New music to enhance your personal collections



4 stars

If you ask someone to name an example of a typical Brit Pop band, most people would likely answer “Oasis.” However, bands like Blur and The Verve probably did more to further the movement than the fighting Gallaghers.

It is from a combination of Blur and The Smiths that Jason Pegg and the rest of the band Clearlake take their greatest inspiration for “Amber,” their third full-length album. Whereas their last release was a bit brighter in character, this one takes an emotional downturn while still remaining tuneful.

The revised shape of the band’s sound suits frontman Pegg’s performance, as it helps to bring out the romanticism in his vocals, almost as if he were, at times, Morrissey himself (hear “No Kind of Life, It’s Getting Light Outside”).

In the end, this is a very good British guitar record that will especially appeal to fans of mid-’90s Brit Pop.

“With Love and Squalor”

We Are Scientists

3.5 stars

Rising from the streets of New York City, We Are Scientists have been riding a surging wave of popularity within their home base. This is only likely to grow with the release of their glossy, major-label debut, “With Love and Squalor.”

Hanging onto the coattails of such groups as The Strokes, Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, their strong 12-song set will appeal to fans of mainstream alternative rock and indie rock loyalists alike.

A mixture of slick production work, stocky guitar lines and a consistently steady rhythm section helps to reaffirm that the focus is indeed the music, unlike the motives of some other groups, *coughStrokescough*.

The two key tracks on this record, “This Scene is Dead” and “Lousy Reputation,” are pieces of dancy, fist-pumping, art-rocking bliss with a nervy vocal delivery by Keith Murray.

When all is said and done, don’t be surprised if these guys make it big in the near future. And remember, you heard it from me.

“For Screening Purposes Only”

Test Icicles

3 stars

When you see a release from a band called Test Icicles (it’s a play on words, you figure it out), you know that you’re in for something interesting. And boy is this interesting. I can honestly say that I probably have never heard anything quite like this before in my life.

Unlike any of the other groups that are sweeping the United Kingdom by storm, there are no signs of anything that resembles Brit Pop. Instead, the trio draws from such influences as dance-rock, noise-punk, hardcore and a little bit of post-punk.

The result? An extremely chaotic, and at times entirely scary, collection of songs. Shrieking vocals and the collision of shredding guitars are offset by poppy hooks, catchy melodies and interesting lyric material. Key tracks on the record include “Maintain the Focus” and “Circle, Square, Triangle.”

While this may be too far out in left field to attain any major commercial success in the United States, don’t be surprised if Test Icicles becomes one of your best friend’s favorite bands.

“The Greatest”

Cat Power

3 stars

Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, has been at it for over 11 years now, releasing seven solid albums during this period. With her most recent album, her first since 2003, Marshall proves that she is able to grow and mature as an artist on all planes: musically, lyrically and emotionally.

Recorded at the famous Ardent Recording Studios in Memphis, Tenn., the feel of the album is a stark mix of sultry pop and Southern soul that helps to bring out the best in her voice. Backing her in the studio were legendary soul musicians Teenie Hodges, Flick Hodges and David Smith. They almost seem to breathe life into the songs.

But what really brings this record together is the lyricism and vocal delivery of Marshall, whose abilities as a singer have been heralded by both small-town and national publications.

Her gorgeous voice steals the show. Those searching for a truly elegant vocal performance should look no further.

This is not the kind of record that everybody will appreciate, but it surely is the kind that everybody can listen to.