The Family Sign

The first sound you hear on the latest Atmosphere disc is a slightly out-of-tune piano playing a quick downer melody. It’s a mood that serves this collection from beginning to end, as vocalist Slug has plenty of heavy ideas on his mind, while partner Ant, along with new members, keyboardist Erick Anderson and guitarist Nate Collis, deepen and darken the sound throughout. Anderson especially gives the album a classic vibe—part Booker T, part Steppenwolf—that really drives the music in a fresh way. Along with his usual straightforward tales of modern life and relationships come bits that delve a little deeper, such as “Became,” which spins a fantastical story to delve into separation and the loss of a lover.

Femme Fatale
Britney Spears

Don’t call it a comeback, because her last album sold millions of copies. Think of it as a codification of Spears’s career revival. How impressive that is depends on what you’ve thought of the artist since the beginning. She has been a plastic pop star from the very start, and it works best when she stays in that mold. So, the album has a few fun moments. Eventually, the robo-pop wears thin, and all the production in the world can’t hide just how thin Spears’s voice is. No matter how hard she tries, she is no Madonna. Spears is under a lot of pressure from other hot women pop stars. It may be time for a true comeback.

Sing it Loud
k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang

Country troubadour Lang mixes it up with a classy group of rock, soul, and country musicians for a deep, brooding, and absolutely-engaging collection of tunes. Mainly penned by the singer herself, the 10 songs here showcase her still-impressive pipes, while the deep, full production makes for a perfect antidote to the all-too-synthetic pop sound. Lang and the band are comfortable cutting across genres, from the Neil Young-like “Sugar Buzz” to the grand sweep of “Perfect World.” A cover of the Talking Heads’s “Heaven” paints a perfect musical picture of a late night in the bar of the eternal reward.

Safari Disco Club

Ah, nothing’s like French electro-pop, where disco beats merge with continental concerns, and a soft-voiced leader in a leopard-pattern skin-tight outfit sings lyrics rendered completely useless, unless you speak her native tongue. On the trio’s second album, Yelle craft a bouncy 11-track collection, full of New-Order-like backbeats, twisting and turning synth lines, with one of the most engaging voices in modern dance pop. It isn’t just simple pop, however. Yelle takes cues from recent substyles, and then mixes it into a fat sound that would be at home in clubs over the plast three decades. Yelle plays First Avenue on May 7.

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