Lucius – Wildewoman: We all scream upon realizing that’s not ice cream.

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Artist: Lucius
Album: Wildewoman
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: What Haim is to early 90s pop/R&B nostalgia, Lucius is to mid-90s alternative pop and acoustic coffeehouse nostalgia. Don’t let the provocative cover fool you, because the two ladies who front this band (and the three men who back them up) don’t have to employ shock tactics to get your attention when they’ve got such irresistible rock grooves and delicious vocal melodies in their arsenal. This is an astounding debut from a band that sounds like they’ve got a long life ahead of them.

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Owel: No City. Just Owel.

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Artist: Owel
Album: Owel
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: It’s probably unintentional, but in the course of creating an album full of epic, meandering progressive rock tunes with a few peppy pop tunes in between to break the tension, Owel seems to bring back the specters of several indie rock bands I used to love who have since vanished into the woodwork. They could use a band name that doesn’t result in their immediately being confused with a dorky synthpop outfit, but that would be a stupid thing for me to hold against them.

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The Good Mad – Strangeworthy: Why Should the Liars Die?

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Artist: The Good Mad
Album: Strangeworthy EP
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: Imagine Nickel Creek with slightly more of a pop/rock bent, and you get this young and eager band, who delivers much better results on this EP than you might expect from a side project by an actress who used to be in a tennybopper girl group.

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Trails and Ways – Covers Tape: The Clandestine History of Oceans Lost and Found

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Artist: Trails and Ways
Album: Covers Tape EP
Year: 2013
Grade: A-

In Brief: Trails and Ways’ sunny, Brazilian indie pop sound, as applied to covers of songs I’ve never heard of, displays admirable versatility as they translate different genres into their own musical (and sometimes literal) language.

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Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt: I’m STILL still alive.

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Artist: Pearl Jam
Album: Lightning Bolt
Year: 2013
Grade: B+

In Brief: A triumphant “return to form” that manages to not be a rehash of Ten or of their previous “return to form” on the self-titled album. Despite a few slow spots, Lightning Bolt has a surprising amount of instant likeability that doesn’t diminish as you get deeper into the album.

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