Sound Advice 

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Dark Horse


Sounds like: Exactly what you'd expect

Short take: Rock mixed with titties and beer

Known as a purveyor of lowest-common-denominator rock replete with shot-taking, beer-chasing, chest-pounding anthems, Canada's Nickelback returns to its bread and butter. Loud guitars and bombastic drums define this 11-track CD, delving into AC/DC lyrical terrain with the subtle "Something in Your Mouth" lead single and a digression into good ol' boy country rock on "If Today Was Your Last Day." The metal-lite "Burn it to the Ground" truly encapsulates the Nickelback experience with gruff lead singer Chad Kroeger's lyrics, "I gotta fistful of fifties / The tequila just hit me / No class, no taste, no shirt 'n shit faced / We got'em lined up shot down / Firin' back straight Crown." Nickelback continues to prove that, Pablum notwithstanding, its loyal audience cares less about new sounds than fist-in-the-air machismo. John Benson

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Gramercy Arms

Gramercy Arms

Cheap Lullaby

Sounds like: Joan as off-duty policewoman

Short take: Sarah Silverman guests on disappointing debut

In a more perfect world, this New York City "supergroup" would have a fine array of potential hits, and "Automatic" would be the first to get things rolling. Upbeat and infectious, the opening track from the band's self-titled (or, as critics like to say, eponymous) debut is a sure indicator of greatness to come. But not on this album. "Looking at the Sun" includes surprising guest vocals from comedienne Sarah Silverman, but is still as sticky sweet as a gummy bear on a summer dashboard. The rest is all power pop without the power. Even with members of Guided by Voices, Luna, Joan As Police Woman and the Dambuilders onboard, the results are pleasant but disappointing. Still, while "Automatic" may not justify the purchase of the whole album, at less than a buck for a digital download, you could do a lot worse. Bill Forman

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Little Joy

Little Joy

Rough Trade Records

Sounds like: Los Hermanos + Strokes = something else entirely

Short take: Just 30 minutes, so play it twice

Set free from their regular bands, Rodrigo Amarante from Los Hermanos and Fabrizio Moretti from the Strokes join Binki Shapiro in Little Joy. Their names are out of central casting, but their music is plenty real. It's like they escaped to an isolated island with instruments, an old Teac and lots of refreshments. Amarante's voice is all emotion, insinuating itself into the heart, while Shapiro goes for more classic beauty, fragile but never timid. The pair shifts back and forth between songs, sometimes bringing to mind "The Girl from Ipanema," or the Velvet Underground's "That's the Story of My Life." Moretti, who holds down the drum chair in the Strokes, brings more than his share to the mix: guitar, bass, piano, drums, melodica and backing vocals. No doubt he saw daylight and decided to go for it. Little Joy = big kicks. Bill Bentley


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