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Animal Collective

Fall Be Kind

Domino Records

Buy if you like: Pet Sounds, Panda Bear

Imagine how Brian Wilson might have sounded if he'd stayed out of his sandbox in the '70s and played around in his garage with an early Moog synthesizer instead. That's the feeling conveyed on this new five-song release from Animal Collective, who sample the Dead and visit the land of jam without the endless riffing. Tracks like "Graze" and "On a Highway" show just the right balance of heart, soul and sonic adventure. Fall Be Kind surely signals wonders still to come. — Bill Bentley

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Freedy Johnston

Rain on the City

Bar None

Buy if you like: The Jayhawks, Marshall Crenshaw

After his impressive '90s releases, Freedy Johnston took eight years to record another album of originals. He's acquired a few battle scars, as conveyed on "Don't Fall in Love With a Lonely Girl" and the doo-wop-tinged "From the Other Side of Love," but they're couched in hummable melodies. With its pop-jazz leanings and occasional twangy tangent, it's good to hear that high tenor back where it belongs: wrapped around his own great tunes. — Lynne Margolis

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OK Go

Of the Blue Colour of the Sky

Capitol

Buy if you like: Prince, Weezer

OK Go made its name with catchy guitar pop songs like "Get Over It" and "Here We Go Again" (made famous by the group's dancing-on-a-treadmill video), but this album changes it up. There are still lots of melodic hooks on songs like "WTF?" But the synth-laden "White Knuckles" and "I Want You So Bad I Can't Breathe" veer into Prince terrain. You'll also find some grand pop ("This Too Shall Pass"), stark acoustic strains ("Last Leaf") and dreamy soundscapes ("While You Were Asleep"). If its fan base can adjust to the sonic reinvention, OK Go may even avoid paying a commercial price for its creativity. — Alan Sculley

  • Animal Collective, Freedy Johnston, OK Go

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