Black Tape

I had hope. Election year. War times. There was bound to be a band that would pick up the gauntlet--hopefully with a major label debut to reach more ears--a band that would make it all make sense, give meaning to desolation, and, even better, answers to our questions. How many times must the cannonballs fly before they are forever banned? The answer, my friend, is not in Black Tape, like I hoped. Political lyrics, good track record, puggish Bostonian pragmatism, '77 punk-recalling sound--a recipe, you'd think, for big things. But alas, Black Tape is all questions/no solutions, words too screamy to be understood, music too Exploited to earn new, younger fans. So, who's next? In a year not unlike this one, Tina Turner sang "we don't need another hero." She was wrong then, and she's wrong now. Give us revolution. ADAM GNADE

No Cities Left

The second full-length from Montreal ensemble the Dears is too good for grownups, with their thick hides and repressed emotions; this is an album tailor-made for bright, alienated adolescents. Which is not to imply it is in any way immature. Au contraire, these 11 songs unfold like mini-symphonies, each broken up in several distinct movements. Through it all, band leader and composer Murray A. Lightburn pours his heart into every performance, singing with the unfettered passion of a man adrift on an iceberg in a stormy sea. He wafts into falsetto one moment, brutally shreds his chords the next, and can express sentiments like "I thought I was crazy 'cos you told me so" and pull it off. Despite its ambitious scope, No Cities Left never falters. It strikes a balance between artifice and raw honesty that yields richly rewarding results. KURT B. REIGHLEY

Pistols at Dawn EP

Like both the Starlight Mints and the Postal Service, Seattle-based duo Aqueduct turn an indierock foundation into an electronic expedition that launches the band into new realms of stargazing dream pop. On this, Aqueduct's first release, Tulsa native David Terry has teamed up with multi-instrumentalist Andrew Rudd to create a sparkling collection of electronically orchestrated tracks that cloud-hop among desert twang, Flaming Lips-like brainbenders, simple piano balladry, and junkyard electrofunk.

At the forefront of the music, though, is Terry's wry sense of humor--and it's his refusal to bow to the delicate side of lyricism that adds a cynical grit to the glossier moments of Aqueduct's pop, lodging the catchier elements further into your consciousness. In only five songs, Aqueduct conducts an attention to eclectic electropop that shows great promise for full-lengths to come. JENNIFER MAERZ

**** Cribbage
*** Kismet
** Backgammon