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Codeine Velvet Club

Codeine Velvet Club

Dangerbird

Buy if you like: Paul Weller, Supergrass

Jon Lawler has already made an auspicious mark on the modern rock scene as frontman of the Fratellis. Now he's hooked up with singer Lou Hickey in the side project Codeine Velvet Club. But don't expect to hear the Fratellis' amped up brand of Brit-pop (only with female vocals). Instead the duo serves up something closer to sassy '60s-ish pop a la Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking" — but on steroids and with a good deal of attitude. Much of the album rocks with brassy horns, big drums and sharp, hooky guitar lines, particularly on romps like "Little Sister," "Time" and "Hollywood." More luminous and lush tunes like "Nevada" and "Reste Avec Moi" may not pack the same thrill, but still make for an appealing change of pace. While no one would suggest Lawler abandon his day job with the Fratellis, there's no reason to give up on Codeine Velvet Club either. — Alan Sculley

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Meklit Hadero

On a Day Like This ...

Porto Franco Records

Buy if you like: Caetano Veloso, Nina Simone

The perfect triangle of influences comes together beautifully on this unforgettable debut. Born in Ethiopia, Meklit Hadero has the lilting grace of African music in everything she sings. Moving to Brooklyn with her family as a child, she found the urban energy adding an edge to the rhythms of originals like "Float and Fall" and "Walls." Then it was on to the boho playground of San Francisco, which helped inspired a playful eclecticism. An ethereal vibration completes the picture, and Hadero now emerges as a new and valued voice in a world of musical possibilities. What really makes On a Day Like This ... so arresting is the precious balance between her own vision and her interpretations of songs popularized by artists ranging from Anthony Newley to Nina Simone. It's a fine test of this vocalist's abilities to express her emotions full-tilt, and she passes with honors. — Bill Bentley

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Black Francis

Nonstoperotik

Cooking Vinyl

Buy if you like: Bob Mould, the Strokes

The long rumored new Pixies album has yet to materialize, but fans can take comfort in the fact that frontman Black Francis is back with a new solo effort. Nonstoperotik is a bit more burnished sonically than his previous Bluefinger, but still includes the kind of full-throttle, ultra-catchy tracks that have always been his specialty. This time around, songs like "Six Legged Man," "Corrina" and "Dead Man's Curve" provide that adrenalized punk-edged rush. Even so, Black Francis isn't staying put stylistically. On "Wild Son," he finds a sleek, swift and near-bluesy groove, while "Lake of Sin" and "When I Go Down on You" ease back on the tempo and end up becoming damn near pretty pop-rock songs. Nonstoperotik may not lunge after the kind of unhinged rock the Pixies are known for, but it's still a worthy complement to the band's ongoing legacy. — Alan Sculley

  • Codeine Velvet Club, Meklit Hadero, Black Francis

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