(Photo: courtesy of the artist)
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks- Wig Out at Jagbags

The ever-youthful Stephen Malkmus returns with his post-Pavement band The Jicks on Wig Out at Jagbags. Appropriating part of its title from a record by 80s hardcore band Dag Nasty, the new album features the earnest, humorous (“I’ve been tripping my face off since breakfast,” he boasts on “Cinnamon and Lesbians”) indie rock we’ve come to love from Mr. Malkmus. “Jagbag” might be a piece of Chicago lingo, but Wig Out is a midtempo, easygoing SoCal stroll, picking up the pace a bit on the horn-driven “Chartjunk.” Malkmus, as always, doesn't hesitate to namedrop (e.g. “We lived on Tennyson and venison and the Grateful Dead”); he’s always been a culturally in-tune lyricist, and records like Wig Out demonstrate his continued and seemingly effortless musical relevance.

Standout track: “Lariat”

 

(Photo: courtesy of the artist)
Boy & Bear- Harlequin Dream

If you hail from the land down under, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with Boy & Bear: the Australian band won numerous awards in its native land for debut Moonfire, including ARIA Awards for “Album of the Year,” and “Best Group.” Needless to say, the pressure was on to deliver again for Moonfire’s followup. Harlequin Dream knowingly expands on the acoustic folk-rock of its predecessor with invigorating electric instruments: think Fleet Foxes meets White Denim. Singer Dave Hosking is game to keep up with the group’s new sound, maintaining his storytelling lyricism on songs like “Southern Sun” and “End of the Line.”

Standout track: “Old Town Blues”   

 

(Photo: courtesy of the artist)
Kins- Kins

The debut album from UK act Kins continues the refreshing musical trend found in fellow Brits like alt-J and Django Django in which every guitar, keyboard, and vocal tone feels meticulously developed and placed in the mix. Call it art-rock or math rock or whatever you’d like, but Kins’ approach is above all an intelligent and determined brand of rhythmic guitar pop. Alex Knight’s percussion work is the backbone of the ten songs on Kins, and he proves equally adept at keeping it minimal (“Under the Radar”) and turning up the energy (“Break Ties,” “Cliché Ridden”). One of the first great debuts of 2014.

Standout track: “Mockasin’s”