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Paul McCartney, Arcade Fire and Omar Souleyman 

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Paul McCartney

New

Concord Music Group

File next to: Elliott Smith, Wings, Beatles

Listeners surprised at how great McCartney's new album sounds haven't been paying attention. Solo works like Driving Rain and Flowers in the Dirt arguably eclipsed anything Sir Paul did with Wings or former wife Linda. In his last two world tours, McCartney cautiously added Beatles material and did a competent job invoking Fab Four magic. So it's no surprise that New, his first new work since turning 70, pulls out many stops to revisit Pepperland. Critics have paid special attention to "Early Days" for its rare reference to the Quarrymen era, but the tracks that are much more fun, such as "On My Way to Work" and "Appreciate," combine Beatles-style riffs with 21st-century sensibilities. Paul is aging well enough that he'll likely pull off an 80th-birthday studio event as memorable as Yoko's Take Me to the Land of Hell. Geezer legends are alive and well. — Loring Wirbel

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Arcade Fire

Reflektor

Merge Records

File next to: Flaming Lips, disco-era Bowie

Arcade Fire founder Win Butler certainly gets a lot of invective hurled his way, not least because of his overriding love for the pompous. So when word leaked that the new album was a double-disc monster preceded by cryptic marketing puzzles, critics collectively groaned. But no one was prepared for the forays into disco and Haitian RARA music that underscore this album's pseudo-profound lyrics. The most important point to concede is that Reflektor usually works, and avoids tripping over itself. Thanks to production by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, tracks like "Normal Person" and the title cut are worth hearing — and dancing to — again and again. It also helps that Régine Chassagne has a larger role in this album. Butler's self-importance may yet pull Arcade Fire to a Tales From Topographic Oceans style of self-parody, but for now, Reflektor is simply a great album. — Loring Wirbel

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Omar Souleyman

Wenu Wenu

Ribbon Music

File next to: Prince Rama, Troupe Majidi

Omar Souleyman's "Syrian techno" is really just revved-up dabke — traditional Middle Eastern music spun faster and slightly electronified. Whatever it's called, it's hypnotic. The 47-year-old Souleyman, a one-time mason from Syria who spent most of his musical career singing at weddings, has lately become a U.S. festival fave who's being hailed by the likes of Björk. He recorded his studio debut, Wenu Wenu, largely live, singing in Arabic and Kurdish with producer Keiran Hebden (Four Tet) working the sound to slick, fast-moving perfection. Joined by keyboardist composer Rizan Sa'id, Souleyman transforms saz-rooted sounds into four-on-the-floor bangers, adds synth to the mix on "Ya Yumma," and turns traditional poetry and songs like "Warni Warni" into a fresh kind of techno-folk. Each of the seven songs lasts at least four minutes, allowing them to catch their transfixing grooves. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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