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MUSIC REVIEW: The Sunniest Albums for Spring

Crystal Stilts: In Love with Oblivion

With drone-ified, trudging guitarwork and monotone vocals, NYC-based Crystal Stilts' 2008 debut nailed their bored surf-rock charm with such precision it seemed hardly like the sort of thing one band could get away with twice. This month's follow-up, In Love with Oblivion, beefs up their barely musical intentions and fires off classic garage rock that crackles with an energy that might actually inspire dancing. It's not that there's more joy and buoyancy in this album, just that the stunned pace of the first round has picked up to a frenzied run, and the thwarted melodies are now layered with pounding Hammonds and harpsichords. Each song is still tempered with obliquely existential lyrics and blasé vocals, but this time rendering tracks more suited to a pool party than a heroin den. (Slumberland Records, 2011) —NE


Hear This! "Shake the Shackles" by Crystal Stilts


Exene Cervenka: The Excitement of Maybe

L.A.-punk-matron Exene Cervenka delights with her second Bloodshot release, The Excitement of Maybe. While 2009's Somewhere Gone gently toed the waters of folk-fed country-rock (amid characteristically bleak themes), this year's album fully embraces romance, lightness, and tender-hearted twang. Tracks like the anthemic opener "Already in Love" and the single-worthy "I'll Admit It Now" capture the uncertain giddiness of the album's title, bolstered by saxophone drives and pulsing organs. Cervenka's songs now make liberal use of the steel guitar, moaning fiddle, and even brush-beaten snare-all country-and-western tropes that lovingly support her lonesome, untrained harmonies. (Bloodshot Records, 2011) —NE

Hear This! "Already in Love" by Exene Cervenka


Sonny & the Sunsets: Hit After Hit

The ebullient '50s pop of Sonny & the Sunsets' Hit After Hit defies the circumstances under which the album came to be: In and out of psychiatric hospitals in Texas and California, frontman Sonny Smith-also known at various points as Sonny Berger, Declan (Sonny) Burke, Sonny Smith, and Dave Gil-finally found a musical home with the eternally cool Fat Possum label. Soon after, though, a hurricane destroyed most of what Sonny & the Sunsets had recorded, and Hit After Hit is what was salvaged. Beachy though the instrumentation may be, Smith's doo-wop vocals are fittingly less polished-he sounds like he could be an acoustic folk singer. An added plus: His lyrics aren't cheesy either: "Well, I'm in love with you baby/I am dumb, and so are you.../Girl, don't act dumb." (Fat Possum, 2011) —MTP


Hear This! "I Wanna Do it" by Sonny & the Sunsets


Pink Nasty: Pink Nasty

Some call Pink Nasty's music alt-country; her website prefers "impure power pop." Perhaps a middle ground is necessary, as Pink Nasty replaces the epic production aspects of power pop with Austin twang. On "Sandstorm Temper," pumping percussion underlies the opening line, "I never really got used to the silence / or good at talking about myself." The twelve tracks of hoppy guitars and keyboard hooks show Pink Nasty (real name Sara Beck) is actually quite capable of self-disclosure. Listeners lured in by the sexual irreverence of titles like "Sex Kinda Smells" will be surprised to learn the song's lyrics recount driving through her hometown with her grandfather's ashes in tow. Pink Nasty's self-titled effort is proof that it's possible to be cheeky but sensitive, too. (Self-Released, 2010) —GPB

Hear This! "Sex Kinda Smells" by Pink Nasty

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