Artist: The (International) Noise Conspiracy Track: "Assassination of Myself" Album: The Cross of My Calling Listen

The Swedish band formed from the ashes of seminal post-hardcore band Refused was once known for two things: a mod sound and touting sexy, watered-down anarchist politics. (Make no mistake: It's never really been more than the coffee-shop socialism that helped elect Barack Obama.)

Here, those things have largely been abandoned. Thank God.

INC still brings a punchy brand of pop that borrows from Herman's Hermits, the Sir Douglas Quintet and Richard & the Young Lions. Members still throw out some catchy political theories in lyrics and song titles. But producer Rick Rubin has made one thing clear: They are a good modern rock band -- not extras from Tommy, not Noam Chomsky -- and can thrive as such.

As you'll hear on "Assassination of Myself," frontman Dennis Lyxzn and his Norse buddies bring a potent mix of roots-tinged rock that explodes with energy, punch, light. They've combined the hopeful gusto of Ted Leo with their always-present knack for melody.

They've never sounded better.