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Sound Advice: Pere Ubu, Yo La Tengo, He's My Brother She's My Sister 

click to enlarge Lady From Shanghai album cover

Pere Ubu

Lady From Shanghai

Fire Records

File next to: Clinic, Black Dice, old-school Pere Ubu

Pere Ubu has spent the past few years trying to strike an effective balance between two impulses: the analog-synth oddness of seminal 1970s albums like The Modern Dance, and the subsequent infusion of so many mainstream riffs that made the Cleveland band a lot less interesting. If frontman David Thomas aimed too much toward normality in the 1990s, more recent theatre/musical works like Long Live Père Ubu! hint at the Dadaists of yore. Injecting a primitive electronic beat into the classic Pere Ubu sound, new tracks like "Thanks" and "Free White" are noisy, rhythmic pulses that call to mind the current wave of weird dance music led by bands like Black Dice and Gang Gang Dance. By the time we get to the album's climax in "Lampshade Man" and "414 Seconds," the listener realizes that David Thomas and his band are as deliciously inaccessible as ever. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Fade album cover

Yo La Tengo

Fade

Matador Records

File next to: Velvet Underground,Spiritualized

This 13th studio album in Yo La Tengo's 28-year career doesn't really break any new ground, but it sure is good. Fade is a warm, welcoming, often gorgeous record, with elements of everything from Motown to orchestral pop folded into the band's familiar Velvet Underground-inspired folk-pop frameworks. That VU jangle and drone are most prominent on "Paddle Forward," while "Stupid Things" pulsates with an electronic Krautrock buzz. The driving opener "Ohm" is as intense as Fade gets, while the closing "Before We Run" adds horns and strings to the mix, courtesy producer John McEntire from the post-rock band Tortoise. The trio's characteristic blend of optimism and resignation resonates throughout an album that occasionally teeters on the edge of becoming background music. But, even at its most mellow, Fade never does. — L. Kent Wolgamott

click to enlarge Nobody Dances in This Town album cover

He's My Brother She's My Sister

Nobody Dances in This Town

Park the Van Records

File next to: Caravan of Thieves, Delta Spirit

Don't let the fact that Lauren Brown tap-dances while playing drums lead you to believe He's My Brother She's My Sister isn't serious about its music. Led by siblings Rob and Rachel Kolar, this album would warrant your attention even if you didn't know about the tap dancing part. Songs like "Let It Live Free," "Tales That I Tell" and "Let's Go" offer up a ragtag blend of old-time rock and country that combines serious songcraft with serious fun. "Slow It Down" and "Electric Love" sound like Metric trading in its synthesizers for twangy guitars, while the soulful stomp and big hooks of "The Same Old Ground" recall Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros. And yes, "Clackin' Heels" proves tap dancing can indeed be a legitimate form of percussion. Factor in darker tracks like "Choir of the Dead" and "Touch the Lightning," and it's clear this is a band with more than novelty going for it. — Alan Sculley

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