The Casket Lottery Smoke and Mirrors (Second Nature)
Emo used to be cool as hell when it wasn't called "emo," when Sunny Day Real Estate, Quicksand, and about 100 bands on Dischord were blasting out angular-yet-melodic post-hardcore introspection without sniveling pretense. Things have certainly turned to shit since then. But the Casket Lottery reminds me of the good old days. Too bad these guys just broke up.
The Good Life Lovers Need Lawyers (Saddle Creek)
I came late to the Saddle Creek indie rock party, mostly because honcho (and Bright Eyes leader) Conor Oberst kinda bugged me -- you know, the name, the Robert Smith hair, the Winona Ryder fucking, that whole thing. But I was being stubbornly closed-minded, and now I really dig his labelmate Tim Kasher's two bands, Cursive and, especially, the Good Life. Kasher's got the bitter divorce blues, but he confronts it with acerbic, freewheeling, semi-rootsy theatrics instead of whiny post-punk melodrama. Plus, the self-deprecating "Entertainer" contains my favorite line of the year so far: "I'm not an artist/I'm an asshole without a job/Making money off alcohol."