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The Beach Boys

That's Why God Made the Radio

Capitol

File next to: The Everly Brothers, Jan & Dean

Considering it's been 25 years since the Beach Boys' last album — and close to four decades since visionary member Brian Wilson has been involved — this reunion is big news. While a number of songs were originally targeted for a Brian Wilson solo record, "Isn't It Time," "Beaches in Mind, and the title track sound remarkably like mid-1960s Beach Boys, with breezy pop melodies, carefree lyrics and stunning harmonies. The album ends with "From There to Back Again," "Pacific Coast Highway" and "Summer's Gone" — all penned by Wilson and collaborator Joe Thomas — the most complex and musically satisfying. After the reunion tour, Mike Love says he and the rest of the band would like to make a Beach Boys album from ground up. While That's Why God Made the Radio is a good start, a full-on Beach Boys album could be amazing. — Alan Sculley

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Smile

A Flash in the Night

Ingrid

File next to: Kraftwerk, Sigur Rós

This collaboration between Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John and Joakim Ahlund of the Teddybears is being released on Ingrid, the new Swedish label founded by those groups plus Lykki Li and Miike Snow. A Flash in the Night is an electronic album, a blipping bouncing blend of indie pop and Krautrock à la Kraftwerk. There are a few songs with vocals, including the irresistible classic pop of "Satellite Blues." But the music is still primarily instrumental — and a whole lot of fun. A catchy melody weaves in and out of pulsing electronic beats and blips on "Clean Gloves, Dirty Hands," the high end of a keyboard plays off the horns of "Jean Michel," and noises are incorporated into an ever more driving groove on "Have Some Fun Tonight." It all culminates in "Crooked," two minutes of beauty and beats that makes this album a promising debut for band and label alike. — L. Kent Wolgamott

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Neil Young

Americana

Reprise

File next to: Tom Morello, Bob Dylan

In unexpected musical explorations, Neil Young has few peers. Americana finds his reunited Crazy Horse taking classic folk songs, plugging in guitars and amps, and gloriously transforming them. Most often, Young takes original words and writes new music in Crazy Horse style. Apart from their lyrics, familiar songs like "Oh Susannah" and "Clementine" are rendered pretty much unrecognizable, while others like "This Land Is Your Land" tend to be more faithful. "Travel On" and "High-Flyin' Bird" are solid and potent enough to pass for Crazy Horse catalog, but "Tom Dula" is way too long and I'm not sure what "Get a Job" — in Sha Na Na grunge style — is doing here at all. Young hasn't always succeeded when he's gone down the rabbit hole on one of his musical experiments (witness Trans), but Americana mostly works fine. And, oh yes, it rocks. — Alan Sculley

  • The Beach Boys, Smile, Neil Young

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