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Jack Oblivian

Rat City

Fat Possum

Buy if you like: White Stripes, Black Lips

Jack Yarber, aka Jack Oblivian, is a fixture of the thriving garage rock scene in Memphis, Tenn., having founded Compulsive Gamblers with Greg Cartwright before moving on to the Oblivians in 1993. For this solo album, Oblivian rounded up a bunch of Memphis' best to play on it. He also wrote some great songs, and delivers them in a dozen styles with spirit and verve. There's the burn and drive of the opening title cut, the Clash-like, reggae-tinged "Mass Confusion," the raw, distorted John Lee Hooker-meets-punk "Old Folks Boogie," and the spacious pop of "Dark Eyes." Those are just the first four songs of 12 on this irresistible record that demand repeat play. Rat City never flags from start to finish of its perfect-for-rock 'n roll 38 minutes — a tour de force from Oblivian. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Ume

Phantoms

Modern Outsider

Buy if you like: Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine

Imagine a more melodic Sonic Youth with Kim Gordon singing all the songs (and playing guitar rather than bass), and you've got Ume, an Austin, Texas trio that impresses in its Phantoms debut. The singing and oft-dissonant guitar come from Lauren Larson, who nails angular, intense string work across the record. Her semi-sweet voice gives "Captive" and "The Push" a breathy pop feel and pushes the personal, questioning lyrics of "Pretend Again" and "Hurricane II" front and center. Larson's husband Eric handles bass and, with drummer Rachel Fuhrer, forms a tight rhythm section that anchors richly layered songs that range from the scraping soundscape of "Destroyer" to the ethereal atmospherics of "The Task." Based on this debut, Ume are worthy contenders to the Sonic Youth throne. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Butch Walker and the Black Widows

The Spade

Dangerbird

Buy if you like: Cheap Trick, Mott the Hoople

Songwriter and producer to the stars (including Weezer, Panic! at the Disco and, um, Lindsay Lohan) Butch Walker here turns out an anthemic power-pop album filled with some of his funniest, most self-referential lyrics. He zaps Bryan Adams while recounting his youth in the "Summer of '89." (Get it?) He tweaks self-indulgent musicians and bands named after animals on the swirling "Synthesizers." He even takes a "Suckerpunch" à la the Georgia Satellites, goes down a country road for "Closest Thing to You I'm Gonna Find," and comes off like the Raspberries on "Every Single Body Else." For those who know his track record, it should come as no surprise that Spade is an exquisitely recorded and produced album. It's packed with harmonies, biting vocals and swaggering rock 'n roll guitars. Good fun, well done. — L. Kent Wolgamott

  • Jack Oblivian, Ume, Butch Walker and the Black Widows

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