Jay Reatard has been making a garage-inspired racket for almost a dozen years in a variety of guises — the last four as a solo artist. His musicianship has sharpened, and his second solo album delivers more of the fuzz, revealing even greater pop grandeur. He's always demonstrated a preference for short, high-energy blasts that rarely crack the three minute-mark, but Watch Me Fall crams more hooks into his careening rock nuggets. There's also more sophistication in the arrangements as Reatard sheds lo-fi vestments to explore strings, organs and mandolin. The resultant blend of punch and melody suggests the fizzy punk of the Buzzcocks on the infectious "It Ain't Gonna Save Me" and the poseur-popping burst "Faking It." Other tracks dial back the intensity to simmering indie-pop, from "I'm Watching You," which cadges a riff from Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind" and swaths it in organ shimmer, to the jangling resplendent album-closer, "There Is No Sun." It may be a new look, but he wears it well, retaining the vibrancy while significantly upping the charm. — Chris Parker
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