in the band's Duluth home. Try "No Comprende" or "The Innocents" for some appropriate shivers. Even the nine-minute "Landslide," which starts with a metal sludge recalling Sparhawk's side band, Retribution Gospel Choir, ends with a majestic layering of voices approaching that of a gospel choir. And that's what Low consistently provides: sacred music. — Loring Wirbel

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