Friendly Fire
Release Date: February 13

When their M4 EP dropped last year, Faunts set the expectation bar high for all subsequent releases. Let’s breathe a collective sigh of relief, because the five-piece Canadian outfit doesn’t disappoint with this album. Their second proper full-length, Feel… is rife with gauzy, shoegaze-influenced guitar compositions and effects-laden melodies that have a rather tranquilizing effect on one’s mind. JM

Release Date: Out Now

As XLR8R scribe Rachel Shimp said, “If Convivial were a dinner party, prolific producer Sasu Ripatti [otherwise known as Luomo] prepared by setting the china, polishing the silver, and inviting the glitterati.” His latest full-length under this particular guise is a departure from the robotic production on 2006’s Paper Tigers. With this one, he’s opted for bright synths, dramatic falsettos, and grandiose beat patterns. Dinner is served. JM

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Release Date: February 3

This is the self-titled debut album from one of New York’s latest additions to the contemporary noise-pop circle. Formed only in 2007, the four-piece outfit has already unleashed several singles and, one can surmise, has an unabashed love of the ’80s and ’90s, as evidenced by the distorted guitar riffs and multiple moments on the album that call to mind My Bloody Valentine, Pale Saints, The Smiths, and other bands of those eras. JM

Release Date: Out Now

San Francisco-based cosmic-disco group Windsurf (which combines the efforts of DJs Hatchback & Sorcerer) takes its listeners on a low-key trip down the coast. The album is, as the name evokes, a tranquil collection of house grooves that occasionally evolve into blissful electro-pop rhythms. Retro-futuristic chords sound like the background music of ’80s children’s television programs like Reading Rainbow and Ghostwriter, while some tracks feature vocals akin to Donald Fagen and other late-’70s soul-rockers. LM

Restiform Bodies
“Interactive Halloween Bear (Lazer Sword Wizard Manhole Remix)”

I’m officially dubbing this the best-titled track of 2008. Add to that accolade the following: a bassline so heavy it’s akin to being hit on the ear with a brick; vocals manipulated to the point of sounding demonic; a sprinkling of feedback that cuts intermittently between the beats, thereby giving the track that dirty edge it needs. If only all producers took remixing this seriously. JM

Animal Collective
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Release Date: Out Now

Declaring this album Top 10 worthy might seem like we’re hoppingthe bandwagon a bit, but here we go. The much (underscore that) anticipated eighth album from these lads finds them making what’s arguably their best release to date. Their taste for eclecticism and experimentation remains firmly in place, but is revamped, refined, and matured here. Really, though, any descriptors (including 500-word reviews) don’t do the album justice, so my advice would be to buy it and take a listen for yourself. JM

Jun Miyake
Stolen from Strangers
Video Arts Japan
Release Date: Out Now

Parisian-born Miyake offers a complex work here that begins with dark jazz that’s enhanced by an ominous atonality à la Portishead. Other songs on this album are like a brass-infused, guitar-dappled glimpse at romance, complete with Miyake’s thoughtful vocals. The album then moves into a completely different territory that includes nothing less than a choir fit for the soundtrack to a Star Wars movie. LM

Fol Chen
Part 1: John Shade, Your Fortune’s Made
Asthmatic Kitty
Release Date: February 3

Fol Chen has only been around for a few months, but is already blowing up. Their forthcoming debut album is heavy with wobbly pop tunes that get the toes tapping and keep a listener guessing. Standout tracks include the dangerously catchy “The Idiot,” and “Cable TV,” with its complex beats and psychedelic sitar. JF

Neil Landstrumm
Lord For £39
Planet Mu
Release Date: Out Now

Scottish techno veteran Neil Landstrumm’s latest is a plateful of dubby, dirty, clinky, crunky rave-step goodness. Tinny cyber strobes wash over disaffected, spaced-out synths, and while few contemporary artists have written songs appropriate for Easter, Landstrumm picks up the slack with the spacious, speaker-buzzing “Easter Crunk Power” and the reggae-tinged “Old Rabbits.” LM

Devin the Dude
Landing Gear
Razor and Tie
Release Date: Out Now

Devin Copeland’s back. The somewhat eccentric rapper and apparent lover of country music is, as usual, almost absurdly mellow in his lyrical delivery here, but it suits the laid-back, soulful grooves and sparse beats that accompany. Even Snoop stops by for a guest appearance. Chill-out time has officially commenced. JM

Text by Jennifer Marston, Lulu McAllister, Jason Furie.