From the Heart of Jumbo Malaria
(Slowdance Records)

Band geeks rule the music room! Can I say that, without sounding like I'm slighting this mathy San Diego four-piece? I just can't shake the image in my head of stoic lunchtime jam sessions for the musically inclined and socially dispossessed, who later found their stride as indie rockers. Oma Yang live comfortably in the post-Slint community of technically accomplished instrumental bands that let their musical moxie stand as their content. Lacking a singer to supply narrative cues, Oma Yang work on a touch and go cohesion, reeling in the instruments that had all struck out in their own directions. The disparate lines create a scattered and emotionally vague atmosphere that slowly finds its rhythm and builds to a consensus over the course of the songs. JOSH HOOTEN

Oh Inverted World

(Sub Pop)

With music as insistently catchy as that of the Shins, comparisons are an instant temptation. The Elephant 6 Collective comes to mind--bands like the Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. And then there's the Beach Boys--"Girl Inform Me" nods at surf on guitar and layers guitarist/vocalist James Mercer's sweet tenor in a hook-upon-hook manner that is so pretty it borders on aggravating. But it doesn't aggravate, especially when it's followed up by "New Slang (When You Notice the Stripes)," which again is vocally reminiscent of Neutral Milk's Jeff Mangum and also calls to mind the surgical songcraft of a writer like Elliott Smith, replete with graceful progressions and brainy, breezy dynamics. The Shins cull references from all the great pop and psychedelia that has taken place since the '60s to make a referential, brilliant record, which had better blow up, or the world has forgotten what pop music is all about. JEFF DeROCHE

Four Bridges
(Box Records)
** 1/2

If the latest release from local quartet X-Angels were a geometric shape, it would be an unwavering line starting somewhere around the near end of urbane C&W and stretching toward the storytelling ditties of Bob Dylan. It is not a large or unique territory that they cover, but they do it with a certain composure, down-home charisma and foot-tapping spunk. On "Moonlight Express," the band croons over and over about a train that passes through their Anytown, USA. As the song moves forward, the mundane details of the train's path begin to pick up certain near-mystical qualities, like carrying a cargo not of iron ore, but of hope and dreams. It is not a particularly novel concept, but etched with bare-bone chords and scratchy vocals, the song elevates a sense of aching boredom into a certain magnetic nostalgia, and captures that magical moment before something actually happens. PHIL BUSSE