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Originally published Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 5:30 AM

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They Might Be Giants’ ‘Nanobots’ may yield new hits

New CDs released Tuesday, March 5, include the charming “Nanobots,” by They Might Be Giants”; jazz composer Maria Schneider’s excursion into classical art songs with Dawn Upshaw, “Winter Morning Walks”; and a new Jimi Hendrix retrieval, “People, Hell & Angel

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They Might Be Giants, ‘Nanobots’ (Idlewild)

This extremely clever, Brooklyn indie-pop band headed up by the two Johns — Linnell and Flansburgh — hasn’t had a big hit since 1990’s “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” but the group’s charming 16th studio album, a wonky sci-fi concept effort called “Nanobots,” has some chart contenders. Among 25 often extremely brief tracks loosely configured around a futurist theme involving robots, Nicola Tesla, replicas and insects, standouts include the sinister, shape-shifting “Black Ops”; the alternately sunny, two-guy vocals punctuated by “Star Wars”-ish instructional directions of “Circular Karate Chop”; the hilarious, Chuck Berry-inspired “Call You Mom” (“I think I’m going to call you Mom because you remind me of my Mom”); “Tesla,” done as a romantic paean to that scientist’s many inventions; and the threateningly slinky electric bass lines of “Replicant” (“What have you got behind your back?”).

It’s all done in good fun, with impeccable musicianship and whistle-clean production, including sudden, jaunty spurts of horns, percussion and even mandolin (“Hive Mind”). Granted, listening to 25 quippy little songs is a bit like getting to the bottom of a bag of sour penny candy you shouldn’t have finished. But it’s fun in little bites. And that’s just how it’s made to be consumed.

Other new releases

Maria Schneider and Dawn Upshaw, “Winter Morning Walks” (ArtistShare)

Jimi Hendrix, ”People, Hell & Angels” (Decca)

Madeleine Peyroux, “The Blue Room” (Decca)

Paul de Barros, Seattle Times music critic

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