Sound advice 

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Keith Top of the Pops

Fuck You! I'm Keith Top of the Pops

Corporate Records UK

Buy if you like: The Kinks, the Jam

As exercises in studio spontaneity go, this (more or less) self-titled disc from guitarist/singer Keith Top is awfully special. Top recruited friends from a host of bands (including Art Brut, We Are Scientists and Carter USM) to come to his studio and record this set of newly minted original tunes. The catch is the musicians had only two chances to record the tune — or just one chance if they had heard the song before. Amazingly, no trains were wrecked in the recording of this 10-song set. "It's Slang" and "Girl" are a pair of completely addictive blasts of garage rock. We also get a taste of melancholy jangle pop from "Two of the Beatles Are Dead," and there's a flair for Kinks-style Brit-rock on "Go Away" and "I Hate Your Band." Bands spend months on albums that aren't nearly as rewarding as what Top and his pals come up with here. — Alan Sculley

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Jeff Bridges

Jeff Bridges

Blue Note

Buy if you like: Stephen Bruton, Greg Brown

If one word had to sum up Jeff Bridges' first major-label album, it could be "easygoing." The overall mood is mellow, if a little pensive (particularly tunes like "Nothing Yet," written by the late Stephen Bruton and filled with Russ Pahl's pedal steel vibrato). Not STONER mellow, like "the Dude" in The Big Lebowski, but middle-aged mellow, yet reflective, as on his friend John Goodwin's "Everything but Love" and "Maybe I Missed the Point." Using much the same team that helped elevate him to Oscar-winner status for Crazy Heart, including producer/svengali T Bone Burnett, Bridges has created an appealing collection of songs, some of them his own. It's not going to replace his day job, but it has earned him an Austin City Limits episode. Robert Franklin Ramsey's "Either Way" and Bridges' own "Falling Short" share a moodiness that lends some weight. Yep, the Dude still abides. — Lynne Margolis

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Boston Spaceships

Let It Beard

Guided By Voices, Inc.

Buy if you like: Guided By Voices, Pavement

This band may be called Boston Spaceships, but with Robert Pollard at the helm, it could just as well go under the name of his more famous band, Guided By Voices. In other words, Let It Beard is a lot like many GBV albums — it has some first-rate, rough-around-the-edges guitar pop songs, a few clunkers, and a couple of tunes that are just plain puzzling. With 26 songs, "Let It Beard" is prolific even by Pollard's standards. Fortunately, much of it is worth hearing: The catchy romp "You Just Can't Tell," melancholic rockers "Minefield Searcher" and "The Ballad of Bad Whiskey," and the driving rocker "Juggernaut vs. Monolith," which clocks in at a minute and 12 seconds. Elsewhere, there's definitely fat Pollard could have trimmed, but for a guy whose catalog includes well over two dozen albums, he's still churning out an impressive amount of rock-pop gems. — Alan Sculley


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