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Real Estate, Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs, The Notwist 

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Real Estate

Atlas

Domino

File next to: The War on Drugs, Deerhunter

Brooklyn musicians often suffer from a "Williamsburg reality-distortion field," where fans and critics alike insist that astonishing ground is being broken by a band that is average at best. This was the case with Real Estate's breakthrough Days album in 2011. (The band originally hails from New Jersey, but has been christened a Brooklyn original.) Many want to call the new Atlas album a major step forward due to its sad, introspective lyrics, and a few tracks like "Talking Backwards" bear that out. Still, the instrumentals often meander to nowhere in particular. It seems that in trying to emulate late-'70s Southern California rock, Real Estate aims for second-tier groups like Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, or the more contemporary Beachwood Sparks. They might at least try for something closer to a 21st-century Eagles — assuming that is a worthy task to begin with. — Loring Wirbel

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Holly Golightly & the Brokeoffs

All Her Fault

Transdreamer Records

File next to: White Stripes, the Black Keys

To make All Her Fault, Holly Golightly and her partner and only Brokeoff, Lawyer Dave, spent six months — an extraordinarily long time for them — cutting the record in the home studio on their farm outside Athens, Ga. It was time well spent. This thoroughly entertaining album delivers a down-home sound that mixes Golightly's love for garage rock and R&B with rustic country-ish twang. Opening with the hillbilly stomp of "SLC" ("Why you want to go into Salt Lake City / You ain't gonna have a good time"), the duo then slides into the R&B "For All That Ails You," does a little storytelling on "Pistol Pete," then goes rock 'n rolling à la Those Darlins on "Can't Pretend." As always with Golightly, there's some lyrical bite in the songs like the get-away-from-me shuffle of "Don't Shed Your Light," which makes All Her Fault all the better. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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The Notwist

Close to the Glass

Sub Pop

File next to: Lali Puna, 13 & God, OMD

It's been six years since the Munich band The Notwist last graced us with their whimsical, brainy pop, so hearing the new album lead off with two minimalist electronica cuts is a bit unnerving. Thankfully, the band quickly returns in cuts like "Kong" and "Casino" to those achy vocals of Markus Acher that made 2002's Neon Golden and 2008's The Devil, You + Me so memorable. The Notwist makes admirable attempts at dissonance and experimentalism this time around, but that often gets in the way of their pop-music crafting. The test will lie in future live shows. Neil Young could never live by Trans alone, although weird vocoders might spice up his live shows. Similarly, Acher may not want to go heavy in concert on the dripping bleeps at the opening of "Signals," but The Notwist deserve a nod for not standing still. — Loring Wirbel

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