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No Joy, Richard Thompson, Of Monsters and Men 

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No Joy

More Faithful

Mexican Summer

File next to: My Bloody Valentine, Best Coast

There's a curious quality to some of the best shoegaze: the dual feeling of moving both at breakneck speed and a glacial pace. The music on More Faithful, No Joy's third long-player, is a case in point. From the opening of kickoff track "Remember Nothing," the band is full-on, steamrolling ahead in a manner recalling Hüsker Dü. Simultaneously, they create a gauzy, head-nodding, somnambulant ambience. The sharp contrast works. When they dial things down — more in the dreamy direction — the melody in their concise songs reveals itself more overtly, sweet vocal harmonies floating atop hypnotically repeated chords. No Joy's overall sound suggests Best Coast with a wider sonic palette. More Faithful's pummeling tunes alternate with the subtler ones; the effect is alluring and creates a nice bit of musical tension. — Bill Kopp

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Richard Thompson

Still

Fantasy Records

File next to: Teddy Thompson, Sandy Denny

Pairing master guitarist Richard Thompson with producer Jeff Tweedy was bound to result in something sensational. Still is an album resonating with riffs from Thompson's years with ex-wife, as well as his '80s and '90s work curating elements of ancient songwriting. Tweedy avoids any attempt at crafting a big masterpiece and instead gives the listener 12 relatively unadorned Thompson originals. Some, like "Broken Doll" and "All Buttoned Up," remind us of why Thompson is such a subtle master lyricist, while rockers like "Long John Silver" and "No Peace No End" display the Fairport Convention co-founder's guitar style at its best. A bonus EP includes some of Thompson's best long-jam work in years. Through it all, Thompson sounds as fresh as ever, with Tweedy steering him into crafting his most perfect set of tunes in decades. — Loring Wirbel

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Of Monsters and Men

Beneath the Skin

Republic

File next to: The Head and The Heart, Lord Huron

Of Monsters and Men could've reworked 2011 hit "Little Talks" in a thousand variations, but the Icelandic band had grander ambitions. Beneath the Skin arrives with a healthy dose of Florence + The Machine bombast and a slight hint of Phantogram's dark mystery. The husky harmonics of duo Nanna Bryndis Hilmarsdottir and Ragnar Borhallsson can pull this off more often than not, particularly in complex tracks like "Black Water," though occasionally, one wonders if the band members assume all Icelanders must carry a Björk-like aura of inscrutability. The saving grace of this sophomore effort is that the band doesn't try to get by with the "hey ho" nonsense of Denver's Lumineers, with whom they are often compared. If Hilmarsdottir aims for outer galaxies and misses from time to time, it's better than not striving for growth. — Loring Wirbel

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