If you like the '60s-pop homages of the Apples in Stereo but can't stand their tweeness, meet the Shins. Though its members have also heard a Love record and a few Kinks tunes in their day, this Albuquerque quartet is more than just jangle. Their debut, Oh, Inverted World, shakes up these influences into an off-kilter, bafflingly catchy mixture that's humorous without any forced quirkiness. It's an odd, lurching pop record that becomes more engaging and resonant with each listen, which may be why their star is still rising a year after World's release. The video for their dusky single "New Slang" references album covers from the Minutemen and other great '80s indie bands; twenty years from now, upstarts may name-check the Shins with similar reverence.
Opener Track Star may lack the Shins' forward-thinking sensibility but is lovely enough to make up for it. Like singer Wyatt Cusick's brilliant other band, the Aislers Set, Track Star sits at the same table with Silver Scooter, Unrest and, hell, the entire Sarah Records roster. What distinguishes Track Star's new album, Lion Destroyed the Whole World, in this new-wavey company is the undertow of viciously bleak lyrics such as "There is hope/but not for us." Underneath the gentle melodies, Track Star makes "emo" seem like Britney Spears.