Hooks & Crutches
(Jealous Butcher)

There's something about bare bones pop that's just so goddamn ridiculous, you can't help but love it. You know the kind I'm talking about, right? It's the strained vocals which stand out there all alone, the simple guitar that accompany them, the lyrics which are inevitably derived from someone's college thesis or personal manifesto, or something. Rally Boy wears their heart on their sleeve on this album, and you can tell. At times, it's a little schizophrenic--track five ("Slang Tips") sounds WAY punk compared to track one ("Undrest," which totally smacks of Weezer). But when RB is really focused, it's pure poppy indulgence, with a range of melodies that just kind of fall into one another before hitting the uniform chorus. You'll want more of this feeling, and you'll love the rest of the CD for the moments when it shows up again. KATIA DUNN

cal Studies and Uprock Narratives

Scott Herren, aka Prefuse 73, attempts to hijack hiphop, but uses it as more of a springboard to new explorations, rather than a stylistic crutch. Prefuse 73's debut full-length has a unique mixture of melodic accessibility and experimentation rarely found in modern electronic records. The rubber-band flexibility of the "vocal studies" in question comprises the record's most shining moments. "Last Light" makes a smooth appropriation of Sea and Cake vocalist Sam Prekop's meandering falsetto, while pieces like "Hot Summer's Day" and "Point to B" take a more depersonalized glitch and paste MC approach. Those familiar with Prefuse's earlier material might be disappointed that Vocal Studies contains a fair amount of already-released material, which can make the record seem a little uneven. Overall, though, if you want to have your brain and your rump shaken simultaneously I couldn't recommend a better new LP. SIMON GASKEN

Love Is
(Cochon Records)

Loud and obnoxious have always been such good companions that it is almost difficult to contemplate a coupling with a similar spirit, but that is quiet and semi-mellow. Without ever crossing the line, each of these 17 songs pleasantly flirt with ridiculous and stupid. Sort of like how the simple backdrops for Flintstone cartoons set a stage for the absurdity of a caveman bowling or working at construction site, Larry Yes' guitar-heavy music is accomplished and sets up an un-ironic backdrop for his sly lyrical antics. "Someday," the third track, starts with the charming pluck of an acoustic guitar from a cowboy love song before bouncing into nonsensical lyrics of ba-ba-bad-da-ba. The songs have the same pleasantly hypnotic effect as circus music or chiming lullabies from the ice cream truck. PHIL BUSSE