In the first four minutes of Transatlanticism, Death Cab For Cutie present what is one of the most precise pop songs you will ever hear. "The New Year" is the refined radio hit the band has been flirting with for years--their rare combination of hooks and intelligence, huge guitars, and a wonderful tempo changes--plus, it's not overly polished. After that opener, however, Transatlanticism is a totally different record. The band seems stripped down from their previous efforts--with an almost total lack of rhythm section, this is truly the Chris Walla and Ben Gibbard show. Walla's audiophile production is painstakingly exact, while Gibbard's lyrics are the usual mix of bubblegum sincerity and lovelorn prose. Few songwriters can make everyday occurrences like car-ride conversations ("Passenger Seat"), and clumsy teenage sex in the back of your parents' car ("We Looked Like Giants") seem as monumental as Gibbard does. EZRA ACE CARAEFF





Rare is the studio rat who can add new wrinkles to hiphop's funk foundations. LA crate-digga Omid Walizadeh does just that while unveiling a sonic palette with more colors than Crayola. Giving eclecticism a good name, he references and recontextualizes disparate sources like a musicologist who can also move the crowd like Eric B. & Rakim. Monolith splits its 14 tracks between instrumentals and vocals, and Omid excels in both situations. With rap iconoclasts like Busdriver, Buck 65, Slug, Abstract Rude, 2Mex, and Hymnal spitting compelling verses, Omid invariably laces tracks with surprising instrumentation (didgeridoo, flute, glockenspiel, kalimba, sitar). He also has a knack for subtle allusions, hinting at--but not sampling--the Beatles, Pharoah Sanders, and Consolidated. Monolith stamps Omid as one of hiphop's most original producers, under- or overground. DAVE SEGAL


Marquee Moon; Adventure


****, ***

Television's first two albums finally receive the "expanded and remastered" treatment--and, clearly, these seminal works have aged better than most LPs of their era. Though Television surfaced with NYC peers Ramones, Blondie, Voidoids, et al., they had as much do with punk as Henry James has do with Charles Bukowski. That's mostly due to guitarists Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd, whose rococo axes entwined like lovers, stung like scorpions, and chimed like colliding golden chandeliers. Along with the fiercely deft bassist Fred Smith and drummer Billy Ficca, Television proved that technical proficiency doesn't always equal wankery. Add Verlaine's lyrical poetry, which captures rock angst with pith and pathos, and you have a band for the ages. Adventure--which abounds with sublimely tuneful American rock--is a mere Appalachian to Marquee Moon's Himalaya, but both discs belong in your collection. DAVE SEGAL

**** King Hippo

*** Piston Honda

** Bald Bull

* Glass Joe