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Civil Wars go out with a bang

| Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

‘The Civil Wars'

The Civil Wars (Columbia/Sensibility)

★★★★

John Paul White and Joy Williams, better known as folk duo the Civil Wars, enjoyed critical and commercial success with their 2011 studio debut “Barton Hollow,” a near perfect album that went gold and earned them a pair of Grammys.

But at the height of their popularity, White and Williams announced last November that they were taking a break.

Fortunately they put the finishing touches on this self-titled sophomore set before going on hiatus and we have 12 mostly excellent tracks to keep us company.

While a notch below the sheer awesomeness of “Barton Hollow,” this album won't disappoint their fans. Among the standout tunes are the one-two opening punch of “The One That Got Away” and “I Had Me a Girl,” as well as “Dust to Dust,” “Devil's Backbone,” “From This Valley” and “Oh Henry.”

Here's hoping the Civil Wars will be back at it soon.

‘Push Any Button'

Sam Phillips (Littlebox)

★★★½

Sam Phillips, the female singer/songwriter who isn't related to the Sun Records impresario of the same name, enjoyed a career rebirth during the first decade of the millennium thanks to a series of standout albums (2001's “Fan Dance,” 2004's “A Boot and a Shine” and 2008's “Don't Do Anything”) and looks for more of the same with “Push Any Button.” Inspired by pop music of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the 51-year-old serves up an enjoyable 10-track collection of tunes. Keepers include “All Over Me,” “See You in Dreams,” “Going,” “Things I Shouldn't Have Told You” and “Can't See Straight.” Good stuff.

‘Velocity'

Transitshop (Rock Ridge)

★★★½

Indie pop trio Transitshop made a minor splash with its 2010 self-titled debut EP and the Chris O'Brien-fronted outfit looks to expand its profile with the release of “Velocity,” its first full-length slab. Having garnered comparisons to everyone from the Cure and the Cars to Death Cab for Cutie and Tokyo Police Club, Transitshop has crafted a radio-ready gathering of 10 tunes. “Collective” gets things off to a so-so start, but the guys hit their stride with “Life Goes On,” “The Stone,” “Pick Me,” “Whirlwind” and “Come Through.”

‘Double Diggits!'

Chixdiggit! (Fat Wreck Chords)

★★★★

Back in the mid-'90s, when pop/punk still seemed fresh, Canadian outfit Chixdiggit! emerged as one of the genre's rising stars. Fat Wreck Chords has combined 1998's “Born on the First of July” and 2000's “From Scene to Shining Scene,” added eight bonus tracks, and reissued them as “Double Diggits!” It's a 32-track, 68-minute collection of pop/punk that sounds as vibrant today as it did 15 years ago. Songs “Keepin' Air,” “My Restaurant,” “Ohio,” “Spanish Fever,” “Aromatherapy” and “Folks Are Gone” are sure to get your pulse pounding, and bonus tracks “I Should Have Played Football in High School” and “She Gets All the Girls” are great. Rock on.

‘Bad News'

Get Dead (Fat Wreck Chords)

★★★★

Mixing punk rock with traditional Irish folk, San Francisco five-piece Get Dead makes an impressive debut on “Bad News.” With acoustic instrumentation surrounding the sandpaper vocals of frontman Sam King, the lads have cobbled together a 12-track slab that should appeal to punk and folk fans alike. Stellar opener “Kerouac's Teeth” sets the tone, and Get Dead also scores with “The Process,” “Burn Out,” “This One's for Johnny,” “Riverbank,” “Bartender” and Problematic.” Highly recommended.

‘The A&M Years: 1984-1986'

The Swimming Pool Q's (Cipher Bureau)

★★★★½

I'm not sure why Atlanta's the Swimming Pool Q's never made it big. Heck, I was a high school student in Atlanta at the time and they were barely a blip on my radar. We were much more concerned about Georgia bands such as R.E.M. and the B-52's, which is a shame because the infectious music of the Swimming Pool Q's holds up well some three decades later. Maybe “The A&M Years” will bring them the acclaim that unfairly eluded them in their heyday. The expansive four-disc set is a worthwhile investment for anyone who came of age in that era. The first two CDs feature the band's phenomenal 1984 self-titled release and 1986's so-so “Blue Tomorrow” in their entirety, and the third CD, “Pow Wow Hour,” includes 17 rare tracks from that era. Rounding out the package is “Auto Zoom,” a DVD featuring live clips, promotional videos, interviews and television appearances.

Jeffrey Sisk is an editor for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-664-9161 ext. 1952, or jsisk@tribweb.com.

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