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TV on the Radio

Dear Science

Interscope

Sounds like: College radio hit of '08

Short take: Science made colorful

Trying to wrap your mind around TV on the Radio's Dear Science is tantamount to figuring out the electoral college or pro football's quarterback rating. You may understand the results, but have no idea how you got there. The New York City post-rock act has created a high-water mark of cascading falsettos over funk grooves, tribal beats and obscure samples. Whatever pressures it felt in making the follow-up to its 2006 breakthrough Return to Cookie Mountain, the band thankfully avoids easy hooks or mainstream consideration. The disc is complex with no sign of self-indulgence. There's the gentle, ethereal nature of "Family Tree," the funk-optimism of "Golden Age" and hip-hop-rocking "Dancing Choose." They don't necessarily jive together, but as a whole, they make Dear Science a worthy study. John Benson

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Joshua Radin

Simple Times

mom&pop music co. / Release date: Sept. 30

Sounds like: A perfect fall day

Short take: Getting better with time

At a recent show, Joshua Radin told the audience he'd coined a new term for his music: whisper rock. His first effort, We Were Here, was a collection of hushed ballads composed mostly of his voice, a guitar and the occasional mournful cello. On his sophomore album, Simple Times, Radin maintains that quiet sound but branches out, adding a variety of instruments and stepping up the tempo without spilling into mainstream pop. His sincerity makes even songs about breakups hurt like fresh wounds. But not to worry, the album has a fun side, too. "Vegetable Car" puts a funky spin on alternative fuels, and "Brand New Day" feels a bit like Tom Petty's "Wildflowers." Patty Griffin partners on "You Got Growing Up to Do," lending her accomplished voice to an artist who's definitely on his way up. Amanda Lundgren

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John Brown's Body

Amplify

Easy Star Records / Release date: Sept. 30

Sounds like: Roots reggae, uprooted

Short take: The world already has an o.a.r.

It's been tough for this Boston-via-Ithaca, N.Y., electro-reggae-jam outfit since 2005's Pressure Points. Original bassist Scott Palmer died of cancer; singer Kevin Kinsella and two brass-section mainstays left soon after. Sure enough, Amplify misses the high horns and bass bounce of its predecessors. Were the album's track list flipped, the rolling, politically relevant "Zion Triad" would be an amazing opener. Sadly, it's stuck behind 10 tracks that at best sound like a T-Pain-and-turntables hip-hop collaboration ("Make Your Move") and at worst like Maroon 5 attempting reggae ("Push Some Air"). New vocalist Elliot Martin's nasal delivery doesn't help. With more creative tracks, like the sitar-driven rhyme-spitter "So Aware," perhaps this album would have more punch than the band's namesake Civil War anthem. Jason Notte

  • TV on the Radio, Joshua Radin, John Brown's Body

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