Despite their superstar status in their native home of Dublin, Ireland, and their 17-years-deep catalog, the Frames have remained comparatively undervalued stateside. While some of this is a complete mystery—epic songwriting this magnetically melodic and players as handsome as they are accomplished should be pulling in the Coldplay contingent, if nothing else—much of it has to do with the band's inability to translate the energy and scope of their jaw-dropping live shows to tape. Whether it was the choice to bring the band's former guitarist-turned-engineer David Odlum in to co-produce with Steve Fitzmaurice or the self-imposed deadline of 10 days of studio time, they have finally broken that curse and made the organically grown, viscerally thrilling record that their cult-sized fan base has been waiting for. Frontman Glen Hansard's sympathetic voice evokes the populist optimism of Cat Stevens, but with a soaring delivery more akin to Thom Yorke's early work, while triple-threat Colm MacConlomaire (violin, keyboard, and vocals) has never sounded more potent. There's not a weak track in the bunch, but "People Get Ready" is probably the record's most obvious anchor, with its call-to-arms energy and perfectly paced groundswell of emotion. Perhaps the only downside of digesting The Cost is realizing that if it doesn't break them on this side of the Atlantic, nothing will. HANNAH LEVIN
The Frames play the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, www.showboxonline.com. $16.50. 8 p.m. Wed., April 11.
Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes is now a healthy, complex-free adult. As a result, Cassadaga, his sixth full-length, is significantly less personal than Oberst's previous work. Through motifs of mysticism and the metaphysical, Oberst attempts to tackle contemporary issues such as global warming and the Iraq war obliquely and allusively, decisions that render many of the lyrics prosaic at best. Also new are squeaky-clean, overproduced steel guitar and electric-organ-driven arrangements, which are akin to the operatic, alt-country sounds of contemporaries like Neko Case and My Morning Jacket. The results are disappointing. "I Must Belong Somewhere," which is lyrically the album's strongest track and could have been an effusive and intimate ode, is violated from the start by the presence of an obnoxious steel guitar. Not all is lost, though. Songs like "Four Winds" and "Soul Singer in a Session Band" work well because the contrived, restrained conventions of the album are abandoned, with Oberst cutting loose and feeding off what are, musically, the album's strongest cuts. For the most part, however, Cassadaga is the unfortunate victim of both contrived social commentary and misplaced stylistic deviation. KEEGAN HAMILTON
Love of Diagrams
In January, Love of Diagrams released a teaser EP that felt like the early '80s all over again. The female-fronted Australian group was playing post-punk the way it was meant to be played: gritty. Since the rise of Franz Ferdinand, male-fronted groups like the Editors and the Futureheads have turned post-punk into a wholly nonabrasive genre. Love of Diagrams bring back the driving, confrontational backbeats, the edgy guitars, and the pick-heavy bass that have been lost on the latest generation of post-punk imposters. These 12 tracks are as twitchy and wired as the Fire Engines, but they display a pep and melodicism that recalls the great Sleater-Kinney (and not just because of the alternating female vocals of Antonia Sellbach and Vanessa Briscoe). The heavy echo effect on the vocals lends a vintage Debbie Harry–esque vibe to Mosaic, as does the overall metallic crunch of the tense guitars. The consistent 4/4 punk beat does feel a bit bludgeoning about three-fourths of the way through the disc, but that's what separates Love of Diagrams from the aforementioned posers and places them in the lineage of a band like Pylon. You will think it's the early '80s again, and that's not a bad thing. Let's just hope that Love of Diagrams continue to play their post-punk with an edge, and don't mutate into another watery, angular pop-rock band. BRIAN J. BARR
Love of Diagrams play the Showbox, 1426 First Ave., 628-3151, www.showboxonline.com. $15. All ages. 8 p.m. Tues., April 17.