Stardeath and the White Dwarfs, Jenny Lewis, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers 

Sound Advice

click to enlarge Stardeath and the White Dwarfs

Stardeath and the White Dwarfs


Federal Prism

File next to: Flaming Lips, Mew

Comparing psychedelic Oklahoma space-rockers Stardeath and the White Dwarfs to the Flaming Lips is perhaps unfair and too obvious, but inevitable. Stardeath lead singer Dennis Coyne is Lips frontman Wayne Coyne's nephew, and the bands have collaborated on past projects, including 2009's "re-imagining" of Dark Side of the Moon. Stardeath, however, are less whimsical, merging cold electronics with explosive, guitar-driven freakouts. Wastoid's chaotic arrangements warp and slip around Coyne's clear yet distant tenor voice for a sound that's heavier and more alien than the Lips have managed in decades. "Birds of War" sounds like Black Sabbath from a parallel dimension, "The Chrome Children" pulsates like a punk quasar, and the gentler "Luminous Veil" allows Coyne to wax sensitive in a lush chorus of backing vocals. Great listening for your next trip to Mars. — Collin Estes

click to enlarge Jenny Lewis

Jenny Lewis

The Voyager

Warner Bros.

File next to: Aimee Mann, Neko Case, Maria Taylor

Some of Jenny Lewis' most enjoyable songwriting has been with her former band Rilo Kiley. But she didn't truly hit her shiny SoCal pop stride until 2010's I'm Having Fun Now, a duo album with boyfriend Johnathan Rice. On The Voyager, her first truly solo album in six years, Lewis may appear to be going for glam — especially with Anne Hathaway and other celebrity buds showing up in her "Just One of the Guys" video. In reality, the album offers up fine songwriting on bittersweet tracks like "Late Bloomer" and "The New You." The fact that Lewis is back in Los Angeles may have contributed to a sound that's more bubblegum than the best Rilo Kiley tunes, but the title track's references to deep-space probes and shuttle disasters suggest that Lewis is no Valley girl. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers

Hypnotic Eye


File next to: Wallflowers, Drive-By Truckers, Traveling Wilburys

Numerous music industry wags are claiming that Hypnotic Eye is Tom Petty's best work since the '70s, a claim that overlooks the fine work he's released in the years since, including Mojo and The Last DJ. In fact, except for his curmudgeonly commentary on everything from EDM to streaming music, Petty has avoided middle-aged slump better than any '70s pop star. Riffs and lyrics on songs like "Fault Lines" and "Red River" recall the best of the You're Gonna Get It! heyday. Since Petty sticks to his mainstream rock standards, there are bound to be a few stupid moments and predictable heavy guitar riffs here, yet they are fewer than might be expected. Petty's tenor voice has gotten thinner and wispier, but the quintessential Heartbreaker can still teach the young 'uns a lick or two. — Loring Wirbel


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