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click to enlarge Liars  - Liars  -  -  - Mute  -  - Sounds like: Furious blues in a dance-punk - dive -  - Short take: Experimenting with listenable - music -  - On their fourth, self-titled LP, it's tough to say whether - Liars sell out or return to form after selling out. - Regardless, thank goodness they've changed, because - both 2004's They Were Wrong, So We Drowned - and 2006's Drum's Not Dead were interminable - albums, sound collage experiments with no rhyme or - reason. On Liars, the band still experiments - with styles, but with styles that can be enjoyed by more - people than themselves. They try punk, trip-hop, drone - rock and even slow-burn dirge ballads. They sound just - as much in their element here as anywhere, and maybe - more so. When not sacrificing their talent on sonic - fuckabout, Liars are highly talented musicians who make - some grittily engaging music. Let's hope they stay linear. -  Matt Martin
  • Liars

    Liars

    Mute

    Sounds like: Furious blues in a dance-punk dive

    Short take: Experimenting with listenable music

    On their fourth, self-titled LP, it's tough to say whether Liars sell out or return to form after selling out. Regardless, thank goodness they've changed, because both 2004's They Were Wrong, So We Drowned and 2006's Drum's Not Dead were interminable albums, sound collage experiments with no rhyme or reason. On Liars, the band still experiments with styles, but with styles that can be enjoyed by more people than themselves. They try punk, trip-hop, drone rock and even slow-burn dirge ballads. They sound just as much in their element here as anywhere, and maybe more so. When not sacrificing their talent on sonic fuckabout, Liars are highly talented musicians who make some grittily engaging music. Let's hope they stay linear. Matt Martin

click to enlarge Iron & Wine  - The Shepherd's Dog  -  -  - Sub Pop / Release date: Sept. 25  -  - Sounds like: Folk music for the indie crowd -  - Short take: Iron & Wine's breakthrough -  - Like a newborn puppy growing stronger with every - moment, Sam Beam explodes across your speakers on - Iron & Wine's latest album, The Shepherd's Dog. - The album begins with the folkish "Pagan Angel and a - Borrowed Car," which is delivered with all the urgency of - an early '60s Dylan commentary. Throughout the album's - dozen tracks you'll find Beam's quintessential whispery - vocals buoyed by layer upon layer of studio - magnificence. From the bluesy "White Tooth Man" and - the fuzzed-up "Carousel" to the tender "Flightless Bird, - American Mouth," this is the Iron & Wine album fans - have been seeking ever since Beam arrived on the scene - with 2002 debut The Creek Drank the Cradle. - Incongruently a raucous and quiet album, The - Shepherd's Dog is one of 2007's best.  - John Benson
  • Iron & Wine

    The Shepherd's Dog

    Sub Pop / Release date: Sept. 25

    Sounds like: Folk music for the indie crowd

    Short take: Iron & Wine's breakthrough

    Like a newborn puppy growing stronger with every moment, Sam Beam explodes across your speakers on Iron & Wine's latest album, The Shepherd's Dog. The album begins with the folkish "Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car," which is delivered with all the urgency of an early '60s Dylan commentary. Throughout the album's dozen tracks you'll find Beam's quintessential whispery vocals buoyed by layer upon layer of studio magnificence. From the bluesy "White Tooth Man" and the fuzzed-up "Carousel" to the tender "Flightless Bird, American Mouth," this is the Iron & Wine album fans have been seeking ever since Beam arrived on the scene with 2002 debut The Creek Drank the Cradle. Incongruently a raucous and quiet album, The Shepherd's Dog is one of 2007's best. John Benson

click to enlarge Hot Hot Heat  - Happiness Ltd.  -  -  - Sire  -  - Sounds like: Any overmodest rock-pop outfit -  - Short take: A how-to guide in selling out -  - Hot Hot Heat is the clearest-cut case of sellout in recent - years. From a raucous first album on an independent - record label to major-label, radio-pandering anonymity, - the band's efforts couldn't be more obvious. Abandoning - the joyful hubris that made its debut, Make Up the - Breakdown, such a success, it instead goes - for the laziest, broadest approach on Happiness Ltd. - First single "Let Me In" sounds primed for VH1 - circulation, watered-down and sappy, with a chorus so - every-band that it negates itself as soon as it arrives. - Most telling is "5 Times out of 100," which is a Make - Up B-side remade and glazed into oblivion. The - original is one of the band's best songs; the new version - is a showcase in miniature of its fall from taste.  - Matt Martin
  • Hot Hot Heat

    Happiness Ltd.

    Sire

    Sounds like: Any overmodest rock-pop outfit

    Short take: A how-to guide in selling out

    Hot Hot Heat is the clearest-cut case of sellout in recent years. From a raucous first album on an independent record label to major-label, radio-pandering anonymity, the band's efforts couldn't be more obvious. Abandoning the joyful hubris that made its debut, Make Up the Breakdown, such a success, it instead goes for the laziest, broadest approach on Happiness Ltd. First single "Let Me In" sounds primed for VH1 circulation, watered-down and sappy, with a chorus so every-band that it negates itself as soon as it arrives. Most telling is "5 Times out of 100," which is a Make Up B-side remade and glazed into oblivion. The original is one of the band's best songs; the new version is a showcase in miniature of its fall from taste. Matt Martin

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