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New releases from Cate Le Bon, Guided By Voices, and Mayer Hawthorne 

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click to enlarge Cate Le Bon
  • Cate Le Bon

Cate Le Bon

Crab Day

Drag City

File next to: Jane Siberry, Angel Olsen, Eleanor Friedberger

Welsh songwriter Cate Le Bon, now based in Los Angeles, has a track record for melding oddball lyrics and tight guitar arrangements. Le Bon's fourth album finds her honing her wistful Dadaism to such a point, one could almost picture Salvador Dali and Man Ray in 1920 with electric guitars, creating these tunes. She infuses a Clear Spot-era Captain Beefheart sound (complete with marimba) with a cabaret atmosphere suggesting Marlene Dietrich between the wars. Poetry lovers will go mad trying to learn the hidden meanings of "I'm a Dirty Attic" or "Find Me," but it's doubtful Le Bon wants anyone to dig deep. In her efforts to create a faux new holiday called "Crab Day," Le Bon clearly is pulling the listener's leg (though with a subtly serious intent), and having a grand time doing so. — LW

click to enlarge Mayer Hawthorne
  • Mayer Hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne

Man About Town

Vagrant

File next to: Marvin Gaye, The Dramatics, Fitz & The Tantrums

On his 2009 debut, Mayer Hawthorne showed just how developed an artist he already was; that album — wholly realized on a laptop — was an effective pastiche of classic soul and R&B. The highlight of the Detroiter's resumé up to that point was his membership in a couple of underground hip-hop collectives, which made A Strange Arrangement all the more amazing. Hawthorne's since released three more albums, an EP and a pair of side projects, tapping into a more mainstream pop vein along the way. But with Man About Town, he returns to the retro-soulful approach that won him plaudits. The album's romantic, upbeat and generally optimistic point of view shines through, as Hawthorne, in his own special way, retools old-school soul for modern pop audiences. — BK

click to enlarge Guided by Voices
  • Guided by Voices

Guided by Voices

Please Be Honest

Guided by Voices Inc.

File next to: The Who, Hüsker Dü, Sebadoh

Robert Pollard's various Guided by Voices iterations have released some two dozen albums since their 1987 debut, a prodigious output that can affect quality control. "My Zodiac Companion," the opening track on Please Be Honest, is a case in point: Pollard's wobbly vocal sounds like a one-take affair. But he draws from a deep well of catchy melodies that even his most random lyrics can't dampen. Several tracks here evoke psychedelic-era Beatles: filtered vocals, sawing cellos, found sounds, while the spare "I Think a Telescope" sounds like an out-of-tune rethink of Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists. Few will know (and fewer will care) what Pollard's going on about with mentions of grasshoppers, soap and caterpillars, and the overly mannered vocals on briefer tracks like "Sad Baby Eyes" make Please Be Honest characteristically uneven. But with GbV, that's half the fun. — BK

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