Apples a ‘New Wonder’; Hold Steady falters

The Apples in Stereo

“New Magnetic Wonder”

4 out of 5 stars

The comeback album is a delicate thing that artists need to treat with a great deal of respect. It’s really easy to try and accomplish too much with a comeback album, resulting in a record that is over-thought and overly mediocre. Other times bands try too much to recreate the sounds that helped garner their fan base, which leads to a dated and excessively nostalgic collection of songs.

Luckily, the Apples in Stereo is able to avoid these pitfalls on the way to releasing its sixth studio LP. You may have seen frontman Robert Schneider on his recent appearance on “The Colbert Report” performing an original ode to Stephen Colbert.

“New Magnetic Wonder” doesn’t just break a four-and-a-half year silence, but shatters it. It is the most focused and consistent record of the band’s career. The sunny blend of indie and power-pop has never sounded brighter and this overall good feeling spills over into the songwriting itself.

The fact of the matter is that the Apples in Stereo is the best pop band that you’ve never heard before. And for those of you out there who are familiar with the band, this will give you a reason to fall in love again.

Key Tracks: “Can You Feel It?” “Energy,” “Skyway”

The Hold Steady

“Boys and Girls in America”

1 out of 5 stars

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I’ve never quite understood the appeal of The Hold Steady. The band came waltzing out of seemingly nowhere onto the rock scene only to be proclaimed as the new saviors of rock and roll and the “greatest bar band in the country.”

The Hold Steady is the kind of band that could be grouped metaphorically with a snake-oil salesman; they both put on a pleasing fa?ade and a nice smile to soften your defenses and then proceed to snooker you when you’re least expecting it. Only after you’ve spent some time and money on it do you realize exactly how bad it is.

There aren’t many lead singers who can ruin an album for me, but Craig Finn falls cleanly into that select group. And the rest of the band, the coterie of ne’er-do-wells who seem talented at first, eventually reveal themselves for the phonies they are. One song after the next, “Boys and Girls in America” is just a record of bootleg Springsteen rip-offs that the Boss probably wouldn’t approach if he had to.

Key Tracks: Nah, I’m not even gonna touch this one.