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The Veronicas, Jamie xx, and Sun Kil Moon 

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click to enlarge The Veronicas
  • The Veronicas

The Veronicas

The Veronicas

RCA / Sony Music

File next to: P!nk, t.A.T.u.

Australian twins Jess and Lisa Origliasso were barely 20 when Sire Records released The Secret Life of The Veronicas. The debut album was packed with intelligent, well-crafted pop with a decidedly rock-oriented sensibility. No pop tarts were they. But then came the sophomore slump: Reeking of market analysis and packaging, 2007's Hook Me Up was mired in ill-advised electroclash arrangements. Next came a several-year battle with their label, during which the Origliasso sisters all but dropped off the pop landscape. But all has been made right with a label change and a self-titled album. "Sanctified" is all melodrama and heavy beats, and "Did You Miss Me (I'm a Veronica)" is a hip-hop-flavored musical statement of renewed purpose. The Veronicas is a welcome musical rapprochement of modern production flourishes and solid pop songcraft. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge Jamie xx
  • Jamie xx

Jamie xx

In Colour

Young Turks

File next to: Shamir, George Fitzgerald, Holly Herndon

Someone must have slipped Jamie Smith a Xanax. The musician and producer, who employs the stage name Jamie xx, is best known as a member of The xx, a British band that favors slow-paced and ethereal music. But following his remix of the late Gil Scott-Heron's final album, Smith's solo debut In Colour bursts with so much overall happiness that it might well be the EDM dance record of the summer. Even the vocal contributions from bandmate Romy Croft, on "SeeSaw" and "Loud Places," are more suggestive of a sultry chanteuse than the wraithlike being she projects in The xx. Meanwhile, the addition of Young Thug and Popcaan on "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" has put the track on the hip-hop map. Save the ominous pondering for the next xx album. For now, Jamie and Romy just want to dance. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Sun Kil Moon
  • Sun Kil Moon

Sun Kil Moon

Universal Themes

Caldo Verde Records

File next to: Richard Buckner, Songs: Ohia, Bill Callahan

Why is Mark Kozelek so increasingly prolific and cranky? Maybe pushing 50 has made him more concerned about mortality. Whatever, the Sun Kil Moon mastermind seems to be recording every random idea that enters his mind. Last year's Benji, a compendium of tragedies in Kozelek's home town, was followed by two solo albums. Now comes Universal Themes, a Sun Kil Moon album that turns traditional song concepts upside down. Its eight tracks, each more than eight minutes long, do not hew to a single time signature and are more storytelling suites than melodic exercises. They're not randomly tossed off, but they are odd tales, far from universal. Meanwhile, Kozelek's growing abuse of fans and critics alike suggests that he's somewhere between a breakthrough and a train wreck. — Loring Wirbel

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