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Wild Flag

Wild Flag

Merge

Buy if you like: Sleater-Kinney, Patti Smith

Wild Flag, a four-woman indie rock "supergroup," mixes '90s indie rock, pop melodies and garage rawness into something resembling Patti Smith's pioneering punk rock. Started by Sleater-Kinney's Carrie Brownstein, who became one of the stars and writers of the TV show Portlandia, Wild Flag includes S-K drummer Janet Weiss, keyboardist Rebecca Cole from the Minders, and Helium guitarist Mary Timony. While S-K's hard-driving songs were long on intensity and short on melody, Timony is a melodic master and plays a mean guitar. Meanwhile, Cole's keyboards give the music a depth and heft that sets it apart from straight guitar rock. Some songs are slow and melodically jammy, à la the psychedelically tinged "Glass Tambourine." Others rock with hard-riffing guitar tangling, as on "Black Tiles" and "Romance." Plus, "Boom" sounds kinda like the Cars. Wild Flags is the debut album of the year. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Red Hot Chili Peppers

I'm With You

Warner Bros.

Buy if you like: Fishbone, Big Audio Dynamite

The first record in five years from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is a hit-and-miss, surprisingly mellow record that marks both a return to the Los Angeles band's '80s funk roots and an exploration of new territory. With guitarist John Frusciante missing, the center of musical attention here is bassist Flea, who melodically struts his stuff while catching grooves with drummer Chad Smith, creating an almost unavoidable trip backward. But the bass-driven propulsiveness that lights up the opener, "Monarchy of Roses," also leads to some dead-in-the-water passages, like the Afro-tinged "Ethiopia." There are some catchy turns here and there, but nothing close to Frusciante's signature soundscapes. I'm With You is packed with ballads and slower rockers, most of which don't fully connect. Actually, at an overstuffed 80 minutes, there's too much of everything. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Mirror Traffic

Matador

Buy if you like: Guided by Voices, Yo La Tengo

Stephen Malkmus has been an indie rock icon for 20 years, starting with his days in Pavement. With Mirror Traffic, he adds to that legacy with his most accessible post-Pavement outing yet. Produced by Beck, another '90s icon, Mirror Traffic is a collection of easy-to-like pop songs that steer away from the prog-rock guitar ramblings of Malkmus' most recent projects (thank you, Mr. Hansen) into garage rock, angular pop and even a little folk. Rather than burying them under guitar freakouts, the clean production puts Malkmus' deliberately obtuse, oft-funny lyrics front and center. The Jicks are a fine, tight band who can jump easily from more guitar-oriented tunes like "Brain Gallop" to the muted "Share the Red" and from there on to pop anthems like "Tune Grief." A Malkmus/Beck mashup would have been just fine, but with the Jicks onboard, Mirror Traffic offers much more. — L. Kent Wolgamott

  • Wild Flag, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

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