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Cults

Cults

ITNO/Columbia

Buy if you like: Shangri-Las, Raveonettes

It's one thing to capture the spirit of Phil Spector's wall of sound, Mazzy Star's mesmerism, Cocteau Twins' rapture and the Raveonettes' crafty revivalism, but to do all that in a single 2½-minute song ("You Know What I Mean") is fairly amazing. Cults' Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, two New York University students who met up in 2009, have wasted no time creating one of this year's most beguiling releases. Their self-titled debut has a few dead spots (most notably the sing-songy "Oh My God"), but it's hard not to be taken in by the girl-group charm of Follin's reverb-drenched vocals, as well as the shimmery perfection of the duo's indie-pop melodies and arrangements. The synth-and glockenspiel-driven opener "Abducted" sets the stage for an engaging foray into big electronic backbeats and frothy pop confections that are whip-smart and highly addictive. One listen and you're in for good. — Bill Forman

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Bon Iver

Bon Iver

Jagjaguwar

Buy if you like: Iron & Wine, Ray LaMontagne

Justin Vernon says Bon Iver is not a pseudonym, but more a nom de project, an evolving framework for his wide-ranging musical musings. On Bon Iver, those musings take the form of delicate, deeply and beautifully layered songs full of his sweet falsetto, which he uses to convey existential concepts via words combined as much for their sound as any meaning. (He must be the only singer ever to put the word "soffit" in a song.) This is mood music for sure, not made from linear patterns. It is, however, full of references to places real and imagined; his song titles include "Minnesota, WI," "Michicant," "Hinnom, TX" and "Calgary" — which, he has said, has to do with isolation and dreaming. Contributors include pedal steel player Greg Leisz and string arranger/player Rob Moose. They help create ethereal, moving stuff. Just don't try to analyze it too much. — Lynne Margolis

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Limp Bizkit

Gold Cobra

Flip/Interscope

Buy if you don't like: yourself, music

If there was one reunion that rock could have done without, the smart money was on Limp Bizkit. Last summer, the band tried to mount an arena-level reunion tour, but pulled the plug. Frontman Fred Durst says he'd rather bring Limp Bizkit to more intimate venues, but that hasn't happened, either. Unfortunately, Bizkit has returned with Gold Cobra, full of the same riff-heavy rap-rock that defined Limp Bizkit in the first place. This time, the approach is particularly ham-fisted, with songs built around elementary guitar riffs, thick bass lines and big rock beats on tracks like "Shark Attack" and "Gold Cobra." That could work if the riffs were interesting or catchy, instead of plain old sludgy. It would also help if Durst and company had some lyrical creativity, but songs like "Get a Life," "Douche Bag" and "Bring It Back" are as derivative and shallow as it gets. — Alan Sculley

  • Cults, Bon Iver, Limp Bizkit

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