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Florence + the Machine

Ceremonials

Universal Republic

Buy if you like: Arcade Fire, Adele

On Ceremonials, the second album from British hitmakers Florence + the Machine, the band creates a sound that's part Björk, part Siouxsie and the Banshees, and part U2 — all of it driven home by Florence Welch's brilliant voice. There are plenty of cascading pianos, surging percussion and layered vocals, which add up to a great sound that's kinda goth, kinda mainstream. Yet for all of that, the album is mostly a yawner. Welch can really capture a mood, cranking up the emotion as the music rises and falls. But it's hard to do much with songs that recycle clichés and the same aching romantic themes. Add to that tired lines like "It's always darkest before the dawn" and bafflers like "Just keep following the heartlines on your head," and everything lists toward a sameness which finds the band falling short of its promise. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Lou Reed and Metallica

Lulu

Warner Bros.

Buy if you like: Danzig, Prong

Lulu is a truly unlistenable disaster that pairs Lou Reed's lyrics and vocals with tiresome extended riffs courtesy of Metallica. A two-CD concept album based on a pair of turn-of-the-20th-century plays about a prostitute/dominatrix who (spoiler alert) meets a dark fate at the hands of Jack the Ripper, it's overripe with Reed's sex-and-violence-heavy lyrics, which are clearly designed to shock. Except that they don't. And his mumbling monotone makes it often difficult to even suss out what he's singing about. Metallica, meanwhile, is fully adrift, crafting lengthy drones that bore the listener across all 95 painful minutes of this misguided opus. In short, Lulu is the worst record ever from either Reed or Metallica, which is saying something. It's also one of the worst albums of 2011. L. Kent Wolgamott

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Sons of Fathers

Sons of Fathers

Blanco River Music

Buy if you like: The Byrds, the Avett Brothers

Every now and then, a young new band pops out of the gate so fully formed, it sounds as if they've been together forever. Sons of Fathers (known as Beck & Cauthen before they received a letter from Beck Hansen's lawyers) is one of those acts. Bound together by a chance meeting in Texas, they harmonize more like brothers than sons of different fathers. "Ruthless" might remind listeners of the Everly Brothers — Paul Cauthen's grandfather, who taught him to sing, once got pulled onstage to accompany the Everlys — while cuts like "Adam & Eve" and "The Country" reveal Byrds and early Eagles influences. With Texas twang in their blood — and Lloyd Maines co-producing — this great debut delivers enough groovin' funk and boot-heel country to give that other Beck another reason to take notice. — Lynne Margolis

  • Florence + the Machine, Lou Reed and Metallica, Sons of Fathers

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