Sound of Silver (Capitol/DFA)
This is the kind of album where your favorite song changes week to week. Is it the punk-funk political goof "North American Scum"? Or is it "Someone Great," which mourns a dead relationship with a startlingly sincere electropop tribute to the Human League? How about "All My Friends," where piano, guitars and synths build into a hotblooded epic on the scale of David Bowie's "Heroes"? All over SoS, rhythms turn into hooks and hooks turn into beats, until there is no difference between the two. LCD's James Murphy has always been a studio whiz, but even his biggest fans never dreamed he'd make a masterpiece like this.
Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros.)
The big, bright pop-rock record these ex-indie-rockers always had in them, Under the Blacklight found Jenny Lewis cooing seductively and belting out manicured choruses amid meaty, danceable beats and stylistic flourishes like Latin bounce and horn sections. The music was as inviting as you'd expect from a band dubbed the new Fleetwood Mac, but there was darkness in Lewis' lyrics — this is an album with four songs about dangerous sex (the one about prostitution doubles as a selling-out parable). The whole package suggested talented young people out to reach a bigger audience without leaving their brains behind. In that, they succeeded.