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The Rentals

The Last Little Life EP

Boompa Records

Sounds like: 1996 all over again (that's good)

Short take: Good small steps for The Rentals

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When it came time for Matt Sharp to reconfigure The Rentals, the former Weezer bassist looked around and discovered a brand-new indie pop world. So with subtle Moog sounds, gentle harmonies and easy, breezy chords, The Rentals began work on what will become its third effort, with recently released The Last Little Life EP giving fans a hint. The results are golden, with the new effort recapturing the excitement and urgency experienced on the band's 1995 debut Return of the Rentals. The four-track affair kicks off on the high note that is the quirky "Last Romantic Day." This is contrasted with the upbeat and highly addictive "Little Bit of You in Everything." Considering it's been nearly a decade since the last Rentals effort, fans won't be disappointed with this four-track appetizer. John Benson

The New Pornographers

Challengers

Matador / Release date: Aug. 21

Sounds like: Opaque indie pop

Short take: The New sound falls a bit flat

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Have you noticed we live in a post-"New Slang" world, with more indie-minded bands crafting tender pop sounds that could fit on the Garden State soundtrack? The latest outfit following The Shins' lead is Canada's New Pornographers, who decided to go with less breezy pop and more subdued fodder for its fourth studio effort, Challengers. The mid-tempo "All the Old Showstoppers" is as lively as it gets; however, it's "Myriad Harbour," which comes across as a lost Lou Reed song, that arguably makes the disc. This track is simply sublime, and if you don't listen to it repeatedly for days on end, you might as well forget about ever being inspired by new music again. Despite such joy, New Pornographers, you're not getting off that easy: You'd better get popping again on the next album. John Benson

The Go

Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride

Cass

Sounds like: A reincarnated Badfinger

Short take: Who the hell is Jack White?

When you're best-known as Jack White's pre-White Stripes project and you're still recording, under the same name you're not in a good spot. But, just as the split worked for White, it's now paying off for The Go on Howl on the Haunted Beat You Ride. Easily the cleanest-sounding of The Go's four full-length releases, Howl sets the tone with psychedelic lead track "You Go Bangin' On" and then only expands on it. The heavy-handed, late-'60s/early-'70s feel isn't new for The Go, but now it's finally working right. "Mary Ann" is a Boston-meets-the-Beach-Boys ballad, "Caroline" could be straight out of Pilot's catalog, and "So Long Johnny" and "Invisible Friends" are ready-made to show up on the soundtrack to some period-piece film. The Go finally gets things started with this one. Pete Freedman

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