Chemical Chords (4AD)
After 1999's Cobra and Phases, critics decided Stereolab's well-tested formula of space-age lounge-rock had become too listless, too meandering. Then, with 2006's Fab FourSuture, the group had seemingly pulled a 180, now scorned for being "too dance-oriented."
Chemical Chords should be seen as a return to form by even the most jaded and fickle of critics. There's the experimental side (the obliterating "Pop Molecule" and "Nous Vous Demandons Pardon"), which harkens back to the avant-drone glory days of Dots and Loops and Emperor Tomato Ketchup. High Llamas' Sean O'Hagan even returns to contribute some trademark dreamy string arrangements. Then there are tracks like "Valley Hi!" and (Japanese-import only) "Magne-Music," so sexy and sleek that, were a Midwestern DJ ever so bold as to actually spin these, there might be something besides $2 PBRs to entice you to that club your "popular" friends are always trying to drag you to.