Mug Museum

There’s something classic-sounding about Mug Museum, Cate Le Bon’s third full-length. The spare instrumentation and her demure voice bring to mind The Velvet Underground & Nico (especially Nico) and 1960s yé-yé. Le Bon is neither a New Yorker nor French, but this Welsh chanteuse brings those elements to her music, and she does so without sounding retro. And while Le Bon toggles between past and future pop, she also maneuvers through a range of emotions. Like The Smiths did so well, Le Bon has a way of raining on her own parade—even when the melody is sunny. That’s a compliment. A lot of this comes from the subject matter, which revolves around the aftermath of the death of her grandmother. Le Bon’s voice, which drips with a noticeable Welsh brogue, also lends itself to weepy tales. Opener “I Can’t Help You” and first single “Are You With Me Now?” are scrumptiously sweet. “Wild” gives listeners a taste of her band’s psych-rock influence, while the title track strips down to only piano and vocals. At a taut 10 songs, Mug Museum is laser-focused—and both Le Bon and listeners get plenty of mileage from it.