Critic's Pick

In the race to explore the sonic potential of bits and bytes, the rest of the world long ago caught up with Depeche Mode -- and maybe even lapped it once or twice. Not that the tweesome threesome has been totally immune to trends: The band's sound toughened up a wee bit around the time Trent Reznor was relevant ('member?); the mostly mellow current record, Exciter, pulses with polished synth patterns and swells that sound as if the Depechies are cribbing the very electronica folks who've cribbed them in this postrock era. So why are they still cool -- and not in a kitschy way? Because Dave Gahan has learned to rein in his once-bombastic baritone, because the presence of guitars on a Depeche Mode album finally feels seamless (bask in the simmering might of "Dream On"), and because Martin Gore's deliciously dorky lyrics can still bring a tear to the eye of even the most jaded 15-year-old girl.

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