As Weezer's quality continues to decline, every passing album lends credence to a theory about the band's ex-bassist Matt Sharp. Some consider Sharp to be that X-factor who provided Weezer with certain balance, energy, and the right ear for editing. After leaving his post following 1998's Pinkerton, Sharp turned his focus to The Rentals, the one-man-driven power-pop/new-wave project he founded in '94 that somewhat carries on Weezer's early legacy. On the new Lost in Alphaville, the Rentals' third full-length and first since 1999, he proves that his knack for sharp pop songwriting hasn't faded with time. Aided by guest spots from the likes of the Black Keys' Patrick Carney, Ozma's Ryan Slegr, and Lucius' Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig (the band gets its name from Sharp constantly revamping its lineup), Alphaville uses lush guitars, sweetly tinny Moog lines, whispered male vocals, and heavenly female harmonies to create a punchy package best for doe-eyed romantics and aficionados of wistful, dreamy melody.