Sleeping on Roads

It's best to be wary of anything you must convince yourself to like. You'll never trust your perception to be legitimate: Is it truly good, or did you just wear yourself down? Slowdive and Mojave 3 are great bands--the latter's 2000 release, Excuses for Travellers, is a quietly stunning album swollen with sorrow and regret. So it would follow that a solo record by Mojave 3 singer Neil Halstead would be just as affecting. But honestly, the songs passed by so unobtrusively that I forgot I was even listening to anything, and had to hit replay four times before I noticed even one lyric. A close, determined listen revealed an album of sweet, sunny songs. Halstead's lazy vocals are lulling, with lines like "Watch for the cars because they can fuck you up" (off the title track), but that's three-quarters of the tracks gone, and I only just noticed. KATHLEEN WILSON

Chips From the Chocolate Fireball

Although it's true that whichever XTC album I happen to be listening to at any given moment is my favorite one, it's also true that my favorite thing the band ever did is the Dukes of Stratosphear project. In the mid-'80s, the Swindon foursome made two records as the Dukes which were compiled on the recently remastered and rereleased 1987 collection, Chips From the Chocolate Fireball. Fifteen years later, Chips remains a brilliant, psychedelic, pop pastiche. The record has an absurdly fetishistic vibe, right down to the pseudonyms (Sir John Johns, the Red Curtain, Lord Cornelius Plum, and E. I. E. I. Owen) and surreal, between-song nonsense. Most of the songs would sound right at home on a proper XTC record, which is why Chips now reveals itself as a turning point in the band's evolution. Though Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding were never strangers to catchy melody, the XTC records that followed the Dukes rang out with gleeful surrender to the soaring Beatles pop the band was born to create. SEAN NELSON

ZACHARY THAKS Form the Habit

The Zachary Thaks is Texan garage fellas from the '60s--wait, they're garage NINJAS (!), whippin' and flippin', shakin' till it's all shook loose! Hi-YA!! So generally, this career overview begins all punky, then gets down cool like Rundgren's Nazz... This, save for "Weekday Blues," which sounds like 12 bars of tired, tho' maybe I just OD'd on Savoy Brown lately. Anyway, what really made this collection stand out for me is when that boy sang about wantin' his asshole dad to die ("Can You Hear You Daddy's Footsteps")... WHOA! Well, it's that THING he's getting' across... better than 30 years on, this song sounds so immediate. That anger... so visceral and intense. Yikes. MIKE NIPPER