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PHANTOM PLANET Phantom Planet ****

Ethereal vocals hover over a background of red-hot rock à la Queens of the Stone Age pump up “Watermark Language.” But then, “Jabberjaw” and “Badd Business” explode via new-wave snap with a certain “Mirror in the Bathroom” upbeat; keen pop sensibilities with matter-of-fact vocals conjure a more beefed-up Strokes in “After Hours,” “The Meantime” and “You’re Not Welcome Here.” Phantom Planet smooth over their varied influences without a bubble in the sticker—and with nary a trace of “California.” They draw unmistakable comparisons, but what they create is ultimately their own. (Epic)

VARIOUS Sweetheart: Love Songs ****

Gag, love. But when that theme is wrapped up in Hear Music’s (technically, Starbucks’) favorite artists performing folksy indie remakes of songs that were classics before they were even written, even the biggest Grinch/Scrooge/Professor Snape just might find their heart captured. Aimee Mann nails “What the World Needs Now,” and don’t miss Mino Hatori singing “Crazy for You” lounge-style with a Japanese accent—soon to be a favorite at nursing-home parties worldwide. (Hear)

DECIBULLY City of Festivals ***.5

Mellow alt-country strolls through rusty shipyards, looking out to a dark green sea, seeing past the time when the magenta sun will sink below the horizon: “I was making steps one by one, on the way to your hotel.” Former members of Promise Ring and Camden (William Siedel, Ryan Weber), thaw out your frostbitten soul with bells, banjo, cello, Rhodes, Moog, harmonica, Wurlitzer, lap steel and “choir members.” (Polyvinyl)


Campfire Girls aren’t doing anything astronomically new, but who is? (Besides, say, The Centimeters.) Moody alternative-pop thunder juiced up with loads of fuzz guitar characterize such pleasers as “Junkman” and “Post Coital,” while a more upbeat indie-emo bent dominates songs like “Someday” and “Day Before.” Mostly, Tell Them Hi reflects the straightforward semi-epic rock of yesteryear bands like Failure. By the way, who’s gonna remind the Campfire Girls that they’re really boys? (Interscope)

GRAND CHAMPEEN The One That Brought You ***

Grand Champeen’s mainstream rock with alt-garage overtones could be right at home on X96 or Channel 105.7—but then again, it might be just a tad too gritty and cheeky for the likes of youth radio markets. Maybe because they aren’t afraid to foray into classic-rock blues flavorings (“Bottle Glass”), or maybe because they don’t have any hang-ups with whiling out a ballad when the mood strikes ’em (“Step Into My Heart”). (Glurp)

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Rebecca Vernon

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