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Magik Markers, Thomas Rett, and Linda Thompson 

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Magik Markers

Surrender to the Fantasy

Drag City

File next to: Bardo Pond, Hototogisu

Will traditional musical structure spoil Magik Markers? Elisa Ambrogio has tried so hard to be the queen of harsh guitar improvisation that fellow band member Leah Quimby quit her gig on bass guitar because Magik Markers were too frightening. But by the time of the band's last proper studio outing, Balf Quarry, in 2009, melodies were seeping in with a sound reminiscent of Crazy Horse. On recent bootlegs released by the band's own Arbitrary Signs, there were hints of King Crimson. Fans of Magik Markers' harsher side will be relieved that Elisa still loves feedback and distortion, but has worked with drummer Pete Nolan to curate a beautiful structure to tracks like "Acts of Desperation." Elisa and her band make the same demands Neil Young made with his Arc/Weld live release: to appreciate the melody, you must surrender to the noise. — Loring Wirbel

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Thomas Rhett

It Goes Like This

Valory Music Co.

File next to: Brantley Gilbert, Justin Moore

Thomas Rhett's recently topped the country charts with "It Goes Like This," the million-selling title cut from the country newcomer's impressive debut album. The son of songwriter Rhett Akins, he's written hits for others and has a way around words that you can hear on "Beer With Jesus," one of the eight songs he co-wrote. (Rhett's father also shares co-writing credits on three of the album's tracks.) Musically, It Goes Like This is pure contemporary Nashville, as much or more '70s rock as it is traditional country. Rhett also makes the requisite nods to partying, pickup trucks and the imaginary country life on numbers like "Sorry for Partyin'" and the definitional "All-American Middle Class White Boy." But he does it all with style and personality, and deserves extra credit for writing the songs. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Linda Thompson

Won't Be Long Now

Pettifer Sounds

File next to: Pentangle, Anais Mitchell

The biggest reason to celebrate this release is the simple presence of Linda Thompson, a rare event in the last 30 years. After her public 1982 divorce from multi-instrumentalist Richard Thompson, she released only three albums before this one. Between bouts of dysphonia and raising her son Teddy, Linda seldom appeared live and has only rarely shown up in cameo appearances with artists like David Thomas and Pere Ubu. Yet Won't Be Long Now feels as if she's never been gone. Her voice displays almost no sign of the Botox injections she used to combat vocal chord paralysis. Her material is a mix of originals from herself and Teddy, as well as traditional songs and an Anna McGarrigle cover. The only familiar track may be "Paddy's Lamentation" from Gangs of New York. Linda has been missed, and this album shows why. — Loring Wirbel

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