Sound Advice 

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Carried to Dust

Quarterstick Records

Sounds like: Calexico and no one else

Short take: Americana goes universal

Calexico lives in so many musical worlds that it's hard to think of the band as having any boundaries at all. Even when Joey Burns and John Convertino go south of the border on songs like "Inspiracion" and "El Gatillo," they never try to re-create a sound. Rather, they throw the music in the air and let it become something new, something hard to pin down. When that happens, the Tucson outfit sounds like the most exciting band in the country. Carried to Dust is a thrilling summation of everything Calexico has done, rolled together and sent into the sky like a big Roman candle of so many sonic colors, all a listener can do is sit back and say, "Ah." Guests from Iron & Wine, Tortoise and elsewhere add their own special touches, but in the end, this is Burns and Convertino's invention. And the pair has managed to create its masterpiece. Bill Bentley

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Kings of Leon

Only by the Night

RCA / Release date: Sept. 23

Sounds like: Not Southern, not indie, just rock

Short take: Here comes the crossover ...

For five years and three albums, the Followill boys have played big, Southern-flavored roots rock in the tiny confines of the indie community. Thanks to the matured writings and rasp of frontman Caleb and continued creativity of producers Angelo Petraglia (Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris) and Jacquire King (Tom Waits, Modest Mouse), Only by the Night is about to earn them a bunch of new friends. The album's first single, "Sex on Fire," starts with a Bloc Party bounce before summoning Bob Seger's "Feel Like a Number." The populist approach continues with the soaring and radio-friendly U2-cum-Coldplay track "Use Somebody" before distorting into the political screed of "Crawl." Though the band flirts with Conor Oberst-style noodling on "Cold Desert," the twangy, Allman-inspired "Revelry" is a reminder that this ground has been tread before to great effect. Jason Notte

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Amanda Palmer

Who Killed Amanda Palmer

Roadrunner Records

Sounds like: The doll runs out of piano keys

Short take: Lacks Dresden touch

Amanda Palmer, one-half of Boston cabaret rock act the Dresden Dolls, has decided the time is right to parlay her underground cred into a solo studio debut, Who Killed Amanda Palmer. The complication hindrance, actually is the fact the 32-year-old singer-pianist employed ivory-banger Ben Folds for production duties. On paper, the move seems like it would produce a grand indie rock piano concerto; however, the result is not sublime, but overdone. Less ominous and more bubbly than Dolls material, songs such as "Runs in the Family" and "Astronaut: A Short History of Nearly Nothing" grow tiresome. However, all is not lost. Palmer's vocals impress on "Ampersand," the theatrical "Guitar Hero" and the horn-fueled "Leeds United." In short, Dolls fans will love it, while others will likely remain unconcerned about Who Killed Amanda Palmer. John Benson


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