Album: What Did You Expect From the Vaccines? (Columbia)
Why we care: You know how the U.S. pop factory cranks out disposable rap pap and pop tripe? In the U.K., they crank out switchblade guitar scruffs who emulate Oasis and Jesus and Mary Chain. In other words: We lose.
Why we like it: This quartet, the laddies of the moment, merge Guinness-to-the-sky hooks with a buzzy, distorted jangle — hipsters who wouldn't mind making a li'l cash. Cheeky can turn silly (see Post Break-Up Sex and Wetsuit), and you wonder how long the novelty will last. But there's nice musicianship here, and sincere adoration of Phil Spector's chiming "wall of sound" is rarely a bad thing.
Reminds us of: We've considered moving to London. But alas, no Arby's, no deal.
Download this: A Lack of Understanding
Album: This Is Country Music (Arista)
Why we care: There's a ferocious guitarslinger shootout on Paisley's ninth studio album. It's a five-minute instrumental called Eastwood featuring the titular titan himself spaghetti-western whistling (!) as the country star picks out a high-noon frenzy. It's a head-spinning reminder that Paisley, at his core, is a wanna-be rock god and a genuine eccentric. But alas, he's also expected to sell records.
Why we like it: Paisley's safe Nashville pop is usually catchy — the title track is a love letter to Music Row — but I prefer the freakier stuff, like macho anthem Don't Drink the Water with smart aleck buddy Blake Shelton.
Reminds us of: Paisley should sit in with Van Halen. Can you imagine that shootout?
Download this: The more bitter than sweet Remind Me (with Carrie Underwood)
My Morning Jacket
Album: Circuital (ATO)
Why we care: Coming from Kentucky, My Morning Jacket is often considered a resolutely Southern band. But pinning down these wanderlust psychedelicists is a mistake. You get the feeling weirdo beardo Jim James & Co. wake up somewhere different every day, whether it's the funky town of NYC in the '70s or wherever H.R. Pufnstuf and that creepy kid with the talking flute lived.
Why we like it: Religious imagery is everywhere on Circuital. (No surprise: It was recorded in a church gym.) The Day Is Coming is layered high with '70s daisy-crown softness, low with a grumbling rock. First Light is a birth-to-death search for meaning — that rocks with a '60s go-go-dancer shimmy.
Reminds us of: Your new favorite band
Download this: Holdin on to Black Metal
Mike Tyson, Jenny Lewis
Album: The Hangover Part II (WaterTower)
Why we care: Smart, demented Times film critic Steve Persall tipped me off to this smart, demented soundtrack, which has serious sweat and stank, perfect for a raunchy race through Bangkok. (As Mr. Chow says, "Holla, city of squalor!") Even Billy Joel's Downeaster "Alexa" is a nasty punch line. This is your party record of the summer — and it has fangs.
Why we like it: From Jenny Lewis' Bad Man's World to J-pop renditions of I Ran and Just the Way You Are to ringtone-ready bytes of the Wolfpack, this 'track vacillates from dark to darkly comic — just like the flick. As for Tyson's presence? No spoilers here, kids.
Reminds us of: You'll never think of Billy Joel's Allentown the same way again.
Download this: Wolfmother's Love Train