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Best Coast, Faith No More, and Wire 

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click to enlarge Best Coast

Best Coast

California Nights

Harvest

File next to: Cults, Jenny Lewis

As much as Bobb Bruno has served as backbone for Best Coast, the duo (now band) has always been a platform for Bethany Cosentino's singing and songwriting. Cosentino launched Best Coast in 2009 to follow the breezy sounds of Tennis, Beach House and similar bands, but always had experimental cred as part of the drone duo Pocahaunted. She stepped up her songwriting for Best Coast's 2013 EP Fade Away, and with some stronger vocal stylings, California Nights has increased the professional timbre and sheen. Cosentino's lyrics often prove worthy of California sunset pop, in songs like "Run Through My Head," though she doesn't always hit majesty. If Bruno doesn't mind, the band should drop the pretense and market future albums as Cosentino solo works. With California withering in a relentless sun, the very name Best Coast sounds like an oxymoron. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Faith No More

Faith No More

Sol Invictus

Ipecac/Reclamation

File next to: Primus, Mr. Bungle

Mike Patton is nothing if not prolific. Between fronting bands such as Tomahawk and Fantomas, composing film and video game soundtracks, and collaborating with the likes of John Zorn and Björk, the crazed vocal contortionist has easily released an album per year for the last two decades. Despite this output, it took Patton 18 years to reunite in the studio with the band that afforded him major commercial success, alt-metal outfit Faith No More. Time has done nothing to dilute their strangeness, brutal power and insidiously melodic hooks: In Sol Invictus, listeners experience a heady mix of violent metal riffage, spooky noir-jazz, and art-damaged funk led by Roddy Bottum's flashy keyboard touches and Patton's dramatic barrage of vocal techniques. Easily the group's best work since 1992's Angel Dust, Sol Invictus deftly transcends the rusty expectations of a "reunion album." — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Wire

Wire

Wire

Pinkflag/Redeye

File next to: Magazine, Mission of Burma, The Feelies

Among reunited late-'70s political British art-punk bands, Wire is the most consistent. Gang of Four is sounding fresh thanks to Alison Mosshart, and The Pop Group is taking polyrhythms into new dimensions, but Wire sticks to a dependable beat. This is due in part to having never truly left — Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey have weathered breakups and style changes since 1977. While last year's Change Becomes Us, based on songs written in 1979-80, was wildly anticipated, the results were flat, making the crispness of this new self-titled album all the more surprising. The minimalist political drive of songs like "Blogging" and "Joust & Jostle" is as good as any Wire track, and if the album drags at times, the truth of the matter is that the band's treasured Chairs Missing and 154 albums had their dragging moments as well. — Loring Wirbel

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