Author

Suzanne Ely

Nalick’s debut album didn’t have to be a Wreck of the Day. Though the 20-year-old’s lyrics tend toward the insipid (”If this is giving up/Then I’m giving up on love”), she has a great pop voice — passionate but velvety smooth. It’s her best asset. Unfortunately, it’s buried under layers of synthetic cheese whipped up by producers Christopher Thorn and Brad Smith (founding members of Blind Melon). They make her sound like an Alanis Morissette wannabe without the jagged edges.

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Alt-country pop’s answer to Dave Eggers occasionally gets too highfalutin with his Catcher in the Rye and Isaac Newton references. It’s as if the cool satirist and the schooled artiste inside singer-songwriter Eef Barzelay are constantly battling each other for dominance. But on Clem Snide’s fifth album, humor wins out. ”Jews for Jesus Blues” wryly comments on spiritual confusion, while ”Made for TV Movie” portrays Lucille Ball as a sad clown. Strange as that sounds, you’ll find yourself laughing through the tears.

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Buck 65, Rich Terfry

On his consistently inventive major-label debut, This Right Here Is Buck 65, this Nova Scotia native parcels out equal amounts of empathy (”Cries a Girl”) and absurdity (”Centaur”), delivering honky-tonk parables in a sandpaper spoken-word drawl with enough wry humor to rival Eminem. In fact, his dirges owe as much to rap as to the roots and blues of Johnny Cash, and this oddly captivating country-rap hybrid of an album suggests we’re entering a new frontier in hip-hop, with Buck as the foremost pioneer.

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On A Sectioned Beam, the EP follow-up to last spring’s The Incomplete Triangle, Lansing-Dreiden check their overbaked art-school pretensions at the recording-studio door and deliver a heady mix built around ambitious Pet Sounds-style orchestrations. ”Spectrum of Vapor” revels in delicate chamber-pop melodies, while ”A Sectioned Beam” is a bouncy dose of new wave. One false note: bonus cut ”The First Response,” when leaden percussion and twee faux British vocals take over.

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