Sound Advice

Posted April 30, 2009, at 6:52 p.m.

Indigo Girls

“Poseidon and the Bitter Bug”

(Vanguard)

Emily Saliers and Amy Ray have composed one of music’s most dependable duos over the past two decades. Their consistent career has been recognized with a few hits, such as “Galileo” and “Closer to Fine,” but the Indigo Girls, like many great folk rock acts, have built a strong following on the road and largely without the support of mainstream radio.

The Girls have offered devoted support to environmentalism and human rights throughout the course of their career, and “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug” is flavored with songs about personal and global issues.

“Sugar Tongue” is one of many tracks with a social conscience, opening with: “All the fur and fin will lose again/Because our better is their worst reckonin’.” The heavy theme of exploitation is made easier to digest with a catchy chorus and Ray’s unexpectedly breathy vocals.

“Poseidon” opens with the pretty “Digging for Your Dream,” and later kicks into a higher gear with “Love of Our Lives,” a song rhythmically reminiscent of the ’95 hit “Power of Two.” Ray’s restless energy shines in the rollicking “Second Time Around.”

The Indigo Girls released this album on their own label, Vanguard Records, for the first time, and “Poseidon” also has been produced as a double album — one featuring a full band and the other strictly acoustic. The acoustic disk is particularly enjoyable and reflects the tone of some of the duo’s live performances. A new song, “Salty South,” also is included on the acoustic album.

“Poseidon” lacks a song as sharp or bluesy as some of the Girls’ previous efforts — such as the infectious “Yield” on 2002’s “Become You” or “Gone Again” on ’99’s “Come on Now Social” — but nonetheless stays true to what fans have come to expect.

— JUDY LONG

Chairlift

“Does You Inspire You”

(Kanine/Columbia)

The dream-pop trio Chairlift has benefited from creating one of those songs that just sticks in your head.

For the New York-based band, that song is “Bruises,” which played in the distinctive ads for iPod’s Nano-Chromatic. So they quickly became one of those groups whose hit song is quickly recognizable, even as few people knew who they were.

Fortunately, much of the rest of Chairlift’s debut album with the grammatically challenged title of “Does You Inspire You” holds up to the promise showed by “Bruises.”

Yes, Chairlift is what used to be called synth-pop, and it’s ethereal to the max, thanks to the airy vocals of Caroline Polachek and Aaron Pfenning, which are rooted in the rhythm provided by Patrick Wimberly.

But light and poppy needn’t mean inconsequential, as the trio tackles such topics as the environment, neglect of the elderly and domestic abuse in their lyrics. Sure, they offer oddball tunes such as their indie hit “Evident Utensil” and the mostly French “Le Flying Saucer Hat,” but the threesome also has something to say.

This album was primarily their recycled indie album plus two songs, so it will be interesting to see what they can do with more resources next time out. “Does You Inspire You” indicates that their second release should prove quite intriguing.

— DALE MCGARRIGLE

Chris Isaak

“Mr. Lucky”

(Reprise)

I doubt there is another artist alive who could pull off an album like “Mr. Lucky.”

Call these 14 songs of love and loss rock, rockabilly, acoustic, pop — whatever. Chris Isaak knows his strengths and he plays to them in his first studio album in seven years.

The front end of the album is heavy on pessimism, starting with “Cheater’s Town,” a bleak song with the resonating line “You opened up your little black heart, you smiled and you lied.” But the best of the songs of loss is “You Don’t Cry Like I Do.” There’s a hopelessness to the lyrics (“You don’t want me, you don’t love me, that’s what kills me”) that comes through clearly in Isaak’s vocals, which swing from gentle to anguished.

Halfway through is the humorous little ditty “Mr. Lonely Man,” a wicked catchy story of a man who has lost his true love and is now talking to himself in the mirror.

It’s all retro with the last two tracks.

“Take My Heart” is a sweet confection with a cherry on top. Its early rock ’n’ roll sound could have played in the 1950s.

Then it swings straight into “Big Wide Wonderful World,” which may be the best song I have ever heard from Isaak. The song starts off low and slow, driven by a sly percussive accompaniment. It builds and then drops back, only to fly off into the heavens.

When Isaak hits the last few lines of this swing-blues-jazz wonder, don’t be surprised to be singing along with him as he hits those sky-high notes.

It’s like the man sings so well: The sky just got bluer.

— JANINE PINEO

Royksopp

“Junior”

(Astralwerks)

Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp has come a long way from its unassuming debut album, 2001’s “Melody A.M.” The laid-back, sparse sound of that release (one of its singles, “Remind Me,” was so mellow it was used as airport background music in one of Geico’s caveman ads) grew much more complex, fast-paced and darker on Torbjorn Brundtland and Svein Berge’s second album, 2005’s “The Understanding,” and has now blossomed into the sweeping synth grandeur of “Junior.”

With the exception of a couple of quieter instrumental tracks that hearken back to “Melody A.M.,” Royksopp focuses its energies on creating sonic cathedrals, layering pounding electronic beats and every conceivable synth tone in existence on top of each other until there’s barely enough room left for the stellar guest vocalists. Swedish pop star Robyn and fellow Swedes Karin Dreijer Andersson of spooky electro-pop duo The Knife and indie rock darling Lykke Li join Royksopp’s usual go-to diva, Anneli Drecker, in turning each song into an epic minimovie.

Robyn’s track, the stunning “Girl and the Robot,” sums up what “Junior” does so fantastically well; as Royksopp’s seemingly endless bank of synths throbs with merciless mechanical precision behind her, she injects a deeply human sense of anguish into the track, bemoaning a robot lover who never calls when he (it?) says he will and leaves her alone with MTV every night. It’s calculated and immaculately crafted, yet still feels spontaneous and alive.

This is a sound that is equally at home blasting out of big speakers at a club or on headphones in a darkened bedroom, and makes “Junior” one of the best albums anyone will release this year.

— TRAVIS GASS

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