Rainer Maria, A Better Version of Me (Polyvinyl): Rather-American earnest-rock trio Rainer Maria keep striding forward on their third longplayer, leaving their beginnings as a red-raw emo-combo further in the rearview mirror. Rainer Maria have never been more skillful in their playing or stronger in their singing than on the slickly recorded A Better Version of Me — which some may see as a problem. Sadly past are those moments of wonderful wailing in which Caithlin De Marrais and Kyle Fischer yelled in off-key coupling like fuck-you teenagers standing on the hill overlooking their hometown. Now, De Marrais handles most of the vocals in her worked-on voice, and the literary desires of the self-reflexive lyrics come to light in angular pop-rock numbers that recall the sounds of early-'90s-indie-crossover. Which is fine, except that this tuneful niceness is coming from a band whose urgency once steamed from the speakers. — Anthony Carew

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