As artistic inspirations go, nothing tops the exquisite bitterness and self-awareness that come from a painful breakup. When the Comas' Andy Herod parted ways with Dawson's Creek star Michelle Williams, the result was the North Carolina band's masterpiece, 2004's delicately beautiful Conductor. On the opening track, Herod sets the tone with a coolly delivered kiss-off: "May your days be long and cold/May your mirror come back old/May your visions be too much/May you then think about us." Throughout the record, insight, humor and candor transform Herod's passion and pain into blissed-out pop and bawls-out rock. Fuzzbox guitars and moments of warm-fuzzy wistfulness augment sonic-blast freakouts and Spiritualized spaceouts. They say that breaking up is hard to do, but Herod turns falling apart into higher art.