Band of Horses
Shedding entirely the melancholic, buried-in-the-mix indie leanings that lent their non-regional twang its edge, Band of Horses underwhelm with this set of brightly lit, straightforward country rockers. In recent years, Horses mastermind Ben Bridwell got himself a wife and kids, and domestic mortality is on his mind here: "How to Live" projects his fears outward – "Guess what? You're getting old. Still gotta grow up," he advises – but on other tracks, like "Dumpster World," which sounds like an America B-side, he admits, "I'm getting old." But does "old" have to be synonymous with "bland?"
– Justin Strout
I Bet on Sky
J. Mascis and Lou Barlow make mean-
ingful magic together, and perhaps their famous feud ended with the realization that neither of them alone could make an album like I Bet on Sky. Although press releases bragging about "original lineups" play off fantasy, the dream of the 1990s guitar solo is alive in songs like "Almost Fare" and "Recognition." Although Beyond and the ultra-hooky Farm are stronger, Dinosaur Jr. have completed a triumvirate of albums that are undeniably triumphant.
– Allie Conti
Pet Shop Boys
Following the inflate-and-pop
bubblegum audacity of 2009's Yes, Elysium finds Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe mostly paused in midtempo wistful rumination reminiscent of the downcast glances of 1990's gorgeous "Being Boring." Even lead single "Winner" – Olympic as it may come off – warns, "Let's enjoy it all while it lasts." As a result, Elysium, recorded in sunny California with producer Andrew Dawson (Kanye West!), washes with the wet-eyed sincerity of warm afterthought – except when it doesn't. "I am my own demographic. What does that say about me?" asks the wry "Ego Music." It says you're legendary, of course.