Soul Coughing frontman M. Doughty is a real-life poet masquerading as a pop star. When he shows up on MTV shilling his new records, he comes off as awkwardly in person as any given line of other pop stars’ published poetry. It’s a humbling reverse effect: He’s an avant garde performance poet as out of place on MTV as Jewel or Madonna would be at an open-mike poetry slam. Soul Coughing crafts the sort of folksy-punk-dub-funk-electronica mouthfuls, with tongue firmly in cheek, that artists like Beck have made it OK to talk about. Musically, Soul Coughing manages to massage everything infernal about Beck’s dishonest faux-groove into structurally inventive pop gems, with smooth, danceable beats and samples melding with four-piece rock instrumentation. Doughty’s laid-back verse hovers between rapping and lounge singing. The rhythm-driven record is powered start to finish by loose guitars, frantic, jazzy drumming, and the full, thick sound of classically trained upright bassist Mark De Gil Antoni. On tracks like “Misinformed” and “I Miss the Girl,” Doughty’s lyrical ingenuity and gravelly delivery work with the music instead of against it, using playful Gertrude Stein-ish repetition (“I don’t need to walk around in circles/Walk around in circles/Walk around in circles/Walk around in/Don’t need to walk around in circles/Walk around in”) to fit the rhythmic choruses. With flashier suits, Soul Coughing might be in business.—Colin Bane