All Ears

I’m From Barcelona Let Me Introduce My Friends (Mute): While you await (eagerly or with fear in your heart, either way) next month’s return of the Polyphonic Spree, take a moment to meet this less cultish but similarly schoolbus-sized pop band, a 29-member group in which, as far as I can tell, nobody actually comes from Spain’s coolest city.

This Swedish collective, armed with glockenspiel and ukulele, builds riotous singalongs around the words of songwriter Emanuel Lundgren, who, judging from the songs’ topics, is a 10-year-old boy with tousled hair and skinned knees: one song is about his stamp collection, another about a treehouse, a third about how he hates to wear his glasses. But just when you think Lundgren wrote all these lyrics 20 years ago at summer camp, you get one like “Chicken Pox,” which makes overt the double meanings that other songs occasionally suggest. Even then, grown-up sentiments are addressed with such innocent, enthusiastic whimsy that some listeners will recoil at the la-la-la-whee! sugar-rush of it all. Others will find themselves incapable of not humming the tunes for days on end.

The Sea and Cake Everybody (Thrill Jockey): I’m not sure why Chicago’s Sea and Cake feel the need to arbitrarily limit their albums to 10 songs (and little more than half an hour) apiece. Given my tendency to put their discs on constant repeat, to the exclusion of almost everything else, for the first month or so that I own them, a few more compositions would mean precious extra days before I’ve memorized the whole thing.

It isn’t like they lack creative energy — each of the bandmates holds a range of side jobs — and on songs like “Too Strong,” John McEntire and Eric Claridge’s rhythm section sounds like it could just keep things going all afternoon. Maybe the problem is coming up with cool patterns and textures to bounce between the dueling lead guitars? They call this stuff “post-rock,” but I don’t know what Sam Prekop’s distinctive vocals have to do with rock ’n’ roll: Introspective and often daydreamy, they wander through the mix breathing human life into the precise beauty of the quartet’s playing. Prekop sounds like he’s dashing stuff down in his journal, though he does have moments of convincing assertiveness on songs like “Up on Crutches” and “Crossing Line.”

The Clientele God Save the Clientele (Merge): Following up 2005’s knockout Strange Geometry is no easy task, so I don’t damn the Clientele’s new one for offering no tunes that, from the first listen, sound like old favorites. Instead, the sweet melodies and whisper-tender vocals tend to slide unobtrusively from track to track. Things perk up near the end, with “Carnival on 7th Street” exhorting listeners “now shake your feet,” a string section flirting with disco on “Bookshop Casanova,” and what sounds suspiciously like rock music — albeit for under two minutes — in “The Garden at Night.” But by and large, the album’s as wistful and plush as the Goodnight Moon-ish vibe of its cover illustration.

Gruff Rhys Candylion (Team Love): Different kiddie books serve as touchstones here, from the construction-paper lion on the cover to the toy xylophone and “a long time ago, in a kingdom of candy” lyrics of the title tune. Unlike the first solo disc from the Super Furry Animals frontman, this one’s mostly in English; aficionados of Welsh do, however, get fully bilingual liner notes. The random-access playfulness of the set list extends to “Gyrru Gyrru Gyrru,” which rides on Gameboy-derived beats and assorted Tropicalia punctuation, but Rhys does have a serious side, as on “Cycle of Violence,” which cloaks talk of terrorism within galloping rhythm and hyperactive strings. 


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