Jay Reatard, "Watch Me Fall"
For the past decade, Memphis-based punk prodigy Jay Reatard has tirelessly recorded and self-released lo-fi gems, but his proper debut on Matador Records could introduce him to a more mainstream audience. Recorded in his home studio with Reatard playing nearly every instrument, "Watch Me Fall" is a personal fuzz-rock collage that thinly conceals its admiration of pop music. The standout track "Wounded" lets a sunny guitar melody gain momentum before Reatard's propulsive vocals conjure the glory days of garage rock. With its jagged riffs, rich choruses and paranoid lyrics, the album recklessly plays with the balance between punk and pop. Reatard's songwriting may be unpolished, but his vocal charm shines through on tracks like the spunky "Before I Was Caught" and the surprisingly earnest "I'm Watching You." Seven-inch obsessives probably could have seen the debut's tangy intensity coming, but for rock fans unaware of Reatard's history, "Watch Me Fall" is a welcome surprise. --Jason Lipshutz