American Werewolves
Wanders Forever
Warbird
Street: 08.24
American Werewolves = Wrecking Crew + Slapshot + Pennywise
It always astonishing to me how many times the simple punk rock formula can be regurgitated and it can still pull me in. I believe that the simple configuration of your average punk tune allows the true passion and the honesty of its players to shine through. Take this Cleveland group, American Werewolves. They play a brand of street punk that, although it’s fun to sing along to, it’s not the slightest bit revolutionary. I love their sense of roots, many nods to Cleveland, and a sense of history can be heard on the only known hardcore cover of “Danny Boy.” In fact, the best thing about them is that they have turned themselves into a cross-section of their various influences, a rock n’ roll side from say, Social Distortion and a big post-hardcore sound from a relative newer band like Madball and many more. While I do have to concede there’s not really anything new here, there’s nothing wrong with being a tough punk rock outfit playing their asses off. –James Orme

Apparat
DJ Kicks: Apparat
!K7
Street: 10.18
Apparat = Fabric Series + Martyn + Manuel Gottsching
On the 35th DJ mix series for !K7, the fringe-dwelling German electronic musician Apparat takes the reins on one of electronic music’s most established and exciting mixes. Apparart (whose work with Ellen Allien on Orchestra of Bubbles is essential listening) takes the listener on a personal journey through his record collection as he congeals a few years’ worth of electronic music into an hour-plus-long spaceship ride with only a conservative number of tempo changes. Apparat remixes heavy hitters like Pantha Du Prince, Joy Orbison, Thom Yorke, Vincent Markowski and Burial + Four Tet’s 2009 project, with thrilling results. Some of his oddball selections, such as Oval’s surging microgroove and drone guitar-slayer Tim Hecker’s ambient outro, work quite nicely in this collection. Headphone mini-raves are acceptable. –Ryan Hall
 

Atheist
Jupiter
Season of Mist
Street: 11.09
Atheist = Death + Cynic + Pestilence + Morbid Angel
After breaking up in 1994, Atheist returned in 2006, played some live shows and released a live album. Time was abundant from the reunion of Atheist for Jupiter to be produced and unleashed. Don’t think of this as a reunion or comeback album, though­­—think of it as the next step in the evolution of Atheist. I keep listening to Jupiter, and it keeps flinging my brain straight to the ceiling. Its guitar rhythms initially feel chaotic in a cacophony of crazed tempos enveloped in the intricacies of the guitars. The maddening and rolling, improvised feel of the drumming, as well as the multifaceted vocal deliveries are mind-altering and awesomely, gratuitously gratifying. It’s in the same ballpark as what Atheist did best in the early 90s, pushing the boundaries of what death/tech/extreme metal can actually be. When the album opener, “Second to Sun,” lays claim to your auditory sensory organs, you are immediately challenged to go beyond the confines of standard metal song structures. It leaves listeners peeling back the layers of sound and investigating all the sonic technical glories and attention-demanding lyrics that Jupiter provides. –Bryer Wharton

Bad Religion
The Dissent of Man
Epitaph
Street: 09.28
Bad Religion = Bad Religion
Bad Religion has got be the most talented and accomplished band in all of rock music. Between the six members of this band, there are numerous degrees, a record label impresario, and I could spend all day listing the names of other great punk bands this lineup has been a part of. With all that to stand on, they keep pushing forward with great record after great record. The Dissent of Man is no exception to that rule. Brett Gurewitz and Greg Graffin have outdone themselves once again with the songwriting. With the folk touches on “I Won’t Say Anything” and the very rock n’ roll-sounding ”The Devil in Stitches,” the album shows more diversity than its most recent predecessor, the darker and harder-hitting New Maps of Hell. After I heard this record, I was left with one question—how does a 30-year-old punk band keep getting better? I look forward to their upcoming show and the future records that are sure to come. (In the Venue: 11.13) –James Orme


Black Lips/Pierced Arrows 7”
Scion A/V Garage: Black Lips/Pierced Arrows
Scion Audio/Visual
Street: 06.06
Black Lips/Pierced Arrows = The Dirtbombs + The Melvins
This round of the commoditization of indie rock brought to you by … Scion: Try not looking like a douchebag while driving one. Regardless of its source, each “side” of this digital 7” holds a fairly decent track from Athen, Georgia’s blues-punk provocateurs Black Lips, and the recently resurrected Fred Cole project Pierced Arrows. The youth/age ratio of these two bands is apparent: Black Lips play unabashedly sloppily with a middle finger to sobriety and fidelity, while Pierced Arrows almost try too hard to make a powerful statement, pushing Cole’s withered, 50-year-old-plus vocal chords to their limit. Call this whatever it is, but be assured that Black Lips are laughing all the way to the bank with your money. –Ryan Hall

Black Mountain
Wilderness Heart
Jagjaguwar
Street: 09.14
Black Mountain = Sleepy Sun + Darker My Love
Black Mountain proves that Canadians can cash in on the psych thing that’s going around lately, too. They may be responsible for some of the resurgence in the genre as well, having been around since 2004. Their latest album is another stellar addition to their other two releases. The LP starts out pleasantly enough with “The Hair Song,” quickly descends into the blues-infused music only malcontents can make, like “Buried by the Blues,” but pulls up and out with tracks like “Radiant Heart”—all in all, a pleasant mix of sublime and sad. Like contemporary Sleepy Sun’s 2010 release, Fever, this group makes great use of their female vocalist’s range in Amber Webber’s Janis Joplin howlings. The album also makes excellent use of blues-rock staples like harmonica, driving guitar and cacophonic percussion. I keep thinking my interest in this kind of music is waning, but then an album like this comes along and pulls me back in with some fuzzed guitar and primal wails. –JP


The Bodies Obtained
I Cry When You Cry
Finding You Attractive
Street: 08.24
The Bodies Obtained = Blank Dogs + Centre + Kraftwerk
The Body Obtained create difficult music while making their influences transparent and easy to spot. Well … easy if you can tell the difference between coldwave and darkwave, or know the differing musical elements of Kosmische Muzik and Krautrock. Record collectors don’t make the best musicians, and simply put, I Cry When You Cry is just difficult to listen to. Aside from some neat tips of the hat to Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, there isn’t much to latch onto in their uniformly morose filtering of 80s synth-based experimental music through 2000s nü-goth. It is difficult to call TBO gifted songwriters in any sense of the word, but since they aren’t making pop songs, we can take the journal entry lyrics at face value. In terms of mood and atmosphere, TBO succeed in channeling equal parts sexual frustration and unease throughout their rudderless synth-scapes. –Ryan Hall

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo
Please Stand By
Spark and Shine
Street: 10.19
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo = Johnny Cash + The Raveonettes + Deadbolt
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo have been churning honest and ominous country tunes that sound as eerie as they are catchy for the last five years, making them an interesting presence in alternative country music. A slow and steady, freight train-like rhythm is at the base of each song on Please Stand By, mixed with Tex-Mex-influenced songs like “Saddle Up” and standard honky-tonkers like “Break My Broken Heart,” all sitting underneath Amaker’s deep, heavy sing/talk vocals that have become the calling card of the Rodeo and their leader. Think country music deconstructed and put back together in a very simple and candid form. These cowboys from Seattle have garnered a fairly large cult-like following for being around for such a short time, and have been featured in the indie slasher flick Punch and Showtime’s TV hit Californication. Known for riotous, whiskey-fueled live shows, The Rodeo tour constantly, and it will only be a matter of time before this traveling cowboy spectacle makes its way to Salt Lake to try to burn down the town. –James Orme

Chromeo
Business Casual
Atlantic
Street: 09.13
Chromeo = Kajagoogoo + Ratatat + Duran Duran
I could talk about how this band would’ve ruled the 80s like hell-ass sexy kings, as everyone else has done. Instead, I’ll proclaim that this duo and future hits like album opener “Hot Mess” and “Night by Night” are going to dominate dance parties all over the world a lot longer than any Huey Lewis and the News song could ever hope to (sorry, Huey). This stuff is like a natural evolution of retromania and dance fever (lame), but really goes beyond gimmick to have its own personality. P-Thugg may have produced his best album yet, full of cascading, rich synth and expert drum fills, often combined with the most melodious of talk-boxing. He accomplishes these feats with an array of keyboards often sporting a sexy pair of illuminated mannequin legs. The beats thump while the digital organ and bass goes nuts. Meanwhile, Dave 1’s smooth and judicious guitar use exudes finesse and suavity, while his vocal crooning could melt any ice queen. His lyrics are one of my favorite parts, almost exclusively about relationships and their various minor catastrophes. They are Quebecois, which is kind of like French, and as the saying goes, “Je cherche toujours les femmes.” Every good-looking girl I know can’t get enough of Business Casual, which is a really good sign. May this record come on next time you want to dance. –Rio Connelly

The Creepshow
They All Fall Down
Hellcat
Street: 10.05
The Creepshow = Miss Derringer + Tiger Army + Zombina and the Skeletones
As a fan of the psychobilly, I love The Creepshow, because every naysayer of the genre can’t use any of their excuses to discredit them. They are original to say the least, they are colorful and vivacious, and even though there are plenty of dark elements on this record, they don’t dwell on them and they certainly don’t use them in any clichéd way. They’re fronted by Sarah Sin Blackwood, who is not meek in the least, as she puts the vocal cherry on the top of an assortment of instrumentation that is neither lackluster nor self-serving, but rather maintains energy and is appealing to listen to the whole way through. The mesmerizing doo-wop back-up vocals on “Sleep Tight” make for some really fun sounds. Reverend McGinty’s organ fits right in with the breakneck speed on the more aggressive “Get What’s Coming” and adds a melodic component not often heard in psychobilly. To anyone quick to dismiss psycho as a tedious type of music, I ask: what do you say when a band like the Creepshow blows away every complaint you’ve got? –James Orme

Dag Nasty
Dag With Shawn
Dischord
Street: 10.18
Dag Nasty = Minor Threat + Gorilla Biscuits + 7 Seconds
Apart from inspiring an unsightly tattoo upon the chest of Travis Barker, Dag Nasty’s 1986 debut album, Can I Say, largely shaped the sound of punk rock for the next decade. Faster than their peers in the burgeoning “emocore” scene, smarter than most bands in the fledgling hardcore scene and more serious than most punk bands of the day, Dag Nasty combined speed, melody and emotion unlike any other band. To put it simply, Can I Say is a very good, very important album. Nearly 25 years later, Dischord is releasing the band’s first recordings, featuring original vocalist Shawn Brown singing the bulk of songs that would be featured on Can I Say. Brown’s vocal delivery is much more akin to the angry, one-volume, one-pitch style of Henry Rollins than later Dag Nasty vocalists, giving the songs a bit more of an edge. “I’ve Heard,” “Justification” and “One to Two” are a bit harder than the versions that most people are used to, but the music isn’t notably different. Even though Dag With Shawn is pretty much Can I Say with a different vocalist, this is definitely a cool relic for fans of Dischord, Dag Nasty and punk rock in general. –Ricky Vigil

Dawnbringer
Nucleus
Profound Lore Records
Street: 09.21
Dawnbringer = Iron Maiden + Saviours + Motörhead
For those of you unfamiliar with what is reverently referred to as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (abbreviated NWOBHM), a title bestowed on many influential and excellent bands from—duh—Britain that arrived on (and helped create) the metal scene in the late 70s and early 80s, know this—to you, my likening of Dawnbringer to those acts (and that era) will mean nothing. That said, Dawnbringer does their best NWOBHM impersonation, and they do it well. Combining equal parts Maiden and Motörhead, Nucleus combines guitar-lead worship with up-tempo arena rocking, but unless you’re a student (or fan) of NWOBHM, it may seem nonsensical and boring, which I almost feel horrible for saying. Worth a listen, but I was expecting more punch and less guitar-noodling. –Gavin Hoffman

Dimmu Borgir
Abrahadabra
Nuclear Blast
Street: 10.12
Dimmu Borgir = Cradle of Filth + Troll + Vesania + Old Man’s Child
The much-anticipated Dimmu Borgir album is here. The band’s last couple albums went in one ear and out the other for me. Fortunately, Abrahadabra runs into some catchy territory. If you’ve been a fan of the band since their commercial breakthrough, 2001’s Puritanical, you’re going to love the new album. I’ll give credit to Dimmu Borgir—they take every recording quite seriously and always come out with an effort that is a grandiose, almost gratuitously over-the-top production. With this album, the band enlisted the use of a real orchestra and choir, and it shows massively. In fact, at times the orchestra/choir trumps the vox/guitar/drums as the key point of the music. The core music at the heart of Dimmu Borgir, now a three-piece band, is fairly straightforward, with their hefty trademark machine-gun double-bass/guitar attacks along with just some fairly catchy riffing and a welcome drum performance from vocalist Shagrath. Abrahadabra trumps the last few Dimmu albums and is without question going to be a success for the band, but if you dare to lurk further into the underground, you will find bands that make Dimmu Borgir sound like silly fluff. –Bryer Wharton

Dirty Projectors
Bitte Orca (Expanded Release)
Domino
Street: 09.28
Dirty Projectors = Otouto + Talking Heads
Bitte Orca was really fucking good, probably one of my favorite albums released last year. With the intricate noodly guitar lines, incredible female vocal melodies, and off-kilter lead vocals, Dave Longstreth made one of the best indie albums last year—there isn’t a single bad song on it. Now that I have that portion of the review out of the way, let’s talk about the new stuff: the bonus disc being issued with this re-release. It is comprised of live material, B-sides and a remix. I don’t really think it is worth purchasing this version of the album over the original, unless you are a completist. The live stuff sounds perfect—too perfect, even. There are none of those tiny imperfections or revisions that make a live recording charming. I guess the B-sides are pretty good, but there is a reason they weren’t chosen to be on the album to begin with, and if you’re a completist, you probably already have the singles. –Cody Hudson

East of the Wall
Ressentiment
Translation Loss Records
Street: 07.20
East of the Wall = Between the Buried and Me + Dredge
This album is all over the place. Portions of tracks like “Ocean of Water” and “Fool’s Errand” sound like alt-rock, then a minute later it’s like listening to prog-metal. On “Maybe I’m Malaised,” the band has success creating a repetitive, delay-ridden aesthetic to relax to for a couple minutes before heading back to their niche––BTBAM-type prog-metal. However, this isn’t their forte. East of the Wall sound more like everyone else in their school of metal when they are working their hardest. “Handshake in Your Mouth” has a few great recesses from the song where they insert some free-form guitar work, which is really refreshing coming from such a mathy, articulated band. In fact, there are seemingly improvised moments throughout the album which end up overshadowing the more deliberate segments of Ressentiment. The result is an album that could have been more than mediocre. –Andrew Roy

Ebo Taylor
Love and Death
Strut
Street: 10.26
Ebo Taylor = Fela Kuti + Oscar Sulley
Ebo Taylor was a member of the Ghanaian highlife (African big band/swing) music scene during the 40s and 50s. In 1962, he left for London to study with his pal, Fela Kuti, at the renowned Eric Guilder School of Music. He quickly became a respected composer/producer working with C.K. Mann and Pat Thomas. It wasn’t until the 70s that he began recording solo records. Love and Death is his first album in more than 20 years. The album opens with the highly percussive horn attack on “Nga Nga.” “African Woman” starts off with an electric organ, later joined with a bobbing cowbell and quick drumming. The title track is Budos Band-esque, with Ebo’s haunting vocals singing “It was the kiss of death.” The zig-zag approach of the horns takes control on the instrumental “Victory.” All eight songs on Love and Death are rhythmically infectious, a great blend of groove and deep imagination. –Courtney Blair

Elliott Smith
An Introduction to Elliott Smith
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 11.02
Elliott Smith = Peerless
It will be seven years since Elliott Smith tragically passed away. With the release of this thinly disguised “greatest hits” collection, the casket has officially closed on Smith’s prolific body of work. It is difficult to see why this “introduction” is necessary for those who have picked every one of Smith’s lines bone-dry, but for those unfamiliar with Elliott Smith’s work, this is a place to start. An Introduction culls some of the best tracks from all seven albums into one document. If you are looking for newly discovered rarities, you won’t find them here, just song after song of exquisite sadness that have been driving the depressed to drink since 1994. P.S I hear Robert Pattinson is playing Smith in the new biopic. Just kidding. Or am I? –Ryan Hall

Flying Lotus
Pattern + Grid World EP
Warp
Street: 09.20
Flying Lotus= Electronic music notes shaken up in a jar and poured randomly on a page
Flying Lotus is something of a musical paradox for some listeners these days—myself included. His music seemed fresh and cutting edge, and still is considered so by psychophants of his particular stylings, but he’s beginning to sound like gobbledygook to me. Not every song has to reinvent the wheel; maybe somebody should tell this to Fly-Lo. A brief explanation of his music is required here for the uninitiated. Fly Lo music equals video game sounds from the 80s rapidly discharging and intersecting over varying, and oftentimes sonically disconnected, loops of rhythm intersected by other random loops of noise. I did enjoy his live show at Coachella 2010, but a laptop may not be the answer to the current problem plaguing disinterest in good ol’ fashioned rock n’ roll. Thankfully, and here is the silver lining in the flying cloud—tracks like “Kill Your Co-Workers” really stand out from Fly Lo’s standard chaos and apply a more succinct approach to this admittedly very creative producer’s arsenal of electronic tricks. –JP


Franz Nicolay
Luck and Courage
Team Science
Street: 10.12
Franz Nicolay = a gypsy troubador + a midget + a men’s store manager
It’s not that Nicolay isn’t talented. A multi-instrumentalist who has woven himself through the fabric of such notable bands as The Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society and Against Me!, the guy can play, compose and arrange like no one’s business. His last EP, St. Sebastian of the Short Stage, had so many high points that it was hard to believe it was only four songs long. That is what makes the overall mediocrity of this disc so surprising. The music is well composed and perfectly performed. His core, four-piece band is paired beautifully with a string quartet that somehow manages to capture the sound of an over-produced Nashville orchestra without sounding over-produced. The problem isn’t in the record’s execution—it’s in the overall concept. With Luck and Courage, Nicolay attempts a sort of indie-rock opera, in 10 songs that recount the story of a tragedy-struck couple. The songs are heavy on lyrics, but light on listenability. They usually lack choruses and seem to take forever to start. The subject matter includes references to death and the Bible, which really just makes this a poor reimagination of The Hold Steady’s Separation Sunday. It’s not bad, but I wish it were better. And Nicolay’s ridiculously dramatic voice does little to help. –James Bennett

Glasser          
Rings
True Panther Sounds
Street: 09.28
Glasser = Enya + Acid
Glasser is Cameron Mesirow. Cameron Mesirow is Glasser. Described as a literal “one woman orchestra,” Mesirow began creating music with Garageband on her laptop, overdubbing her quite amazing voice to her heart’s content and backing it with loops and samples of her own choosing. That is what is initially cool and the most intriguing thing about her project. Possessing an amazing voice that sounds similar in tone to Sinéad O’Connor, lead track “Apply” showcases a tribal beat reminiscent of Björk’s “Earth Intruders,” but as though sung by Enya. Rings has been described as a song cycle/concept album wherein the group of the songs together is meant to be stronger than they are by themselves. That’s too bad for the listener then, as too many cutesy “noise” elements mar the potential for some of this material to be great, like the otherwise gorgeous “Tremel.” Some songs sound cut off too soon, and some of Mesirow’s vocalizing is annoying to the point of being cloying, plus there is a new age-y banality to the music that threatens to sink the whole thing. One exception is “Treasure of We,” which is playful and lithe, and Mesirow sounds like she’s having fun for the first time, which sadly seems to be missing from the rest of her album. –Dean O Hillis

Gold Panda
Lucky Shiner
Ghostly Inernational
Street: 10.12
Gold Panda = Baths + Prins Thomas + Apparat
After listening to the 2009 single “Quitters Raga” an embarrassing amount of times, the debut album by England-via-Japan’s Gold Panda is something of a revelation. Lucky Shiner irons out some of wrinkles of last years 7”s and EPs. Those releases often came across as either too post-rave beat-driven or too IDM glitchy without much middle ground. Lucky Shiner, however, seems to have perfected the formula. Gold Panda’s jet-setting sound palate samples freely from traditional oriental instruments and melodies while under the commanding presence of an expansive bottom end whose huge bass hits have been toned down since 2009 songs like “Police” or “Long Vacation.” Lucky Shiner is near perfect in its production—hard-panning bass hits make up the backbone while exotic samples and fuzzed-out drones are rhythmically folded in layer by layer. Easily one of the year’s best. –Ryan Hall


Heaven Shall Burn
Invictus
Century Media
Street: 06.08
Heaven Shall Burn = Lamb of God + Earth Crisis
Marcus Bischoff has a cooler snarl than Randy Blythe. There, I said it. In fact, Heaven Shall Burn is just a cooler version of Lamb of God. “Combat” is basically the culmination of what’s great about HSB––vocals like Satan’s outside-voice, gut-twisting momentum, and the coolest use of a gun cock/fire that I’ve heard on an album. “The Lie You Bleed For” has the heavy groove-metal that’s expected, but they include some oddly appropriate touches underneath the song––a piano, electronic textures, and restorative breaks in the song. The biggest issue with this album is that it’s like a Democrat-majority in the House/Senate––it’s cool when it first happens, but after awhile, we realize that it’s happened before, and that not much changed as a result. But, Invictus is still a solid album, despite a lack of South African rugby songs. –Andrew Roy


Hostage Calm
Self-Titled
Run for Cover
Street: 09.21
Hostage Calm = Dag Nasty + Madness + Crime in Stereo
Hostage Calm is hands down one of the most intelligent and interesting bands floating around in the punk and hardcore scenes right now. Their debut album, Lens, was solid all the way through and pointed to a musical itch that fell outside of the traditional realms of hardcore and punk. Their latest release shows how far outside that itch was. The Dag Nasty influence is still there, but a heavy dose of ‘80s British pop sensibility crept into their sound in the past few years. The result is an album more akin to indie rock than hardcore or punk, and is not dissimilar to the metamorphosis bands like Saves the Day and Crime in Stereo went through. Lyrically, Hostage Calm is top-notch, covering topics like Prop 8 and divorce in a poetic manner. Chris Martin’s vocal delivery is a laid-back singing approach that melds well with the music, which includes piano, handclaps and all other manner of auxiliary percussion. There is no sophomore slump for these guys—it will be exciting to see where they go from here. –Peter Fryer

How to Dress Well
Love Remains
Lefse Records
Street: 09.21
How to Dress Well = the xx + Bon Iver
Imagine if Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon retreated to his fabled Wisconsin cabin with a sampler and an iPod full of R. Kelly, and you’ve got an idea of what Love Remains sounds like. And it’s as awesome as that sounds. What’s astonishing is that Tom Krell manages to warp a genre known for sleek production to fit his homegrown approach. He establishes a memorable sound that is entirely his own (no easy feat in this day and age) and also crafts songs that get stuck in a place deeper than your head. Part of his M.O. is to flout pop music conventions, such as mastering songs so hot they resonate with digital distortion (fingernails on a chalkboard to a professional producer). This doesn’t always pan out so well in practice—though great in theory, Krell hasn’t quite perfected letting all of the songs meander and making them entirely satisfying. As a debut, it’s probably the most significant of the year and most likely a prelude to more brilliant things. –Nate Housley


Jacobi Wichita
Lambsie.Divey
Eyeball
Street: 02.16
Jacobi Wichita = Bob Marley + Glassjaw
Lambsie.Divey, the second release from Jacobi Wichita, is six songs of pure awesomeness. I am not sure why this band is still relatively unknown nationally. These guys are what Incubus would sound like if they hadn’t decided to become lame. The band’s creativity when it comes to song structures is unmatched; each track on here flows seamlessly from one part to the next, all the while rarely falling into the traditional verse-chorus-verse pattern. The band has embraced a bit more of a groove-based sound that is displayed in tracks “Sandman” and “1:40.” While each song on the album is amazing, nothing beats track five, “C House.” If you listen to the end of the that song and it doesn’t stir some emotion out of you, then you probably should go to the mortuary and ask them to fit you for a casket, cause you’re dead. –Jon Robertson


Junip
Fields
Mute
Street: 09.14
Junip = José González - Nick Drake + Iron & Wine
Junip has been around since the late 90s, but due to other priorities, they have postponed the making of an album until now. Fields is well worth the wait. Fronted by solo artist José González and with help from two other members, Tobias Winterkorn on keyboard and Elias Araya on the drums, Junip has definite González songs, but in its entirety is perfect background music for just about anything going on when there are people around. Fields starts out strong with the bongo-laden “In Every Direction,” an intriguing introduction to the culturally diverse album, but the excitement wavers in the next few songs. González resorts to the usual repetitive blahs in “Rope & Summit,” but the music is magical enough to forget that you’ve heard the same line a few too many times in a row. The muted guitar and smooth vocals of “Howl” don’t exactly make me want to do so, but it is one of the strongest songs on the album. It’s obvious González is in form and I like the direction they’re going in, but the repetition does get a little trying at times. I expected more from Fields, but am not disappointed in the end result, either. –Kyla G.

Jupe Jupe
Invaders
Self-released
Street: 10.05
Jupe Jupe= Joy Division + Ready Fire Aim
Somewhere out there, and probably not in America, Someone has never heard the over-earnest sound of a warbling young man voice over a synthetic wall of sound. Have no fear, random Someone, Jupe Jupe do an adequate job of reproducing the best of 80s music from bands like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and Joy Division, all in one album. Fuck the eyeliner and concert tickets, you can now enjoy this shit in your home. Most of this album is boilerplate 80s emo synth, but the last few tracks, like “Orbiter” and “Outvaders,” crash the party with elements as shocking as real guitar and even sadder lyrics. Get ready, Someone, your sad synth music Delorean is here to pick you up and take you back to the 80s. –JP


Kylesa
Spiral Shadow
Season of Mist
Street: 10.26
Kylesa = Akimbo + Red Fang
How Kylesa continues to release fresh, interesting, dynamic metal baffles me. “Cheating Synergy” has the classic, propelling guitar work that Kylesa has come to be known for, along with electronic/guitar triplet patterns that 90 percent of metal bands couldn’t pull off. The album is also an exploration into the art of interludes. “Crowded Road” takes a detour for a couple minutes to develop a Middle Eastern immediacy, before heading back to the main road to finish the song in the same pulsing vein in which it began. Kylesa has always been a pretty rhythmic band, and Spiral Shadow only reinforces their decision to play with two drummers. Stereo drumming is always going to sound good and I’m glad it’s not catching on, since this is just one more way that Kylesa stands out from a handful of bands in an over-saturated genre––a genre filled with bands that will continue living in Kylesa’s spiral shadow. –Andrew Roy

Legendary Pink Dots
Seconds Late for the Brighton Line
ROIR
Street: 10.05
Legendary Pink Dots = Psychic TV + Pink Floyd + Swans
The long and storied career of Edward Ka-Spel and his Legendary Pink Dots continues—unblemished—with Seconds Late for the Brighton Line. As always, the Pink Dots are quintessential acid trip music—multi-instrumental and masterfully crafted, with some of the most wonderfully bizarre lyrics and musical arrangements ever put to tape. Equal parts depressing and uplifting, this release must be thoroughly dissected to be enjoyed properly. It would be easy to simply put this record on as “background music” and dismiss it as nothing more, but if it’s given the appropriate listening atmosphere (and listened to through headphones, especially), it becomes an entirely different experience. Hit the CoinStar and pick this release up. –Gavin Hoffman


Mariage Blanc
Self-Titled
Self-released
Street Date: 11.16
Mariage Blanc = Elliott Smith – depression + Passion Pit - dance party
The first full length from Pittsburgh’s Marriage Blanc boasts the freshest sound with a retro feel. Sounding eerily similar to The Zombies from the early 60s, the album would fit right in amongst oldie pop legends without a problem. Definitely pop, but a little spooky, with use of a Wurlitzer electric piano, an organ, and an occasional trumpet, the boys of Marriage Blanc have a completely unique sound, mixing old and new, while still appealing to a younger crowd. “Whatever You Say I Am,” the first track, to my dismay, is not a pop cover of Eminem’s radio hit, but probably the best song on the album, nonetheless. The songs are a little hit or miss throughout the album, sounding too trying at times, or too easy, but the overall sound flows together nicely, and the lyrics are thoughtful, with hooky, effortless harmonies. Sounding straight out of a 1960s high school sitcom, “Trances” carries the album well, with heavy bass and the unmistakable hollow-sounding Wurlitzer, ending the album on a great note with “Origami,” a cheery song sure to put you in a good mood if the other songs had somehow failed to do so. –Kyla G.

Marnie Stern
Self-Titled
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 10.05
Marnie Stern = Fang Island + Eddie Van Halen + Liz Phair
Marnie Stern’s third full-length sets out for ground far below her jaw-dropping guitar technicality and overall exuberance and strikes the actual core of Marnie Stern herself. Beyond her ability to package and condense the most thrilling moments of a Van Halen-esque guitar solo into a three-minute pop song, Stern finally feels like she is comfortable with her role as both a songwriter and a guitarist. Marnie Stern is full of her riskiest and emotionally vulnerable tracks to date, matched with some of her most insanely triumphant guitar work. Along with inhumanly talented drummer Zach Hill (Hella, The Ladies) and Women bassist Matthew Flegel, Stern’s finger-tapped ballads and burners have the backbone to sustain Stern’s most personal examinations of her personal life. If you are worried Stern has gone all soft, album opener “For Ash” will cause involuntary head banging from listens one to one million. –Ryan Hall

Masonic
Live Like a Millionaire
Self-released
Street: 11.09
Masonic = early Stereolab + The Shirelles
Austin, Texas, band Masonic’s influences are plain and fashionable—90s noise pop and 60s girl pop—but they lack all of the adventurousness and wit of their idols. They cop the droning jangle of Stereolab’s early period, but lack their sense of melody and quietly subversive lyrics. Where Laetitia Sadier sounds too cool to care, Masonic vocalist Erin Gettys simply sounds apathetic. Phil Spector’s girl-group pop shows up as a clear influence on the songwriting (to the point where songs like “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” are plainly derivative), but the production lacks Spector’s brilliance. They mimic a bit of Yo La Tengo’s fuzz, but not enough to scare away a potential NPR audience. Throw in a couple of perfunctory piano ballads, and you have a thoroughly mediocre album that squanders the brilliance of its influences. –Nate Housley

The Moaners
Nocturnal
Holidays For Quince/Yep Roc
Street Date: 09.21
The Moaners = The Be Good Tanyas + Beat Happening + Mumford & Sons
Nocturnal took a few listenings-to before I could fully appreciate it, but after a few plays, I was sold. Two girls singing about whiskey and bank heists accompanied by the most sad and dark voices, the ease and grace of their strange harmonies, and their use of different instruments are all plus points in my book! The band is made up of Laura King, who also drums for Grand National, and Melissa Swingle, of the now ex-Trailer Bride, and have perfected their bluesy, garage-rock aesthetic. They have a few albums out that are more garage-y, almost kind of punk, but Nocturnal takes the cake with more of an adult sound than before, with Earl Poole Ball, former Johnny Cash band member, on piano. They are finally less White Stripes (they were probably getting tired of the constant comparison), more Beat Happening. At first I was distracted by Swingle sounding too boyish in some songs, but it gets better the more times I listen. It has a certain weariness to it, but is backed up sweetly by King’s almost sing-song voice while still definitely holding its own. The whole album is pretty diverse, too. “Blue Moon (Cold Hard Stone)” features a fucking saw, while “Barbarian in China” introduces an understated slide guitar. It’s a really beautiful album. They’re coming in November with Team Love’s David Dondero and I’ll make sure to be there. –Kyla G.

Morrow
Morrow
Excursions into the Abyss
Street: 07.13
Morrow = The Poles + Unwound
Imagine if Jeff Tweedy had a black cloud hanging over his head constantly and when he went to write songs with Wilco, he released all this distorted, depressed, angry aggression out and Wilco was all dark and moody. Well if this happens to Mr. Tweedy, and Wilco ever makes music like that, they will be ripping off Morrow, because Morrows’ already got the market cornered on the dark depressed folk rock. Even though listening to Morrow’s first full-length might put you on suicide watch, it is totally worth it. Every song is a bummed-out hit. The compositions are tight, precise, and well structured throughout, with each instrument’s gritty tone coming through. The standout track on the album is definitely “By the Light of the Moon.” I think this band is destined for big things, but only if all their fans don’t kill themselves first. –Jon Robertson


Necrite
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
The Flenser
Street: 11.02
Necrite = Blut Aus Nord + Leviathan + Sunn O))) + Weakling
I don’t care how masochistic you are, Necrite’s debut full-length is about as painfully harsh as music comes. Ponies, puppies, sunshine, rainbows, unicorns, love, happiness—if all those were one entity, Sic Transit Gloria Mundi just busted out a blunt, rusty, blood-stained pick axe and laid havoc to it. The initial blow by way of “A Mass for the Harvest of Death,” is the pick axe scraping the skin off everything that is joy and happiness, raw and bloodied. While wallowing in its initial agony, “Bereft of Hope,” just provides a potent but not death-inducing acid bath for the raw wounds of glee and washes away any hope that said wounds were going to come out unscathed or unscarred. The continuing audio onslaught, including the almost 30-minute-long title track, make the imagery of the worst torture/horror films seem like gumdrops. Necrite combine the bleakest of drone and ambient tones with a maddening sensory assault of dissonant guitars, grizzled, fast, almost narcotic-fueled speed to violently oppose the downtempo movements of this piece of disenchanting vibrations. Add venomously blood-curdling shrieks and growls that are far from anything resembling human. Masochistic as it may be, we learn from and gain strength from pain—this is an album that will be talked about long after its release. –Bryer Wharton

Night Birds
Self-titled 7”
Grave Mistake/Dirtnap
Street: 04.13
Night Birds = Agent Orange + Screeching Weasel + Descendents
Surf-punk’s not dead ... maybe because it was never really alive (apart from Agent Orange), but Night Birds are proving that it probably should be. Featuring former members of The Ergs! and Hunchback (if you’re not buying this 7” after reading that, there’s something wrong with you), this five-song outing features thrashy tremolo guitar work combined with snotty, funny pop punk. Opener “Prognosis: Negative” tells the tale of an ill-fated, itchy infection that’s pure punk-rock gold. It’s like The Adolescents’ “Amoeba,” but dumber in all of the right ways. “Thrilling Murder”—kind of an unholy wedding of Screeching Weasel’s “Supermarket Fantasy” and Teenage Bottlerocket’s “Bloodbath at Burger King”—is the other standout track, even if it isn’t very surfy. Instrumental closer “Harbor Rats” brings it all back home with its poppy, thrashy surf sounds. I think I might have a new favorite band. –Ricky Vigil


Night Birds
Midnight Movies 7”
No Way
Street: 10.29
Night Birds = Agent Orange + Screeching Weasel + Descendents
Largely leaving their brand of thrashy, poppy surf punk at the beach, this 7” transports Night Birds to yet another venue suitable for the creation of snotty and humorous punk rock: a dark and dirty movie theatre. The title track does channel Agent Orange a bit, but if you’re seriously thinking about Night Birds’ motivations/influences/message, you’re missing the enitre point of this band. Throughout these four songs, Night Birds express their desires to be trapped inside monster-infested movie worlds and witness unimaginable gore on the big screen. Their dreams seem to come true on the final two tracks, “Bad Biology” and “Triple Feature,” full of the dark (but still undeniably fun) antisocial imagery that can only exist inside of the cheesiest of cheesy B-movies. Even though Midnight Movies lacks the surfy novelty of previous Night Birds releases, it’s still highly entertaining. –Ricky Vigil


Nocturnal Blood
Devastated Graves - The Morbid Celebration
Hells Headbangers
Street: 10.26
Nocturnal Blood = Profanatica + Archgoat + Beherit + Black Witchery
Nocturnal Blood’s debut full-length, Devastated Graves, isn’t about trying to reinvent anything, it’s just about the mind behind it all—Ghastly Apparition—doing exactly what he wants to do. This is either something you’ll quite enjoy or want or shrug off as a black metal imitator. I don’t consider myself a metal elitist with black metal or any other genre—I like what I like—and Devastated Graves stirs up an emotional response for me by way of its harsh, violent and hate-vomiting glorious devastation. The first half of the album seems to fly by in way of the sheer speed of it all; it’s not until the excellent “Chaos Blood” and “Ritual Lust” that things slow down a bit. To put it all in the simplest terms, if you enjoy what Hells Headbangers has been releasing lately (the death-tinged black metal stuff), this will be to your liking: raw, simple, yet bluntly effective black metal. Its production lends itself to an unseen, raw extremity bubbling up from the abyss that spawns grim black metal. –Bryer Wharton

Orgone
Killion Vaults
Ubiquity Records
Street: 09.14
Orgone = The Meters + David Axelrod + Greyboy Allstars
Fun, ’kay? Funkeeeeeeeeeee? Yep, funky—with a capital “FU.” Orgone are well established as a funk and afrobeat band, and this all-instrumental release really showcases how much these guys have spent listening to the classics. David Axelrod wishes he was this funky, while the Meters wish they were this cinematic. That’s the only real word for Killion Vaults: cinematic. I tried to avoid that comparison, because it had been done before, but every time I listen to this record, I can’t help but imagine the intriguing scenes of shady characters meeting in back alleys, the knowing glances between streetwise lovers and the walks—oh, the walks. I’ve always thought that a good funk record needs to be good for either shaking booty or strutting down some sidewalk like you and your polished, patent-leather, gold-trimmed shoes own the place. The record is dynamite for both. Tight, vintage-sounding percussion drives behind superstitious organ and ominous guitar. The snap of a jangly wah pedal is there, twitching your head to the side, and is gone just as quickly. The melodies are never boring or overly-repetitive, just soulful and rich with drama. Like the Roots meet Curtis Mayfield. Classic, I’m telling you. –Rio Connelly

Owen Pallett
A Swedish Love Story EP
Domino
Street: 09.28
Owen Pallett = Final Fantasy + Parenthetical Girls + Andrew Bird
This first release since Pallett’s newest album got everyone all excited earlier this year. A Swedish Love Story is much more He Poos Clouds and much less Heartland. Pallett doesn’t rely too heavily on his Korg, going back to his violin and loop pedal instead to create lush orchestrations. Only the opening and closing tracks (“A Man With No Ankles” and “Don’t Stop,” respectively) have the upbeat synth and drumlines that Heartland got us accustomed to. The middle portion of the EP is catchy, well written, and heavily orchestrated, like the old Final Fantasy records I know and love. Like most of his early records, A Swedish Love Story plays through like a dramatic Victorian production. As always, Owen is a one-man string quartet. “Honour the Dead, or Else” is definitely the slowest point on the four-track EP, but other than that, this release is fairly exuberant and fun.­ –Cody Hudson


Salem
King Night
IAMSOUND
Street: 09.28
Salem = Hideous Men + Pictureplane + Telepathik Friend
For those of you not immersed in the careerist-music blogging Salem, and the genre tags connected to it (witch-house, goth-step), let’s play catch-up. The Traverse City electronic trio write exclusively bleak tomes to the night. Salem’s sound palate is informed by equal parts late 2000s goth, 90s shoegaze and the massive bottom end, squiggly synth lines, and microbreaks of hyphy and crunk. While poised to break in 2008, Salem took their time, watched the genre they supposedly started run laps around them, and then dropped an absolutely epic album that is as exhilarating as it is totally black. Like, evil … but totally gorgeous. Rapped ruminations on stalking and murder are chopped and screwed down to an unbelievably slow, 16-bar Lortab trudge through druggy atmospherics matching the sometimes-comatose BPM count that is the trademark of “witch house.” King Night is completely paranoid, malicious but incredibly beautiful. –Ryan Hall
 

Seven Saturdays
The Snowflakes that Hit Us Became Our Stars
Seven Saturdays
Street: 08.31
Seven Saturdays = Album Leaf + Sigur Rós + Air
The wonderful thing about playing this sort of qualifier-laden post-rock/classical music that composer Jonathan D. Haskell performs is that you can be as derivative as you want and still retain a massive amount of emotional heft to completely floor a listener. As easy it is to tack a line between Haskell’s influences (The Album Leaf, Balmorhea, Air) and the emotional response he is aiming for, his impressive command over cinematic timing never comes off as forced or labored. Heaven-bound bowed strings, classically informed piano lines, bellowing organs, a competent rhythm section, layered guitar drones and radio static create a completely arresting listen equally suitable for intense headphone sessions and nighttime drives. –Ryan Hall


Sisters
Ghosts Fits
Narnack
Street: 09.28
Sisters = Sonic Youth + Pavement + No Age
Aaron Pfannebecker and Matt Conboy make up this Brooklyn drums-and-guitar duo, Sisters. As soon as you listen to their debut album, Ghosts Fits, it’s clear the duo picked their name up from Sonic Youth’s fourth album. “The Curse” kicks off with skuzzy guitar and youthful drum patter. Ahh shit … I love a sharp-dressed band who wears their influences well. The forceful, up-tempo Pavement-esque “Glue” is the catchiest offering, propelled by a head-bobbing hook and dense cacophony. The distortion crashes in on “Synesthesia” and the duo briefly shows a quiet side with the stripped-down “Highway Scratch.” “Here It Comes” hits and I am blown away by the dizzying technical proficiency, so much noise coming from just two people. Ghosts Fits is a debut full of honest-to-goodness blistering guitar pop-rock, proving the ‘90s continue to live on. –Courtney Blair

Small Black
New Chain
Jagjaguwar
Street: 10.26
Small Black = Washed Out + Dom + Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Small Black’s earlier work suggests a band who played under the pall of lo-fidelity out of necessity, and not because their songs weren’t structurally sound enough to exist outside of ample heaps of analog tape hiss. Much like that EP, every track on New Chain is punctuated with more than its fair share of incredible pop hooks. While the duo has been rounded out to a quartet and the band had a sizable budget to record this, Small Black still work with submerged tones, choosing to bury their synth-pad electronic beats and lock-step bass work beneath a sea of vocal loops and a newly minted, shimmering mid-tone range. Ryan Heyner’s voice often steals the show. While oozing that disaffected coolness so associated with lo-fi pop bands of the past few years, Heyner sounds completely invested into his songs. His unnoticed vocal lilts turn catchy choruses into totally unforgettable moments. (Kilby: 11.12) –Ryan Hall

Solar Bear
Captains of Industry
Self-released
Street: June.2010
Solar Bear = Mr. Bungle + Botch
Yet another band with bear in their name, but that shouldn’t be held against them. Solar Bear hail from Denver, Colorado, and like many of the bands from that area, they practice in the philosophy of making progressive, noisy, chaotic post-hardcore. It must be the greatest thing to get shitfaced in the Mile High City and rock it up all crazy-style. I have a secret theory about the post-hardcore scene in Denver. I think about 23 or so years ago, The Jesus Lizard played a show in Denver, then had a humongous orgy with all the moms of each of the band members from Fear Before, Planes Mistaken for Stars/Git Some, and Solar Bear. During this orgy, I am almost positive that The Jesus Lizard was successful in impregnating each one of these women. These women then had sons who never knew who their fathers were. Once these young men learned of their heritage, they all vowed to create music their dads would be proud of. Well, Solar Bear, I’m sure your fathers are proud. –Jon Robertson


Stimulators
Loud Fast Rules!
ROIR
Street: 10.05
Stimulators = Richard Hell + Cro-Mags + B-52s
One historical footnote to the early 1980s NYC punk scene was Reach Out International Records. Abbreviated ROIR (and pronounced “roar”), the label released music exclusively on cassette tape. Recently, much of the legendary back catalog has been reissued on compact disc, with this Stimulators record being the latest in the ROIR rereleases. Originally released in 1982, the 14-song CD/LP has a raw, analog punk feel to it. The songs were recorded live at a show in Raleigh, NC, in front of an enthusiastic southern crowd. This is the only full-length recording of the Stimulators—a four-piece art-punk band that featured Denise Mercedes on guitar and an 11-year-old Harley Flanagan on drums. By the time these songs were recorded, Flanagan was closer to 15 and the band had fallen into a seriously energetic groove. The songs are so trenchant, catchy and cool that it’s easy to forgive the occasional misplayed note or the inclusion of a KISS cover. It isn’t that memorable, and it’s not even remotely sophisticated, but sometimes that’s exactly what you need. –James Bennett

Swans
My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
Young God
Street: 09.21
Swans = Nick Cave + Angels of Light + Jesus Lizard
Michael Gira returns with a newly imagined reincarnation of his seminal misanthropic noise rock act. I am avoiding using the word reunion, or reforming, because this new Swans is none of that. This new Swans is made up of Gira veterans and members from the Young God crowd, including Devendra Banhart and Shearwater’s Thor Harris. MFWGMUARTTS doesn’t feel like a lame attempt to recapture old glory, because what does Gira have to come back from? Angels of Light’s releases were solid and this newly minted Swans project strikes off on legs of its own, incorporating the apocalyptic folk musings and the terrifying sense of dread from earlier Swans releases. Gira laces his unholy din with moments of aching beauty, which are seven times more insidious because they no longer hold the listener at arm’s length with their abrasiveness, but settle in and burrow straight into your subconscious with their accessibility. –Ryan Hall

Three Mile Pilot
The Inevitable Past is the Future Forgotten
Temporary Residence
Street: 09.28
Three Mile Pilot = Pinback + The Black Heart Procession
After splitting up and becoming fairly successful in the bands mentioned above, Three Mile Pilot have decided to reunite and give it another go at being super-influential and important. I respect these dudes for going back to their roots, and judging by the tunes on their first album in 13 years, the return was a good decision. It’s hard not to compare 3MP’s music to their other projects, so I won’t even try. The music is basically a perfect concoction of Pinback and The Black Heart Procession, but somehow more heartfelt and with fancy keyboards over the top of everything. Plus, there is no denying Armistead Burwell Smith IV’s magical backing vocals. Three Mile Pilot is like a super group that wasn’t a super group yet somehow now is. Confusing. –Jon Robertson


Thrall
Away From the Haunts of Men
Moribund
Street: 11.09
Thrall = Sargeist + Darkthrone + Twilight + Deathspell Omega
This debut offering, Away From the Haunts of Men, is the brainchild of maniacally inventive Australian Tom Void. The album offers multiple glimpses into cold, true black metal, combined with a massive musical listening experience delving into doom, psychedelic and creepy atmospheric moments. The record feels split into two parts; the straight, old-school black metal worship glories and tough-n’-grit abilities of the elite cold black metal scene starts off the album, then, about midway through, the instrumental, atmospheric and appropriately titled track, “To Velvet Blackness,” sends the record into a spiraling, doomed, creeped-out realm with an echoing, ghostly, void-like persona, although there are some raw moments still retained in the latter part of the album. The potently violent beginning transcends the album from a furiously violent, hateful, black tar-spewing quarrel into a maddeningly prolific, stark and somber experience. Take coming from a sugar/caffeine-hyperactive momentum, then crashing into a manic-depressed otherworldly realm, and you have Away From the Haunts of Men. –Bryer Wharton

Tracey Thorn          
Love & Its Opposite
Merge Records
Street: 05.18
Tracey Thorn = Everything but the Girl on the DL
Her amazing voice was just sneaking into my consciousness, when alongside husband Ben Watt and their duo, Everything but the Girl, discovered the secret of making grand-scale dance music. This little gem is simply one of the year’s best—if not mostly ignored—releases. Maybe that’s how Thorn wants it to be, as this is only her third solo release in her nearly 30 years of making music. After all, the subject matters at hand, self-described as “real life after 40,” including dissolving marriages, fear of wedding dresses, changing hormones and singles bars, hardly seem the stuff of current popular music, but what a subtly mesmerizing songwriter Thorn shows herself to be. Working again with co-producer Ewan Pearson, the album features eight Thorn-penned tracks and two covers, including a great duet with Jens Lekman on Lee Hazlewood’s “Come On Home To Me.” Album opener and first single, “Oh, the Divorces!” should be required listening at all pro-Prop 8 rallies and marriage ceremonies, for that matter. The album’s catchiest track, “Why Does The Wind?,” is also one of its best, with Thorn lamenting a relationship that seems to be felt more by one participant than the other. The string arrangement here—over a hypnotic loop—is stunning, as is her vocal performance, especially on the refrains. The absolutely gorgeous “Swimming” features a divine vocal contribution from Cortney Tidwell and is near perfection as the album’s official closing tune. –Dean O Hillis


Various Artists
Keb Darge and Little Edith’s Legendary Rockin’ R&B
BBE
Street: 09.28
Legendary Rockin’ R&B = Elvis + The Big Bopper
Legendary Rockin’ R&B is the first in a promising new series exposing forgotten R&B gems of the ‘50s and ‘60s, compiled by Scottish DJ Keb Darge, who is known for specializing in Northern soul and his BBE deep funk collections. Darge takes us on a journey back to the glory days of old-time radio with a batch of swinging roots rock tunes. Harold Jackson kicks everything off with the Civil Rights-themed, twisting Latin groove “The Freedom Riders.” You will be singing along in no time to Little Ike’s “She Can Rock,” showing hints of Little Richard’s “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Bill Johnson’s high-energy vocals on the piano and sax-driven track, “You Better Dig It,” will get you rockin’ and shakin’ on the dance floor. The most unique track is “Zimba Lulu” by The Rays, sporting a Tarzan yelp throughout the haunted lyrics. Every track on Legendary Rockin’ R&B is a true highlight. –Courtney Blair


Various Artists
Strange Games & Funky Things Volume 5
BBE
Street: 09.28
Strange Games & Funky Things = S.O.S. Band + Maze + Mushroom Jazz
Like the previous volumes, Strange Games Volume 5 is a two-disc collection focusing on more rare deep 70s soul, disco and groove breaks. On disc one, you will find the rare tracks in their original form and disc two is a bonus, containing same-song listing mixed by DJ Spinna. Vol. 5 features a few recognizable artists, like War and Sugar Hill Records founder Sylvia. To me, these tracks are just OK when they are being stacked next to the Ghana highlife icon C.K. Mann’s “Asafo Besuon” or the string-heavy, sexy, slow jam “Body Fusion” by Starvue. Another enjoyable moment is found on Detroit’s Eddy Senay’s laidback and trippy groove “Cameo.” Most of these tracks are just too damn disco-y for me and I find DJ Spinna’s contributions on the bonus disc distracting with his wicky-scratch-here and wacky-scratch-there technique. Each track should flow continuously into one another, but Spinna manages to cut tracks short, making the segues extremely awkward. –Courtney Blair

Witchsorrow
Witchsorrow
Metal Blade
Street: 10.26
Witchsorrow = Electric Wizard + Sleep + Cathedral
Witchsorrow’s self-titled debut delivers a concrete-fisted doom metal offering in a sludge-fest of ultra-down-tuned guitar, bass and a drum bashing that makes me feel bad for the drum heads the album was recorded with. It’s a potent, cautiously and impedingly slow, gargantuan, sustained, riff-blasting machine too stark-smelling, small, yet equally as visceral speed attacks. If you have an appropriately ample bass delivery system on whatever stereo you blast your music to, this monolithic beast has the apt ability to resemble an earthquake; unfortunately, it led me to turn the monster down while I re-secured items hanging from my walls. You won’t find much by way of guitar soloing or leads and that’s the fully intended purpose of the record, to pummel, not serenade, and if you’re not careful, you should really brandish some Kevlar, tin-foil rap or a sturdy helmet, because the full-on epic track “Thou Art Cursed” could literally gobble anyone’s frame from petite to extra large. This UK-based trio’s self-titled debut is more than promising; fans of sludged-out doom, apply to Witchsorrow. –Bryer Wharton


Wolf People
Steeple
Jagjaguwar
Street: 10.12
Wolf People = Dinosaur Jr. + Neil Young
I think that some big wig at a record label should be put to task on gathering up all the people in bands that have either bear, wolf, horse or shark in their band name. Once they’re all gathered up, they should all be shoved in a room with as many instruments as possible and I guarantee that after two weeks of jamming their bear-wolf-horse-shark souls out, they will have created the most glorious music of all time. One of the bands that should be included in this cacophony of glory is Wolf People. This foursome has created nine solid jams of great psychedelic-tinged, fuzzy stoner rock on Steeple. These dudes are like the new version of The Byrds circa Fifth Dimension, but better. Check them out before they get sucked into the bear-wolf-horse-shark super group. –Jon Robertson


Wooden Wand
Death Seat
Young God
Street: 10.26
Wooden Wand = Bill Callahan + Kurt Vile + Townes Van Zandt
James Jackson Toth has released something like six million different records, ranging from respected indie imprints (Ecstatic Peace, Kill Rock Stars) to self-produced CD-Rs to a short stint with a major label. His auspicious debut on Young God finds the troubadour sitting comfortably atop a mountain of truly accomplished recordings with Death Seat, and justifies the claim of Toth being one of the best songwriters working today. Toth combines the hyper-literate storytelling of John Darnielle with the easygoing but world-weary blues of Townes Van Zandt to create a collection of songs that have the power to stick in your head long after the record is done. Songs like the humbly simple “I Wanna Make a Difference” and the rollicking “Bobby” aren’t just nods to artists like Willie Nelson or Neil Young, they are worthy to be mentioned in the same canon as them. This isn’t nostalgia, this is classic gold. –Ryan Hall