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Dave Grohl, founder of Foo Fighters and former Nirvana drummer, wins accolades for his integrity, activism and curation of odd bits of music history. Occasionally, you might hear a quiet mumble that “if only Foo Fighters’ albums were as consistently interesting as Grohl.”

The band is out to prove its skeptics wrong in Medicine at Midnight (RCA), where longtime members Pat Smear and Rami Jaffe go to great lengths to prop up Grohl’s valiant efforts. The band’s live TV appearances in late 2020 suggested a more exciting Foo Fighters for its 10th studio album.

Those who think hard rock needs a an infusion of joyful pop in pandemic times will find tracks like “Shame Shame” and “Making a Fire” a fitting evolution for Foo Fighters. Naysayers may complain that the former partial-punks have become poseurs, but a subtler critique is that Foo Fighters always will have a predictable sound, no matter how they fiddle with production. Still, Grohl brought grunge and indie to a respectable place after 26 years of Foo Fighters, and that place is filled with exuberance and light.

Also New & Noteworthy

Harry Dean Stanton & the Cheap Dates, October 1993 (Omnivore) – Cult actor Harry Dean Stanton, who died in 2017, was also known as a touring twang-tenor singer of country and blues hits. Yet few knew of his work with a band that included Jeff “Skunk” Baxter of The Doobie Brothers and Tony Sales, session bassist for Iggy Pop. Cheap Dates’ output was brief and sparse, but this CD collects four studio recordings and five tracks from a live Troubadour gig, chronicling one of the least-known supergroups in pop music.

Vampire Weekend, 40:42 (Sony Music/Columbia) – Ezra Koenig and pals may have eclectic rhythms, but often take grief for being preppy-predictable. So kudos for remixing “2021” from 2019’s Father of the Bride as two songs lasting 20:21 minutes each, one with Sam Gendel’s free-jazz saxophone, the other an extended R&B-seasoned jam from groove band Goose. Sure, everyone is dabbling in full-length remix albums these days, but Vampire Weekend upends the trend, weaving 20-minute jams from a 2-minute tune. Even if it doesn’t end up in the year’s best, 40:42 will certainly help define 2021.