You Hear Me (Second Motion Records)
Keene's name plus the title of this two-disc retrospective gives a nod to The Who ("Tommy, can you hear me?"). The wordplay provides an apt allusion for a songwriter steeped in rock tradition. Keene, who's long been an area favorite, specializes in melodic pop tunes chock full of sing-a-long choruses, handclaps, and chiming guitars, and there's no denying he deserves a spot alongside the likes of Big Star and Matthew Sweet in the power pop pantheon. But what often gets lost in any discussion of Keene's work is his talent for writing sharp, thoughtful lyrics and occasionally taking creative risks that always manage to enhance his material. From 1984's "Back to Zero Now" to last year's "Leaving Your World Behind," his words are straightforward, plaintive, and oddly endearing, a perfect match for his earnest vocals. Unlike many of his power-pop brethren, Keene isn't afraid to let a song's running time creep past the three-minute mark. When he does—check out "Underworld," "Mr. Roland," "Black & White New York," and a stellar take on Lou Reed's "Kill Your Sons"—the songs remain fiercely engaging, with no drop in quality or intensity.
Treasure State (Cantaloupe Music)
So Percussion, the Brooklyn, NY-based ensemble known for tackling contemporary gems by the likes of Steve Reich, and Matmos, the local electronic duo known for its conceptual bravura, make a good match. As experimental music goes, this collaborative effort is playful and fun—qualities rarely found in such highbrow music. These eight instrumentals fizz, gurgle, and simmer with creative delights, evoking exotica maestro Martin Denny and the aforementioned Reich with equal pleasure.