One-third of Sloppy Heads literally wrote the book on Yo La Tengo, and YLT’s James McNew mans the boards for the Brooklyn-based band’s debut LP. So comparisons to Yo La Tengo are inevitable and apt, though they’re far from the whole story. Useless Smile is a pleasingly eclectic brew, mixing noisy guitar pop with spectral balladry, rambunctious garage rock with feedback-laced dissonance. Familiar, maybe, but the Heads throw enough twists and turns into each tune to make it all engaging and fresh. Check the long, organ-led rave-up that closes “Plane To See,” (shades of McNew’s own under-heralded 1990s epic “International Airport” here), or the ramshackle wrestling match of “We Are They That Ache With Amorous Love.” The band distinguishes themselves further via lyrics that are darkly comic and awkwardly personal (in a good way). “I reach out for love / in a strange-ass way,” Ariella Stok sings in the LP’s absolutely wonderful title track, which closes the album in fine fashion. You’re going to dig these Heads. words / t wilcox

Sloppy Heads :: Always Running

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