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Blitzen Trapper

Destroyer of the Void

(Sub Pop)

With each album Blitzen Trapper get more ambitious, even as they become more predictable. On 2008's Furr, frontman Eric Earley got about as close as he could to making a Dylan/Dead/Band record without actually inventing a time machine to transport his band back to 1969. Destroyer of the Void, their fifth album, cools down a little, still evoking dusty Americana but finding some identity along the way. The album opens with the golden-rayed harmonies of the sprawling title track, sounding like a squishy Fleet Foxes leftover. But after a minute or so, "Destroyer of the Void" begins to spin a mix of double-tracked guitar runs, tiny synth burps, and spacey time shifts. It's rather epic-sounding, which is Earley's intention. He aims big on Destroyer of the Void, loading songs with tons of this and that, never quite settling down. Or settling into a groove. For all its big ideas, the album lacks actual songs. It's more like a series of elaborate multipart suites, with little guidance and no direction home. Michael Gallucci

Against Me!

White Crosses

(Sire)

Against Me!'s fifth album starts big, with marching drums, ringing guitars, and frontman Tom Gabel bellowing full throttle about smashing something. It's a triumphant anthem for the Florida quartet and a pivotal moment on White Crosses, its follow-up to the 2007 breakthrough CD, New Wave. The band's rousing punk is more refined here, as Gabel becomes a sharper and more melodic songwriter. He's an unabashed Springsteen fan, and there are plenty of times on White Crosses where he lets his Bruce flag fly. "I Was a Teenage Anarchist" barrels out of working-class suburbia with purpose and heart: "Do you remember when you were young and you wanted to set the world on fire?" asks Gabel. The album is filled with such resignation (White Crosses is as much about growing out as it is growing up). Toward the end of "Teenage Anarchist," the music stops and Gabel yells out, "The revolution was a lie!" It's a telling line from a political-punk songwriter who's outgrowing the occasionally stifling scene. There are some clunkers here a couple of limp ballads, an acoustic number but White Crosses sounds like a defining album in the band's burgeoning career. Gallucci

Hot Hot Heat

Future Breeds

(Dangerbird)

Bristling Vancouver disco-punks Hot Hot Heat had to take two steps back to take one forward, which pretty much characterizes their career since 2002's debut, Make Up the Breakdown. After two disappointing follow-ups — which suffered from excess production, a shortage of signature tense and nervy hooks, and unimaginative songwriting — they're finally back on track. Though it loses steam across its second half, Future Breeds offers a vibrancy missing since Breakdown. Returning to their blueprint, Hot Hot Heat fashion a whirling dervish of squiggly guitars, whelping synths, and heart-bursting rhythms to back frontman Steve Bays' anguished vocal yelps. "21@12" boasts their most infectious hook ever, a party of effervescing keyboards and ringing guitars, though it's not as memorable as the ticking dance-floor time bomb "Implosionastic." Future Breeds is keyed by the balance between boisterous, hook-laden tracks that let the sunshine in and darker, tightly wound, more cacophonous numbers. The last half-dozen cuts lose a little concision but not much energy, resulting in the band's most enjoyable, adventurous top-to-bottom set in years. Chris Parker

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti

Before Today

(4AD)

L.A. weirdo Ariel Pink's most beloved work can be found on 2004's The Doldrums, which was released on Animal Collective's label. That should tell you something about Pink and his equally freaked-out collaborators. Like Animal Collective, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti make music that's part stoned epiphanies, part Brian Wilson-style mad genius. But Pink's songs occasionally sound like mini pop explosions, loaded with sounds to color your next kaleidoscopic sing-along (or drug orgy, take your pick). Before Today's first minute includes a diving airplane, a ringing gong, twisted new-wave saxophones, and drums breaking out some weird time signature. By the time the echo-drenched gurgles and burps show up in "Hot Body Rub," you're pretty much prepared for Pink's anything-goes approach to record-making. "Bright Lit Blue Skies" sounds like hippie-era paisley-poppers the 5th Dimension crossing over a couple extra dimensions. And the jangling/tinkling "L'Estat" is all warm grooviness. Those are just the first three songs. Pink has a lot more in store. Open your mind and prepare for the trip. Gallucci

Tokyo Police Club

Champ

(Mom + Pop)

If Tokyo Police Club were to put their sound into one of those little plastic baggies they let you carry onto airplanes, they would also add a few teaspoons of sugar, the essence of youth, and a mixtape of Britpop and freewheeling indie rock. On their second album, the Canadian quartet out-funs 2008's Elephant Shell with whirling guitars, whimsical keys, and lines like "We stay up as late as we like/Like K-Ci and JoJo/Like Sonny and Cher/You're Tina, but I'm not Ike." Dave Monks sings about Disney animals in "Bambi," while drummer Greg Alsop brings throttling percussion to every song (except for the deceptively titled "Breakneck Speed"). Tokyo Police Club like to goof around: Their inspiration for "Wake Up (Boots of Danger)" was cribbed from an online dictionary's translation of English-to-Japanese-and-back-again phrases. And on the album-opening "Favourite Food," Monks croons, "Your coffee's cold, your coffee's icy," dragging out the last syllable like a little boy whining to his mother. Like a stiff cup of java, Champ kicks you until you wake up, but it's a far more pleasurable wakeup call. Danielle Sills

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