Lady Gaga, Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, Parkay Quarts 

Sound Advice

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Lady Gaga



File next to: Madonna, Bette Midler

It's evident by now that Lady Gaga isn't nearly as avant-garde as she claims. A true avant-garde artist dwells at least partly in shadow; Lady Gaga's insistence on laying it out on table and billboard have dashed her chances of being taken seriously. At least Artpop is a broader album than her two previous studio efforts, although the limitations are probably easy to guess. Stefani Germanotta remains a self-absorbed lover of the script, and Artpop is maddeningly scripted — at first, as a concept album on Gaga as sex goddess, and later, through tracks like "Dope," as a tearful take-off-the-makeup attempt at full disclosure. The only time Gaga's attention moves beyond Gaga is in silly send-ups of celebrities like Donatella Versace. There is a promise of something more here, once Gaga gets bored with exploring all aspects of her big bad self. — Loring Wirbel

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Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs

Under the Covers, Vol. 3

Shout! Factory

File next to: Marshall Crenshaw, the Bangles

Alt-rocker Matthew Sweet and lead Bangle Susanna Hoffs' Under the Covers, Vol. 3 is an unseasonably summery affair that finds the power-pop duo romping through some of their favorite songs of the 1980s. (Volumes 1 and 2 cover the '60s and '70s.) The heavier songs in the set, like R.E.M.'s "Sitting Still" and the db's "Big Brown Eyes" are blissfully fuzzed out, while ballads such as Lindsey Buckingham's "Trouble" are wistful in a distinctly sunny way. The songs that showcase Hoffs' vocals are usually more successful, as Sweet suffers a couple missteps, most notably on the Smiths' "How Soon is Now." Still, the duo's crystalline voices and guitars make up for any imperfections. Check out the previous volumes, which are stronger, and then give this one a spin. It certainly beats seeing a cover band. — Collin Estes

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Parkay Quarts (Parquet Courts)

Tally All the Things That You Broke

What's Your Rupture?

File next to: The Jam, New Fast Automatic Daffodils

Andrew and Max Savage seemed to have British old-school call-and-response Oi! punk in mind when their band Parquet Courts began playing gigs around Brooklyn in 2010. The limited-release American Specialties was a straightforward spin on early Clash, but the second album, Light Up Gold, seemed to suggest a psychedelic side when it was released at the tail end of 2012. Now, the band has graced us with an odd EP under a quasi-fake name, a release that functions as a delicious parody of Parquet Courts itself. Four of the tracks would have you believe it is 1977 all over again, but the final seven-minute number, "He's Seeing Paths," is a loose and joyous hippie drum chorus. Maybe this is Parquet Courts' new vector, or maybe they're putting us on, but the band delivers a lot of fun regardless of its intent. — Loring Wirbel


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