The Strokes spring a leak! The Strokes bear much responsibility for the aught-defining indie-rock vogue — though they’ve been signed to a major label the whole time. Four newly leaked tracks from their forthcoming First Impressions of Earth,though, sound like efforts to ditch that cred — and jettison their good taste. “Juicebox” (now on iTunes, Indie 103 and KROQ) starts with a surf-rock bass hook, then segues into a slapdash assemblage of teen-rock clichés: an extended, whammy-riding guitar solo, then some Doors-style bathos by front man Julian Casablancas. It’d be the perfect soundtrack to a Law & Order spinoff subtitled “Malibu Noir Detectives.” Strokes conspiracyNew Strokes Leak & Leak & Leak & Leak
Test Icicles (Domino) Don’t know yet what to think of this British trio’s music. Their debut single, “Circle Square Triangle,” sounds like a snot-nosed take on Bloc Party; a newer one, “Boa vs. Python,” is a bit more metallic. But I’m most fascinated by their aesthetic — one part art rock, one part MySpace and one part Hot Topic. Take their ironically terrible band name and their fashion sense: drainpipe black jeans, badly dyed train-wreck haircuts, hot-pink guitars and an electric-green logo. Oh yeah, and the black guy in the band looks like a cross between Lil Jon and Arthur Lee of Love.
D4L, “Laffy Taffy”(link requires iTunes) (Asylum)If you found the oral-sex allusions in 50 Cent’s teenybopper anthem “Candy Shop” too subtle, and the haikulike perfection of Kelis’ “Milkshake” too complex, you’ll welcome D4L. This bound-for-obscurity pack of Atlantans delivers this season’s ultimate one-hit wonder, “Laffy Taffy,” a sharp banger with trebly electro keyboard stabs and a banging momentum that recalls Miami bass. Dig the subtlety: “I’m lookin for Mrs. Bubble Gum/I’m Mr. Chik-o-Stick . . . You can suck me for a long time/Oh my god/This is not a dance floor, this is a candy store.” I know that, in metaphorical terms, candy stores represent the home of sweet, sweet love — but what is laffy taffy? Has the desire for fat booty evolved into a lust for cellulite?
The Clientele,Strange Geometry(Merge)This London trio’s autumnal guitar pop recalls breezy ’60s AM radio staples like Burt Bacharach and the Association, then downshifts into a slightly druggy haze. It’s designed for minimum impact, so it’s funny how their haunting songs linger. A cycle about simple romantic longing (with a recurring female character named K) turns into a more complex affair upon close inspection. Singer Alasdair Maclean describes how “everything is so vivid, and so creepy” — and as it turns out, this album is less about his ex-love than the dreamy perceptions he has while wandering an imperfect city. A long-shot contender for album of the year. The Clientele play the Knitting Factory, Fri., Nov. 12. (See Calendar.)
Fiona Apple,Extraordinary Machine(Sony) Last month Tokion sponsored the third installment of its “Creativity Now” conference, and during a live Q&A, artist Richard Prince said he made all of his artworks in editions of two — not to double his money but to question the authenticity of the original. In this era of rampant remixes, mp3 blogs, p2p leaks, and hip-hop mix tapes, it’s an interesting idea for music fans to consider. Sure, you could consider the Sony-branded version of Fiona’s new album “official.” But you could just as easily refuse to recognize its legitimacy after enjoying the loopier, livelier version that’s been pirated online since January. These Jon Brion–produced sessions simply have more Brechtian grandeur. Fiona Apple plays the Wiltern, Sat., Nov. 26.
Linda Perry,In Flight(Custard/Kill Rock Stars)As a member of ’90s one-hit wonder 4 Non Blondes, Perry was responsible for one of the most distinctive choruses of the MTV era. (“What’s going on?” she wailed as a million viewers changed the channel.) Her voice doesn’t sound much different on this 1996 solo debut, but her sensibility sure does — more gothic, world-weary and driven by songs, not hooks. It’s just been reissued by the iconoclastic Kill Rock Stars imprint — which is ironic given Perry’s recent career as one of L.A.’s top songwriters-for-the-stars (Christina Aguilera, Pink, et al.). Still, it’s easy enough to hear the through line from Perry to the label’s other discoveries — pop formalists Elliott Smith and the Decemberists, and even riot grrrls Bikini Kill. MP3: “Freeway” by Linda Perry
Franz Ferdinand,You Could Have It So Much Better(Domino)This sophomore effort sounds like a more strident, less memorable cache of outtakes from the band’s debut, and they winkingly acknowledge that fact — viz. the album title. But the twangy-acoustic moods of “Walk Away,” the Beatlesque melody of “Eleanor Put Your Boots On” and the piano-driven “Fade Away” reveal a band in the midst of a melancholy evolution. Ostensibly about lead singer Alex Kapranos’ affair with the Fiery Furnaces’ Eleanor Friedberger (now extinguished?), they provide hope that this Scottish quartet will make it past the dance-punk trend alive.
Dirty Three,Cinders(Touch & Go)After a decade together, Dirty Three appeared to be tapped out: Every song featured guitar, percussion and amplified violin; every one started slow, grew into a half-improvised firestorm, then collapsed into a smoldering heap. Dirty Three made the most emotionally raw music imaginable, but catharsis was becoming a shtick. Thankfully, this wonderful seventh album reconceives the trio as a more intimate chamber group. The 19 tracks are shorter, focus on interaction rather than melodrama, and feature new sounds such as mandolin, piano, bagpipes and Cat Power singer Chan Marshal on a sad, sad vocal. Video from Dirty Three's Cinders
Death Cab for Cutie,PlansDeath Cab were miscategorized as emo (a non-genre genre usually associated with post-hardcore). Case in point: During a co-bill with the Decemberists earlier this year at NYC’s Central Park, the groups collaborated on a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.” Dude, that’s yindie (yuppie indie) all the way. No surprise, Death Cab’s major-label debut, Plans(Atlantic), finds them growing out of their emotional immaturity and instrumental amateurism. It’s smooth, shiny, and a bit twee — like R.E.M. in their sellout phase — and that’s a compliment, not a critique. Death Cab for Cutie play the Wiltern, Fri.-Sat., Nov. 11 and 12.