The flip side of Animal Collective creating a universally celebrated touchstone with Merriweather Post Pavilion is that they triggered a psych-pop zeitgeist that, thanks to their boringly inferior followers, was thick in obfuscating effects but thin in talent. Thankfully, they've followed up that cerebral kaleidoscope with an immediate album pulsing with raw, welcome energy. They're still out there and forward-thinking, but punchy cuts like "Applesauce," "Monkey Riches," "Amanita" and especially the gutsy "Today's Supernatural" prove that they're back with more punctuation, kinesis and mania. – Bao Le-Huu
The Avett Brothers
The Avetts' 2009 Rick Rubin-produced American Records debut, I and Love and You, took the band to another level. This one feels more transitional. It's informed by the battle bassist Bob Crawford's 2-year-old daughter wages with brain cancer, and this undoubtedly contributes to the album's mournful, unmoored vibe. It's in the unsaid words to a departed friend ("Through My Prayers"), the lamentation of our youth obsession ("Down With the Shine") and stark, dispirited surrender ("Winter in My Heart"). The dark, rising tide obscures some of their charm, however, and makes this a rather slow grower. – Chris Parker
The return of Western Canadian shoegaze band Mystery Machine probably won't light the blogosphere afire, but for those who were fortunate enough to hear the band's stunning, THC-clouded 1993 debut, Glazed, the fact that the band is back together is cause for celebration. Western Magnetics looks directly at Glazed for inspiration, burying its muscular and aggressive pop sensibility in thick washes of guitars and gravelly, disinterested vocals that are less ethereal than they are simply heavy-lidded. – Jason Ferguson
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