Dum Dum Girls, Wonderland, and ceo 

Sound Advice

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Dum Dum Girls

Too True

Sub Pop

File next to: Best Coast, Shangri-Las, Tennis

In the aftermath of Dum Dum Girls' eponymous first album, songwriter Dee Dee Penny (Kristin Welchez) took a quantum leap into more passionate, majestic songwriting. Over the course of two EPs as well as the full-length Only in Dreams, the band's early-'60s girl-group sound was lifted by a song structure that left listeners breathless. On the new album, DDG are reduced in the studio to Dee Dee and Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes. Tracks like "Rimbaud Eyes" and "Little Minx" push all the right buttons, but there is still a sense that Dee Dee is pulling some punches. Maybe understatement is better than a bloated magnum opus, but there was a sense at the conclusion of the End of Daze EP that Dee Dee could kick out a masterpiece. Too True is a beautiful and competent work, but the masterpiece is still to come. — Loring Wirbel

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Modular Recordings

File next to: Animal Collective, Björk

Operating under the moniker of ceo, Swedish electro-pop eccentric Eric Berglund has arguably carried the torch for his country's history of catchy songcraft. But while the melodies in this glittery second LP are as sweet and hummable as something from Abba, there's also a healthy undercurrent of surreal menace. The lush, string-filled "Harikiri" is reminiscent of Hounds of Love-era Kate Bush, with digitized chamber-pop stabbed and punctuated by odd samples. On the surface, "Whorehouse" and "Mirage" are delectable, whimsical sing-alongs in the vein of Animal Collective, but the arpeggiated synths and muffled, shouting voices are creepier than typical dance-floor fodder. The recipe of sugar and poison continues through closer "OMG," a harp-led anthem fueled by voices equally angelic and demonic. Wonderland may be too strange for pop purists, but the production is indeed wondrous, and a brilliant trip. — Collin Estes

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Merge Records

File next to: Fiery Furnaces, Savages

This second album from Brooklyn trio Hospitality finds frontwoman Amber Papini incorporating increasingly sly and sinister themes into her singing and writing. While the band lingered between super-cute twee and shoegaze on its 2012 debut, Trouble combines the Siouxsie-influenced style of Savages with the intellectual rigor of Fiery Furnaces. In some tracks, such as "I Miss Your Bones" and "Rockets and Jets," the play between Papini's guitar and Nathan Michel's percussion is what gives the music its bite. More often, Papini's cryptic and mysterious lyrics are the drivers for Trouble. Because Hospitality strives for some jam improvisation, the tempo lags slightly in the album's final tracks, but the group has clearly blown past any pigeon-holing as yet another cutesy-pop band. In a recent video, Hospitality covered Steely Dan, making a comparison between Papini and Donald Fagen not all that far-fetched. — Loring Wirbel


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