Love Ways
(Merge Records)

Indie rock numerologists be forewarned: This decent new five-song EP is Spoon's fifth release on their fifth label in five years. Their tendency towards structural complexity, tense guitar buildup, and attention to sonic detail heard on their earlier brilliant CDs (Matador's Telephono and the Elektra-abandoned Series of Sneaks), are still present. Lead singer Britt Daniel's characteristic vocal and lyrical twists on power-pop motifs remain, but there's something softer and slower going on with their sound, something that was only hinted at before. While the first two songs on Love Ways could be vintage Spoon, the rest seem to be tributes to pop's elders. Daniel makes it through the Beatles-via-XTC-tinged "Jealousy" without making a complete fool of himself, and "Figures of Art" offers Stonesy riffing on a Cheap Trick tip, and still turns out to be a highlight. It's not the best we've heard from them, but it's a good pitstop on the road to something more substantial. JONATHAN DRUY

Autumn Girl Archers Horsemen Bring Arrows

I played this CD for a friend and she remarked, "It makes me want to eat my eardrums." I don't know if Autumn Girl... is THAT bad, but I can think of many things I'd rather be doing than listening to it again. I've always been of the opinion that if you're going to sing off-key, then either say something meaningful or play your heart out. The I Live The Life... do neither, which makes them come across as both lazy and boring. Guitar-and-drum duos can work (see: The Spinanes) but the music here, like the vocals, makes me think of rich liberal arts students with too much ennui and time on their hands--it's self-serving and insulting to the listener. This may not make me want to eat my eardrums, but it does make me question the motivation of record companies who devote time and money on such an unsatisfactory product. MURRAY CIZON

Sessions 1986-1988
(Loveless Records)

Rescued from the depths of true obscurity, these bona fide flannel-waisted tracks epitomize the Seattle rock sound of the late '80s, with all the raucous riffs and noisy leads that made grunge so brutally delicious. These Sessions by Bundle of Hiss are a pre-'90s, grunge fetishist's long-lost wet dream, with guitars that seize the center stage like fire-breathing strippers at a puppet show. The vehement drums and bass rock faultlessly and charismatically at every turn. The guitarist's vocals on the first half of the album sound like they've come from the perfect bastard lovechild of Mark Arm and Ozzy. Even the lesser songs are saved by moments of awesome, jarring intensity. The energy here is timeless. HOWIE WYMAN