ELOEpic's Legacy arm has pulled together another greatest hits collection of '70s stalwarts Electric Light Orchestra. All Over the World: The Very Best of Electric Light Orchestra features 20 songs, from "Mr. Blue Sky," "Evil Woman," "Don't Bring Me Down" and "Turn to Stone" to "Hold on Tight," "Telephone Line," "Xanadu" and "Rock and Roll Is King." Strangely omitted in favor of a couple of lesser known tracks are the band's last two '80s hits, "Four Little Diamonds" and "Calling America," as well as early hits such as "Do Ya" and "Roll Over Beethoven." A more complete 29-song collection, which included these tracks, was issued 10 years ago as a two-disc set, Strange Magic: The Best of Electric Light Orchestra.

 

World Leader Pretend World Leader Pretend
Punches
(Warner Bros.)


They hail from New Orleans, and nicked their name from an R.E.M. song, but from the opening quirky rhythm and bombastic drum smacks of "Bang Theory," it's obvious that World Leader Pretend sound nothing like those Georgian heroes and certainly don't play jazz or dixieland music.

On their second album, the band creates a broad tapestry of indie rock colour, and yes, I mean colour of the British spelling. Vocalist Keith Ferguson cultures a very anglo-pop style, often sounding a bit like Thom Yorke and Radiohead. But conversely, the band also crafts the same kind of organic rock hybrid of pop, Americana and offbeat technicolor sound that Minneapolis' Honeydogs mine so well. On tracks like "Dreamdaddy" and "New Voices" they sound vaguely like Michael Penn at his height, with crunchy beats and just the right touch of falsetto.

The title track opens with a Radiohead style cinematic feel – noir piano repetition before the angry dramatic guitars kick in and Ferguson belts with that anglo band's signature angst "I'm alive!"

Variety is the spice of Punches and following the pounding attack of the title track, the disc offers "Lovey Dovey," a gentle ballad with lightly arpeggiated guitars and gentle strings, not to mention a female duet vocal. Then it's on to the piano tension of “The Masses,” a perfect gem of a track that builds from soundtrack-ish piano haunt to rolling, ominous bass, ultimately evolving into another Radiohead-worthy rock statement.

The CD might have ended there but then the shuffling whimsical rhythms of "Tit for Tat," another song that reminds a lot of the Honeydogs' last disc kicks in and sends the album in yet another direction with offbeat percussion and chiming guitars. The light, lofting piano and strings of the classical-leaning instrumental interlude "Appassionato" beg to be the theme song of a movie, while "B.A.D.A.B.O.O.M." kicks in with a feel completely unlike anything else on the disc – a throbbing glam chant that is raucous, strange, and undeniably fun as Ferguson speaks with a faux Brit accent about “monsters” and at one point goes into a singing chorus that apes a bit of U2.

There is not a bad song on this 14-song collection. Innovative, intelligent and intuitively catchy, Punches will knock you out. Don't miss this one.

 

Anna Nalick Anna Nalick
Wreck of the Day
(Columbia)
½


"And life's like an hourglass glued to the table/No one can find the rewind button boys/so cradle your head in your hands and breathe, just breathe."

That's just one of the wonderfully wise and marvelously catchy lines from newcomer Anna Nalick's first hit single, "Breathe." And it's indicative of the quality of 11 tracks on her debut that proves the young singer-songwriter has a knack with phrase and melody.

Produced by former Tori Amos collaborator Eric Rosse, Wreck of the Day combines the folk stylings of early Jewel with the pop canniness of Butterfly Boucher. Nalick sings with a sweet, light coffeehouse tone that's more pop than folk — but not over-produced teen Britney Spears-style pop. This is just smart, catchy, head-nodding, daydreaming pop music.

With a simple strumming style that is both comfortable and rivetting, Nalick slips through each song with unselfconscious grace and heart, singing of the trials of life and love.

On "Satellite" she paints a smart modern picture of the classic "waiting for the phone to ring" love song, when she sings:

"Satellite, save my life
I'm wishing on a two-way radio
Love might be just like me
jaded waiting all alone
a whisper on a two-way radio."

The upbeat snap and yearning emotion of "Citadel" begs to follow "Breathe" to radio with its seductively harmonized chorus and pure melodic hooks as Nalick asks herself those torturous "life" questions about trying new things ("what if I fall/what if I don't/What if I never make it home?").

The disc closes with "Consider This," a jaunty warning to a lover not to try to change her. The tune is reminiscient of the sassy lounge strut of Canadian Tara Maclean's debut a few years ago.

Nalick is a breath of fresh air on a pop scene that has focused too much recently on package over content. Pick this one up.