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Forget U2, Stones, Here Come Broken Bells, Grinderman: Rock CDs

Broken Bells
The cover of the Broken Bells debut album, released in 2010. The group includes James Mercer of the Shins and producer Brian Burton, better known as Danger Mouse, who previously worked on a Sparkehorse album. Source: Sony via Bloomberg

The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Guns N’ Roses and U2 have had their day as best group.

Download the latest by the National, Hot Chip and Broken Bells. If you’re thinking, “who?” Well, they’re relatively obscure groups that have produced some of the best new albums.

Brooklyn-based the National has made a great recording -- “High Violet” -- after a decade of refining understated rock anthems on four previous albums. Tracks such as “Afraid of Everyone” simmer nicely. Released on 4AD, with “You Were a Kindness” and other bonus tracks. Rating: ***½.

U.K. electropop rockers Hot Chip started out making dance songs such as “Ready for the Floor.” The title track of “One Life Stand” (EMI) has them settling in for a long-term relationship. Their too-cool-for-school minimalism will appeal to fans of the xx and the Chemical Brothers. Rating: ***.

Put on the Broken Bells’ eponymous debut CD (Columbia) and the opener, “The High Road,” jumps out with its slick chords. No surprise it’s catchy: The band’s members include Brian Burton, better known by his stage name Danger Mouse, mastermind of numerous hits. Rating: ***.

Danger Mouse is also a driving force on the Sparklehorse CD, “Dark Night of the Soul” (Capitol/ Parlophone). The long list of guest vocalists includes Suzanne Vega on “Man Who Played God” and Iggy Pop on “Pain.” Rating: ***.

I Am Kloot, “Sky at Night” (EMI). These Britons often are compared with fellow Mancunians Elbow, for whom success also was long delayed. They shine on ballads such as “To the Brink.” Elbow’s Guy Garvey co-produces. Rating: ***.

What is it with Manchester? Also hailing from the city are Delphic, whose dance moves on “Acolyte” (Polydor) recall New Order; Everything Everything, with a genre-defying debut “Man Alive” (Geffen); and the duo Hurts, whose first album “Happiness” (RCA) aims to capture the heights of the Pet Shop Boys. They don’t succeed, but try hard. Ratings: **.

A review copy from Jagjaguwar records, in a plain box and labeled “Public Strain,” had me baffled with its weird glacial melodies and off-key singing. It turned out to be a thing of beauty, the second album by Women, a misleadingly named Canadian quartet of guys. Rating: ***½.

Fans of Women’s psychedelic raves probably will appreciate Atlanta band Deerhunter, whose “Halcyon Digest” on 4AD is drenched in guitar fuzz. Rating: ***.

Second albums are often the hardest. Grinderman, Nick Cave’s latest band, stakes its claim to greatness with a rough-hewn series of riffs on “Grinderman 2” (Mute/Anti). Rating ***½. The impressive New York act MGMT isn’t so successful with its sophomore “Congratulations” (Sony): doubtless they’ll bounce back. Rating **.

There’s also much to laud by more-trumpeted groups such as Arcade Fire, Band of Joy and Gorillaz. Rating: **** each.

What the Stars Mean:
****       Excellent
***        Good
**         Average
*          Poor
(No stars) Worthless

The CDs are priced from $12.98. Download fees vary across services.

(Mark Beech writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own. This is the last of a series of three on 2010 music by newer artists.)

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