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Stephen Malkmus, Switchfoot, and Peter Gabriel covers 

Sound Advice

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Various Artists

And I'll Scratch Yours

Real World

File next to: Genesis, Talking Heads, Paul Simon

More than three years after Peter Gabriel released his Scratch My Back covers album, the artists he covered have returned the favor in spades. While the earlier work was stark with chamber orchestra arrangements, And I'll Scratch Yours brims with joy. It's hard to pick favorites among unique arrangements from people like Feist, Brian Eno, Regina Spektor, Randy Newman, Arcade Fire and David Byrne. Ending the album with "Solsbury Hill" by the late Lou Reed and "Biko" by Paul Simon is a double tear-jerker. Thom Yorke and Neil Young will no doubt kick themselves for failing to get off the dime and contribute a song to this effort. For those lacking the 2010 suite, Real World has been kind enough to package both in a double-disc bonus edition — of course they have. — Loring Wirbel

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Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks

Wig Out at Jagbags

Matador

File next to: Pavement, Gong, Syd Barrett

It became pretty obvious that former Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus was gaining a new appreciation for '70s progressive rock when he released an album of Can covers in 2013. But this new single-take studio release expands the nostalgia further with its broad salute to 50 years of eclectic musical styles. The angular Pavement rhythm style is still there (minus drummer Janet Weiss, a sad loss), as is Malkmus's love of wordplay. But the sarcasm of many Jicks albums has been replaced by near-hippie levels of sincerity. In "Lariat," Malkmus name-checks everyone from Bongwater and Sun City Girls to the Grateful Dead, though many might question his reference to the '80s as music's "best decade ever." Wig Out at Jagbags is full of happy memories and whimsy, but it's too close to Malkmus' traditional slackertude to ever become corny. — Loring Wirbel

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Switchfoot

Fading West

Atlantic Records

File next to: Mute Math, P.O.D.

This latest offering from San Diego's alternative-rock stalwarts feels like a collective cry for joy at the finish of a long race, or maybe just a sigh of relief after a long-sought-after epiphany. The pop-rock track "Who We Are" is so hopeful that it features kids singing on the chorus, while songs like "When We Come Alive," "Say It Like You Mean It," and "Love Alone Is Worth the Fight" support the album's overarching theme of making each day count. The tension between the temporary and the eternal surfaces on "The World You Want" when Jon Foreman sings, "Is this the world you want? / Every day you're making it" and on the brooding ambient rock track "BA55." On the whole, Fading West may be less about enduring difficult times and more about celebrating the beauty of life in the present moment. — Brian Palmer

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