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Pixies, Ought, and Kelis 

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click to enlarge Pixies

Pixies

Indie Cindy

PIAS Recordings

File next to: Pavement, Mudhoney, Arcade Fire

Many longtime Pixies fans have already placed Frank Black in a category with Billy Corgan and James Mercer, former visionaries who've gradually turned into jerks. Certainly, Black's propensity for making money above all else, and for firing all bassists named Kim, does make him an annoyance. It may also seem exasperating that Indie Cindy is merely a compilation of three ultra-rare EPs released over the past year, even though its packaging is nothing short of dazzling. Yet there are plenty of times when that old Pixies genius shines through, as on "Bagboy" or "What Goes Boom." Kim Deal's voice is surely missed, but Black is still much more palatable than Corgan and his ever-shifting Smashing Pumpkins lineup. The Pixies frontman's rock 'n roll hero status may be long gone, but Indie Cindy is still worth a spin at your next alt-rock theme party. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Ought

Ought

More Than Any Other Day

Constellation

File next to: The Suburbs, DNA, Alternative TV

Being introduced to Ought is like hearing early Pere Ubu or DNA for the first time. There are strident melodies, to be sure, but also angular time signatures and weird noises arriving from all directions, which is refreshing in a predictable 21st century. Skeptics might say that lead singer Tim Beeler sounds too much like 1976-era David Byrne, but Ought is not a wimpy Talking Heads mimic like Tapes 'n Tapes or Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. The Montreal band is not afraid to be spastic or strange, and this debut album's artwork carries a definite Situationist aesthetic. On the other hand, Ought offers more traditional riffs than New Canadian Noise Movement bands like Odonis Odonis or Alice & The Intellects. An art-rock band that's both improvisational and accessible, Ought ought to make everyone's 2014 Top 10 list. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Kelis

Kelis

Food

Ninja Tune

File next to: Pharrell Williams, Erykah Badu

True, Kelis' Food album is well-stocked with songs like "Jerk Ribs," "Breakfast," "Cobbler," "Fish Fry" and "Biscuits 'n' Gravy," but this is far from the cheesy concept album its titles imply. In fact, it's her best record to date, a soul session that rolls classic Memphis sounds with edgier R&B, and nary a song that's really about food. Kelis has more on her mind as the horn section swells up in "Breakfast," about a late-night encounter where "maybe we'll make it to breakfast." Produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, Food features all kinds of soulful settings, from the funky smoothness of the horn-punched "Jerk Ribs," to the rattling, spare, Curtis Mayfield-style "Cobbler." There's no "Milkshake" here, and no robotic dance numbers. But there's always a dash of quirkiness in Kelis, which turns what could have been pure retro soul into a genuinely pleasing surprise. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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