Life Fantastic

[Anti-, available now]

If you're one of many who recommends this Philly band to friends as “an awesome live band,” loose fun, chaotic and decked with face paint, their latest album might come as a bit of a shock. Tight melodies, lush arrangements, solid song craft: The sense of brainy art-school fun is still there, but it's shockingly crisp and pop-friendly. The sunniest, craziest, least wood-paneled thing ever to bear the Anti- logo. Live, Man Man still paint their faces kindergarten-style, though.



[Barbés, May 17]

Fronted by two harmonica players and backed by all manner of other instruments, HM are influenced by a mix of genres diverse enough to include Tom Waits, blues, klezmer and New Orleans jazz. The band manage to sound cohesive in spite of the far reaches of their ethnomusical alchemy. Heavy friends alert: Natalie Merchant and the Kronos Quartet lend their talents to a couple of tracks. For fans of the eccentric and exotic — aficionados of Harry Partch and Captain Beefheart won't be disappointed, either.


Heirloom Music

[Neanderthal, available now]

The Wronglers — along with Flatlander legend Jimmie Dale Gilmore — make good old-fashioned, down-home bluegrass with a seven-piece band in this lovely record. Mandolins and banjos dance around Gilmore's plaintive voice; tunes include expansive arrangements of unusual choices for bluegrass like “Deep Ellum Blues” and “Foggy Mountain Top.” Covers of the Delmore Brothers' “Brown's Ferry Blues” and the Carter Family's “I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes” are pried open and breathe with Gilmore's West Texas twang and fiddler Heidi Clare's careful harmonies.



[DFA, available now]

Here's how Planningtorock (born Janine Rostron in the U.K.) is like Lady Gaga: She's female, she has a great voice, and she's into bizarro body modification (look at that nose!) and pseudo-academic performance art. Here's how Planningtorock is not at all like Lady Gaga: The pseudo-academic performance-art bit (nurtured, like Peaches, in Berlin, World Capital of Indie Cabaret) actually works and has substance. Also, she has the ovaries to cover Arthur Russell. If you're digging tUnE-yArDs, get this next.

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