Intimacy

Bloc Party have had a hard time finding their niche: They've bounced from the dance rock of their debut to the stadium-size riffs of their second album, sounding unfocused both times. But their latest album finally finds a way to combine jittery club grooves and big hooks into a seamless rock record — their most dynamic yet.

Co-produced by Jacknife Lee and Brit-pop mastermind Paul Epworth, Intimacy has the raw feel of a live album, despite the layers of swirling keyboards and samplers. "Mercury" stacks an electronic horn section on top of blasts of drum-and-bass, and "Ares" revolves around Chemical Brothers-size drums and darting guitar squawks. Frontman Kele Okereke treats his voice like a strange instrument, chopping it up and dropping it into the mix. He sounds liberated, airing deeply personal details about a bad breakup, reminding his ex-lover, "You used to take your watch off before we made love," and announcing, "I can be as cruel as you." Replacing Bloc Party's distant cool with vivid honesty, he makes Intimacy a confident new peak for his band.

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