AQUEDUCT

Or Give Me Death

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(Barsuk)

For the first 10 seconds of Aqueduct's new album, Or Give Me Death, what you hear is sad—the simple little tune being plucked on an acoustic guitar is one for a late night, maybe a drunken and heartbroken night, and one can't not wonder if the light, warm, and poppy Aqueduct of days past has evolved into something quiet, acoustic, and cheerless.

It takes just a few seconds longer for the familiar piano to push through and singer David Terry to open up, crooning "You've made me painfully aware/of what you think of me/and for the most part/I'm starting to believe it true." After that the song stops being so goddamn sad and starts beaming the same forgivable, sort of apologetically awkward rock and roll attitude that early Weezer were so beloved for. Friends join Terry, backing him up with a chorus of boyish vocals, and it becomes something to sing to, something to celebrate even.

From the beginning, with that first song, "Lying in the Bed I've Made," we're reminded that Aqueduct isn't the nerdy one-hit-O.C.-wonder who was discovered by Ben Gibbard in Oklahoma years ago—Aqueduct is deeper than that, and even with a sense of humor, fun melodic gang vocals, and those funny beeps and bops, he is darker.

Between the wonderfully frustrated "Living a Lie," the heavily horned "Split the Difference," and the demanding "Broken Records" (which sounds like a grown-up version of one of Reggie & the Full Effect's bittersweet anthems, actually) the Aqueduct on Or Give Me Death is louder, thicker, and even more relentlessly catchy than any previous incarnation.

While Aqueduct's 2005 release, I Sold Gold (also on Barsuk), may have made him adored within Seattle's music community as that quirky little pop act with that song about Guns N' Roses, Or Give Me Death will interest both current fans as well as those with a palate for something a little less saccharine, a little more bitter, and with more staying power. MEGAN SELING

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Music for Robots Vol. 2

(Music for Robots)

1/2

The blog Music for Robots essentially caters to two kinds of robots: weepy (rusting?) paranoid androids and well-oiled dancing machines. There is some overlap—the androids occasionally dance, and the machines sometimes weep—but that's the basic divide. For the blog's human readers and downloaders, that means a mix of indie rock in all its permutations and electronic music from the poppier end of the spectrum—perfect for the indie kid who's been taught to dance but still wants a good mope now and again.

Given how much MP3 blogs have done to erode the concept of the album in favor of the track, it's interesting to see how they assemble a compilation—not quite an album, not truly isolated tracks. There is a vague narrative arc to the sequencing—a soft, folky beginning gives way to a synth-heavy, club-ready middle before finally bringing the two together for a brief run of almost-danceable rock.

There are exceptions to this progression, of course. The surf-waxed power pop of the Slats' "King of Hawaii" makes for a stumbling transition between the Long Winters' heavenly "The Commander Thinks Aloud" and Walter Meego's confectionary electro romp "Wanna Be a Star," although bridging the gap between those tracks would be difficult for even a much better song. And the final tracks, Findlay Brown's acoustic ballad "Separated by the Sea" and Danava's bad Sabbath trip "Quiet Babies Astray in a Manger," make for a jarringly schizophrenic coda.

These diversions aside, the compilation elegantly elaborates the aesthetic and musical tastes that MFR has long championed online and on their previous compilation. The album contains indie acoustic revelations (These United States' "So High So Low So Wide So Long," Frightened Rabbit's "The Modern Leper," the aforementioned Long Winters track) and technological advances (Copy's "Has Your Life Changed" and Simian Mobile Disco's MFR-exclusive dub version of "Hustler"), but in the end, you have to wonder about buying a CD when you can just download everything for free. ERIC GRANDY

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