Top five summer releases

Jon Dahlager and Bethany Kohoutek

1. Jimmy Eat World

“Bleed American” (Dreamworks)

It’s been 10 years since the explosion of grunge that came with the release of Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” and it seems fitting that a decade later an album has been released that has the potential to wake up the music industry from its detuned metal-obsessed nightmare.

The opening riff of the title track sounds nothing like “Smells like Teen Spirit,” but it is just as memorable, and Jim Adkins’ screams at the end of the song are quite reminiscent of Kurt Cobain’s vocal styling.

Prior to this album JEW was generally considered to be an emo band, but “Bleed American” finds the Arizona quartet blending their emo influences with rock, in much the same fashion as Nirvana combined punk and metal.

Some songs, such as the album closer “My Sundown” and the gorgeous “Cautioners,” remain true to the emo roots. However, JEW reveals another influence through songs such as “Your House,” manipulating dynamics and percussive guitar in a similar fashion to “Joshua Tree”- era U2.

With the right promotional push, the wait for the next Nirvana will be over, with JEW bringing emotional rock to the masses. (JD)

2. Gorillaz

“Gorillaz” (Virgin)

Gorillaz is a fake pop band composed of cartoon characters. And although that easily could describe a boy band, the group has nothing to do with the Backstreet Boys or O-Town.

Kicking out jams that are equal parts late 1980s hip-hop (Run DMC, Beastie Boys) and early 1990s alternative (Blur), “Gorillaz” is a phenomenal album/multimedia extravaganza conceived by Damon Albarn of Blur, Miho Hatori of Cibo Mato, Deltron 3030’s Dan Nakamura and Tina Weymouth of the Tom Tom Club.

Each member of the band is represented by a cartoon alter ego as drawn by “Tank Girl” creator J.C. Hewlitt. The entire concept is groundbreaking, but what is most important is the music.

The alt-rock meets hip-hop group blows away any rap-metal monstrosity with simple, catchy beats that are somehow suited for both dancing and chilling.

Albarn sums up the entire album with the opening lyrics of the first track, “Re-Hash.”

“It’s a sweet sensation.” (JD)

3. Weezer

“Weezer” (Geffen Records)

May 15 officially marked the long-overdue return of dork rock.

In just 28 minutes of album play, King Rivers Cuomo and band stepped over the hordes of torpid wanna-be Weezers to reclaim the post-slacker throne. And after a five-year hiatus since 1994’s “Pinkerton,” it was about time.

The self-titled album, which has been nicknamed “The Green Album,” packs 10 merry tunes into under half an hour. Bolstered by the success of its singles, “Island In The Sun” and the arena-rockish “Hash Pipe,” the album has no place to go but up, since these songs are not even the album’s best. (Check out “Don’t Let Go” and “Photograph.”)

Some critics complain that “The Green Album” too closely resembles Weezer’s 1994, and also self-titled, debut which included such mainstream hits as “Buddy Holly,” “Say It Ain’t So” and “Undone – The Sweater Song.” Admittedly, the two records follow a similar approach. But if something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Weezer is perhaps one of the only acts today that is capable of reintroducing a sound they helped to create seven years earlier. (BK)

4. Ike Reilly

“Salesmen and Racists” (Universal Records)

Rock `n roll is a term that doesn’t get thrown around much anymore. Ike Reilly just might have a problem with that.

While supposed “rock” artists such as Creed and every Limp Bizkit/Korn/Staind clone has forgotten that there is more than just distorted guitar and phat beats to rock `n’ roll, Reilly brings back the “roll” and a sense of humor to a genre that has all but been forgotten amidst rap-rock, hardcore, alt-rock and every other sub-genre.

Songs such as the ultra-catchy, tongue-in-cheek “Commie Drives a Nova” the first single “Last Time” stomp along with great rock riffs that complement Reilly’s Bob Dylan-meets- Paul Westerberg vocal delivery.

Reilly even throws in “Put a Little Love in It (According to John),” a sing-a-long reminiscent of “Hey Jude.”

It all adds up to an album that rocks but isn’t afraid to roll. (JD)

5. Kurupt

“Space Boogie: Smoke Oddessey” (Antra)

At times looking like a darker, pimpin’ Will Smith, rapper Kurupt has been rhyming since he appeared on Snoop Dogg’s definitive 1990s gangsta rap album, “Doggystyle.”

Since then, Kurupt has ditched much of the harder edges of gangsta rap imagery, focusing on smooth rapping over funky grooves made to be blasted while rollin’ in a ’64, an SUV or even a Saturn.

Although he occasionally dives back into gangsta mode on songs such as “Gangsta’s” and “The Hardest .,” Kurupt seems more interested in kicking back and making catchy songs than proving he’s hard-core.

The album even features a guest appearance by Fred Durst on “Lay it on Back,” a track that shows that the Limp Bizkit frontman might have a solo future in hip-hop.

Snoop shows up for “Bring Back that G Shit,” which feels much like the rest of the album, a summer revival of West Coast rap circa 1993, minus the gats and drive-bys. (JD)

1. The Beta Band

“Hot Shots II” (Astralwerks)

Anyone who has seen “High Fidelity” knows The Beta Band has loads of indie cred. It was the tune, “Dry The Rain,” that John Cusack cranked up in his Championship Vinyl record store and proceeded to immediately sell five copies of “The Three EPs,” the band’s breakthrough album.

And although the band is signed to a decent-sized label (Air, Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim are labelmates), they somehow manage to retain their college-rock appeal with each new release, and this summer’s “Hot Shots II” is no exception.

It follows the same mish-mash formula that has worked for past albums, dabbling here and there in pop, hip-hop, whimsy and ethereal melody. The album’s gem is the trip-hoppy “Squares,” which is also the band’s latest single and video. “Gone” also deserves mention, as its bare-bones arrangement stands in stark contrast to the rest of the album’s layered tonal landscape. (BK)

2. Saves the Day

“Stay What You Are” (Vagrant)

It isn’t fair to call Saves the Day a pop-punk band. Sure, its albums are filled with catchy, upbeat songs that feature distorted guitars and fast tempos.

But Blink-182 has made pop punk notorious for stupid songs that almost always focus on girls.

STD vocalist Chris Conley separates his band from the rest of the pop punk genre with unique vocal delivery and poetic lyrics that are a kind of dirty pop that has nothing to do with `N Sync.

Conley’s often dark lyrics contrast with the fuzzy pop rock on “Stay What You Are,” an album that finds STD shedding some of the punk speed of earlier releases for better songwriting and lush harmonies.

Saves the Day is one of the recent additions to the ever-growing roster of bands on Vagrant Records, a label that boasts such bands as the Get Up Kids and Alkaline Trio, peers it rightly deserves. (JD)

3. Low and Dirty Three

“In the Fishtank” (Konkurrent)

In 1998, the Dutch label Konkurrent began the “In the Fishtank” project, which basically shut two fairly unrelated bands in the studio together for two days to breed a little EP. For example, one of the first “Fishtank” babies combined genes from jazzy rockers Tortoise with The Ex, a noise-punk outfit from Amsterdam. A wild child, indeed.

But Konkurrent’s latest hook-up seems to be a match made in heaven. Low’s characteristic water lullabies fit perfectly in the hand of Dirty Three’s dark orchestral assault. And fans of both bands will be impressed by the versatility the collaboration brings out in each; an ambling 10-minute cover of Neil Young’s “Down By The River” is followed later by “Lordy,” a soulful, gospel-twinged ditty, with the almost alt-Americana “When I Called Upon Your Seed” situated in between.

Although the album contains only six songs, it definitely deserves the tag of one of summer’s best indie music picks. (BK)

4. Pernice Brothers

“The World Won’t End” (Ashmont Records)

This album was made to trick the listener, to reel in the music consumer with bright, well-crafted pop songs, lush melodies and the malty-smooth voice of lead singer Joe Pernice. A fitting summertime album – at first listen.

But lurking behind these seemingly innocent tunes are lyrics that bring all of those sunshiny sentiments to a screeching halt. Although the album is titled “World Won’t End,” by the time you’ve listened to the actual lyrical content, you may wish it would. Lyrics about despair, hopelessness and the drudgery of everyday life are so well-embedded in contagious melody, it becomes difficult to separate the two.

The pop musicianship on this album is fantastic; the disheartening lyrics are phenomenal. But it’s the way the band braids these elements together that truly makes listeners and critics alike do a double take. (BK)

5. Mark Eitzel

“The Invisible Man” (Matador Records)

On his latest effort, Mark Eitzel may have been following the age-old marriage adage “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” Each element is apparent in “The Invisible Man,” Eitzel’s fifth solo release since the mid 1990s dissolution of the underground powerhouse American Music Club.

Something old: Longtime fans of Eitzel’s past four solo albums will appreciate the fact that the singer/songwriter is still treading familiar musical ground. The spare acoustic song structures, metaphorical wordings and ardent lyrics are still present in each track.

Something new: What’s this? The man whose publishing company is named “I Failed In Life Music” uses an unabashedly happy song as his album’s closer? “Proclaim Your Joy” is downright jubilant. Although uncharacteristic, the track is a breath of fresh air before the record ends.

Something borrowed: Before making this album, Eitzel reportedly purchased a computer and began experimenting with computerized riffs and electronic drum loops. At first this may seem threatening to fans of the more homegrown Eitzel style. Not to worry, though. The drip-drop effect of the electronic additions only enhances Eitzel’s songwriting.

Something blue: Although the actual music may have changed a bit, the lyrics don’t stray far from the established odes to crumbled romance Eitzel is known for. An example from “Bitterness:” “I don’t think I will ever love again.” It doesn’t get much more blue than that.

In addition to playing most of the instruments, Eitzel also produced the record. The result is an album that melds old school singer/songwriter with fresh, edgy beats to make “The Invisible Man” one of the summer’s finest. (BK)