Please Quiet Ourselves Please Quiet Ourselves Mushpot Records

"Indie pop" in the traditional sense-not just independently released popular music, but the cutesy, introverted, shambolic music that also came to be known as "twee"-is a purely adolescent kind of music. Depending on your perspective, the bare emotions, clumsy musicianship and awkward lyrics that characterize the style could be seen as a beautifully intimate soul-baring exercise or a cloying, self-obsessed muddle. Either way, this is teenagers' music.

That's why the likes of Heavenly, Beat Happening and Tiger Trap were so strange: They were all grown up. Acts such as Built to Spill and Belle and Sebastian were able to capture some of the innocence and bookish romanticism of twee without sounding quite as mired in teenage navel-gazing, but much of the genre came off as men and women acting like boys and girls.

With the self-titled debut from Please Quiet Ourselves, we have boys and girls playing a similar breed of music and, paradoxically, sounding like men and women. The 10 scrappy songs collected here are the work of 13-to-15-year-olds from Berkeley, California, who have a knack beyond their years for quirky blasts of melody.

Please Quiet Ourselves is not a direct descendent of those twee forefathers. It has the shaky, imprecise singing, the pleasantly amateur looseness and the self-obsessed romanticism ("I'll be the antibodies, you'll be the empty shell/ Until I am pumped into your heart"), but those have been filtered through this decade's sprawling indie collectives, with the variety-pack approach of Broken Social Scene and the group singalong exploits of I'm From Barcelona. And songs like "Antibodies," "I Don't Care" and the infectious "The Light" are dependent on a dozen underground traditions cribbed from the present day to way back when these kids were born.

But at its core, this is utterly teenage music, and coming from teenagers, it sounds just right. Though the album betrays an impressive understanding of time-tested songwriting techniques, from big hooks to tiny fills, it's also wonderfully free from convention. Songs stray where they please, but rarely too far. Instruments and singers pop in and out like one big after-school party in somebody's bedroom. In essence, they've managed to combine an adolescent's wild heart with a seasoned musician's sure hand. The result is a beautiful, off-kilter collection that recalls indie rock's golden age even if it was made by kids too young to remember those days.

Grade: A- Download: "The Light"

Quickie reviews of some neglected 2007 releases after the jump...

Please Quiet Ourselves Please Quiet Ourselves Mushpot Records

"Indie pop" in the traditional sense—not just independently released popular music, but the cutesy, introverted, shambolic music that also came to be known as "twee"—is a purely adolescent kind of music. Depending on your perspective, the bare emotions, clumsy musicianship and awkward lyrics that characterize the style could be seen as a beautifully intimate soul-baring exercise or a cloying, self-obsessed muddle. Either way, this is teenagers' music.

That's why the likes of Heavenly, Beat Happening and Tiger Trap were so strange: They were all grown up. Acts such as Built to Spill and Belle and Sebastian were able to capture some of the innocence and bookish romanticism of twee without sounding quite as mired in teenage navel-gazing, but much of the genre came off as men and women acting like boys and girls.

With the self-titled debut from Please Quiet Ourselves, we have boys and girls playing a similar breed of music and, paradoxically, sounding like men and women. The 10 scrappy songs collected here are the work of 13-to-15-year-olds from Berkeley, California, who have a knack beyond their years for quirky blasts of melody.

Please Quiet Ourselves is not a direct descendent of those twee forefathers. It has the shaky, imprecise singing, the pleasantly amateur looseness and the self-obsessed romanticism ("I'll be the antibodies, you'll be the empty shell/ Until I am pumped into your heart"), but those have been filtered through this decade's sprawling indie collectives, with the variety-pack approach of Broken Social Scene and the group singalong exploits of I'm From Barcelona. And songs like "Antibodies," "I Don't Care" and the infectious "The Light" are dependent on a dozen underground traditions cribbed from the present day to way back when these kids were born.

But at its core, this is utterly teenage music, and coming from teenagers, it sounds just right. Though the album betrays an impressive understanding of time-tested songwriting techniques, from big hooks to tiny fills, it's also wonderfully free from convention. Songs stray where they please, but rarely too far. Instruments and singers pop in and out like one big after-school party in somebody's bedroom. In essence, they've managed to combine an adolescent's wild heart with a seasoned musician's sure hand. The result is a beautiful, off-kilter collection that recalls indie rock's golden age even if it was made by kids too young to remember those days.

Grade: A- Download: "The Light"

Quickie reviews of some neglected 2007 releases after the jump...

Blues Control Blues Control Holy Mountain

This Queens duo's out-of-print LP Puff earned more year-end accolades ("It's like the bong is taking hits from you"), but I haven't tracked it down yet. On one hand, this widely released, self-titled offering is so good that I don't need Puff to keep my buzz. On the other hand, the prospect of an experimental band releasing two albums this appealing within two months of each other makes me eager to hear for myself.

In the meantime, I've got this self-titled monster to keep me entertained. With only guitar, keyboard and a few sonic manipulation toys, Lea Cho and Russ Waterhouse have mastered their own type of submerged psychedelia. These sounds are undoubtedly sopping wet, but they're also otherworldly, like field recordings from a swim through your own bloodstream. Or perhaps this is more fitting hyperbole: Imagine an upside-down world where we live and breathe in the water and take a dip in the sky.

You get the idea: This is some trippy stuff. And though it doesn't stray from dark corners or compromise its avant-garde heart, there's something about it that welcomes a pop freak like me with open arms. I don't know if this is a new frontier or merely a pleasant detour, but either way I'm enjoying the trip.

Grade: A- Download: "Boiled Peanuts"

Mac Lethal 11:11 Rhymesayers

Mac Lethal introduces himself thoroughly within the first two tracks. At the album's outset, before "Backward" kicks in, he gives his name (David McCleary Shelton) and hometown (Kansas City). But "Calm Down Baby" is when he really gets to the point.

On that song, the 25-year-old emcee, who won the Scribble Jam rap battle in 2002, makes it clear he will be pulling no punches. Within seconds, he shouts "F*** veganism, get me some General Tso's chicken!" then proceeds to proclaim his musical taste better than yours (Deftones, Wilco and Wu-Tang are cool; Tool used to be until they kept making the same album over and over again). He explains he is against soccer moms and hipsters but in favor of taking bong hits and eating cereal for dinner. And he declares without remorse that "a lot of people these days are bitches."

It's easy to compare Lethal to Columbus' Envelope, another white, midwestern rapper unafraid to speak his mind. But Envelope is just as critical of himself as he is of the world at large, poking fun at his own flaws while still making a slew of good points about relevant issues. Lethal mercilessly rails against any annoyance that crosses his path, coming across as a bitter curmudgeon with a few clever rhymes. Certain rappers can get away with spewing so much bile, but Lethal lacks the charisma to pull it off; it's no wonder he excels at battles, where tearing the other emcee to bits is the name of the game.

Like most Rhymesayers releases, 11:11 boasts solid production and sharp hooks, and Lethal is undoubtedly a talented rapper. It's a shame he's so self-righteous as to render his album a whiny, abrasive mess.

Grade: C+ Download: "Calm Down Baby"