Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2013-02-26

2013-02-26

Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (Canvasback/Atlantic, 2012) It's not easy to sound like no one else while performing what are still recognizably pop songs, and harder to remain anything like listenable in the process. But topped off by Joe Newman's ductile whine (can't call it weedy, too organic) and propelled by living bass and drums you'd swear were synthesized too, this Leeds-to-Cambridge foursome's unhurried electro-mesh is always more than pleasant and half the time mildly enthralling. "Tessellate" is the hit, "Matilda" the rouser, "Dissolve Me" the statement of aesthetic-erotic principle. How Brits can call them the new Radiohead beats me. But then, Brits and Radiohead often do. B+

Parquet Courts: Light Up Gold (What's Your Rupture?, 2013) The hook on these 14 two-minute songs isn't tunes except occasionally. It's whichever of the two guys who "sing, if you must call it that" comes packing the most anxiety--that is, the one who kicks off "Donuts Only" by whining "Like a red state's Baptist fervor/Like a small town's unsolved murder" like his meds are not quite perfect. Texan refugees whose idea of a vacation is North Dakota, they're stoned and starving in Ridgewood, Queens, where they ended up after concluding that "There are no more summer lifeguard jobs/There are no more art museums to guard." So they're pretty much resigned to giving this drone-rock thing a shot. A-

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