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Quarterly Buzz Report 

Checking in with some of the year's best albums

Ah, summer. Time for barbecues, beaches, baseball and, if you're a music fan, making Top 10 lists of the best albums released during the first half of the year. In April, we looked at the best albums that came out the first three months of 2009. Here's how the second quarter of '09 stacks up.

Bob Dylan

Together Through Life

WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

Dylan doesn't even sound like he's trying here. But not in a bad way. The 10 songs come out so natural, you can imagine Dylan writing, recording and forgetting about them before he even had his morning cup of coffee.

BELIEVE THE HYPE?

Unlike Dylan's other two drooled-over albums of the decade, Together Through Life doesn't pitch a tent in America's past. It's a roots record that finds comfort in the present, not in days gone by. There's still some reminiscing here, but he's living for the moment most of the time.

CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS:

85 percent. It's Bob Dylan. Critics pretty much revere everything he does, even some of those crappy records he made in the '80s.

Green Day

21st Century Breakdown

WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

Five years after they revived the rock opera, reignited political rock and resurrected their career, Green Day return with another concept album that's bigger, badder and bolder than American Idiot.

BELIEVE THE HYPE?

Despite his often heavy-handed symbolism, this is Billie Joe Armstrong's best batch of songs since Dookie — surveying the state of religion, welfare and various other collapses. They're tons more ambitious than the masturbating teens he sang about 15 years ago.

CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS:

80 percent. Green Day worked this formula before on American Idiot, and rock-crit types adore political concept records that swing with their beliefs.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band

Outer South

WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

Oberst's new band sprung from last year's group tour in support of his self-titled solo album, the first record released under the Bright Eyes frontman's own name.

BELIEVE THE HYPE?

The Mystic Valley Band strains to be a group project. Everyone who wants to write and sing gets a chance. Oberst's songs (which make up the bulk of Outer South) continue his growth as one of the decade's top singer-songwriters.

CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS:

40 percent. We love Oberst's songs. The rest of the band's contributions? Not so much.

Passion Pit

Manners

WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

This synth-pop combo from New England piles on everything from 1984 beats to a children's choir on its super-fun debut. Plus, frontman Michael Angelakos wields the gayest heterosexual falsetto since Barry Gibb's.

BELIEVE THE HYPE?

You won't find a better collection of songs this season to get both your feet and brain moving. And like all great records, your favorite song will change after each listen. Right now, I'm torn between "Make Light" and "Sleepyhead." Or maybe "The Reeling."

CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS:

70 percent. Manners might prove to be too ephemeral by December. But it's the best album this summer.

Silversun Pickups

Swoon

WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

Their 2006 debut had one good song, "Lazy Eye." This follow-up pretty much takes the best parts of "Lazy Eye" — the Smashing Pumpkins-like push-pull between verse and chorus, a hook — and applies them to 10 songs.

BELIEVE THE HYPE?

Frontman Brian Aubert builds Swoon's tracks layer by layer until everything erupts in a blast of amp-shredding distortion. Just like the Pumpkins used to do. But it's way better than anything Billy Corgan made after Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS:

35 percent. By the end of the year, most of us will forget how much we liked this in April.

Sonic Youth

The Eternal

WHAT'S THE BUZZ?

For their 16th album, indie-rock pioneers Sonic Youth head back into indieville (via Matador Records) for the first time since 1988's landmark Daydream Nation.

BELIEVE THE HYPE?

Swapping the four-minutes-and-outta-there structure of the band's past few records for a less-ordered approach, these songs stretch into five-, six- and even nine-minute walls of choking guitar spurts. Sonic Youth haven't sounded this inspired in years.

CHANCES IT'LL MAKE IT ON YEAR-END TOP 10 LISTS:

85 percent. Critics worship Sonic Youth. This is their most Sonic Youth-y album in years.

mgallucci@clevescene.com

More by Michael Gallucci

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