Private World — ‘Aleph’

THE GOOD: After teasing us with some singles and an EP, British synth-pop duo Private World (Tom Sanders and Harry Jowett) offers up its debut album.

THE BAD: Not really.

THE NITTY GRITTY: The two men work their way through a stylish set grabbing sounds from the absolute peak of the post-punk “romantic” era of ’80s new wave. Bands such as Talk Talk, Alphaville and Spandau Ballet immediately come to mind. One also hears early Simple Minds and a smattering of later-era Roxy Music.

So does “Aleph” contain anything strikingly original? Maybe not. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing here. The duo is still finding its way and developing a sound. Wearing your influences on your sleeve can happen during these early stages. The record at least proves the guys have decent taste. Now they simply have to build on that solid foundation. As for right now, the sneaky funk behind “Magic Lens” and seamless groove carrying “Somethin’ Special” will have to do. Fine by me.

BUY IT?: Sure.


Future Island — ‘As Long As You Are’

THE GOOD: Baltimore synthpop outfit Future Islands comes back with its sixth.

THE BAD: The record finds the band stuck in a creative rut, not tampering with its established formula.

THE NITTY GRITTY: But that doesn’t make “As You Are” any less enjoyable. Future Islands is good at what it does. Frontman Samuel T. Herring’s baritone is the perfect form of delivery for the often troubled or melancholy lyrics; these guys are big on the “bright music/dark words” aesthetic. Musically, they like full-bodied arrangements, steady rhythms and rock overtones. Keyboards may dominate, but there’s always room for guitars.

Highlights here include the immediately fetching “For Sure” and the seamless, streamlined “Hit the Coast.” “City’s Face” shows off a more reserved but equally powerful side of the band. “As You Are” rarely falters. Even though it doesn’t stand out amongst its peers, the album fits nicely within the group’s body of work. Fans will be pleased. Newbies get a decent place to start.

BUY IT?: Yes.


I Don’t Know How But They Found Me — ‘Razzmatazz’

THE GOOD: Ex-Falling in Reverse drummer Ryan Seaman and ex-Panic at the Disco bassist/guitarist/vocalist Dallon Weekes turn their side project into a full-time gig. After a couple of EPs, “Razzmatazz” is the group’s debut album.

THE BAD: “Razzmatazz” is more style than substance. As far as indie pop records go, though, it’s better than most.

THE NITTY GRITTY: The album’s artwork and recurring corporate theme are both grounded in left-of-center ’80s pop culture, with the guys recalling weird and wonderful concept albums by bands such as OMD, Heaven 17 and Kraftwerk.

Musically, this stuff isn’t far removed from Panic’s past. We get the punchy melodies (“Leave Me Alone”), cheeky bits of satire (“Nobody Likes the Opening Band”) and occasional bouts of romance (“Kiss Goodnight”). Seaman and Weekes prove themselves harmonious partners, putting together something that stands apart from their previous work. Will the group be a long-term commitment or not? Time will tell. But the collaboration is off to a solid start.

BUY IT?: Your call.