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Parquet Courts, Fucked Up, and Chrissie Hynde 

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Parquet Courts

Sunbathing Animal

Consequence of Sound

File next to: XTC, Pavement, Trumans Water

Given all the media attention, it's now relevant to ask not only the obvious "Will success spoil Parquet Courts?" but also the more important "Will they stop sounding like Pavement?" Luckily, founding brothers Andrew and Max Savage recognize the quandary, and try hard not to fall into an over-produced abyss. The sound is crisper than 2012's Light Up Gold, but the new diversity and clarity more than make up for any added slickness. Songs like "Dear Ramona" preserve Parquet Courts' sense of humor, while "Ducking & Dodging" is poppy and vibrant enough to be a radio hit. The Savage brothers must walk a tightrope to evolve without getting too professional, but Sunbathing Animal is fine enough to make it onto plenty Best of 2014 lists. — Loring Wirbel

Fucked Up

Glass Boys

Matador

File next to: Career Suicide, Pissed Jeans

What can you do for an encore after releasing an album widely hailed as a punk masterpiece? If you're Fucked Up, not much can be done in the vocals department, with Damian Abraham's screaming growl. Instead, you try to make the guitar interplay more complex, while also opting for some understatement. That's a little difficult when the guitar duos sound so majestic, particularly since Abraham is determined to make his work "relevant," in a postmodern lit-crit sense. But if one takes the growling at face value in songs like "Echo Boomer," the album holds up on its own merits. Glass Boys' high-energy hardcore is analogous to The Who's Who's Next; wedged between de facto rock operas, its strength lies in its speed and power. — Loring Wirbel

Chrissie Hynde

Stockholm

Caroline Records

File next to: The Kinks, The Byrds

There's less biting guitar and a shade more pop in the songs she recorded with Bjorn Yttling of the Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John, but Chrissie Hynde's hooky "Dark Sunglasses" could fit easily on any Pretenders album. And the rest of Stockholm, Hynde's solo debut, is largely '60s-influenced, swirling power pop that places Hynde's smoky voice front and center. Neil Young adds gritty guitar to "Down the Wrong Way," giving the record a little Crazy Horse bite, while "Tourniquet (Cynthia Ann)" includes chimes and acoustic guitar. "Adding the Blue" equates love with painting, name-dropping everyone from Van Gogh to S. Clay Wilson. Her talent is as undeniable as ever, no matter whose name is on the album. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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