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click to enlarge Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys

Signed and Sealed in Blood

Born & Bred Records

File next to: Flogging Molly, the Pogues

The Dropkick Murphys' 2011 Going Out in Style album was something of a landmark for the veteran Celtic rockers. A full-on concept record, it featured more serious songs suited to its tale of a fictional Irish immigrant's lineage and new life in the U.S. But with Signed and Sealed in Blood, the Dropkick Murphys are back to their old tricks with a set of rowdy, Irish-accented rockers. They announce their intentions with the opening track, "The Boys Are Back," a prototype Dropkick Murphys' rocker with a rousing chorus about looking for trouble. From there things rollick along through the raucous "The Battle Rages On," "My Hero" and "Prisoner's Song," plus an acoustic tune called "Rose Tattoo" that would be worthy of a sing-along in a pub. There isn't much here that will surprise the Dropkick Murphys' faithful, but they'll definitely be entertained by this spirited effort. — Alan Sculley

click to enlarge A Fragile Tomorrow

A Fragile Tomorrow

Be Nice Be Careful

Piewillie Records

File next to: Lemonheads, the dB's

Be Nice Be Careful, the South Carolina group's fourth album, gets added credibility from having pop legend Mitch Easter as co-producer, while guest appearances from the likes of Don Dixon, Indigo Girls' Amy Ray and Bangles Vicki and Debbi Peterson don't hurt. That kind of talent would be wasted if A Fragile Tomorrow didn't deliver, and there are some gems. "Don't Need Saving" is one of the cheeriest tunes, its strong vocal melody sweetened by bouncy organ. Songs like "Blank Paper" and "Crooked Smiles and Greedy Hands" make melancholy sound truly lovely, while "Kernersville" and "Three More Hours" boast the jangle pop sound for which original R.E.M. producer Easter is known. Meanwhile,"Dropout Reunion" and "Long Time to Be Happy" add a friskier edge, making this a fine post-holiday present for indie-pop devotees. — Alan Sculley

click to enlarge The London Souls

The London Souls

Here Come the Girls

Self-released

File next to: T. Rex, Supergrass

A welcome follow-up to this New York-based rock duo's self-titled debut, Here Come the Girls sat in the can for most of 2012, after a near-fatal auto accident left frontman Tash Neal incapacitated for months. The good news is that Neal and drummer Chris St. Hillaire are back, preparing to tour behind this spirited slice of tuneful Brit-rock that manages to move forward in the tradition of T. Rex and Mott the Hoople. Songs like "All Tied Down," "Steady Are You Ready" and "City of Light" inject a hefty dose of glam attitude into their big guitar sound, while grooving rockers like "Valerie," "Certain Appeal" and "Bobby James" convey an earthier quality. The latter song, in fact, could almost double as a lost Faces track. Here Come the Girls is catchy and well-crafted throughout, with a timeless quality that should make this album hold up over the long haul. — Alan Sculley

  • Dropkick Murphys, A Fragile Tomorrow, The London Souls

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