22-20s
Got It If You Want It
Columbia
Street: 03.20
22-20s = Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + The Growlers
Blues so clean it doesn’t feel right. It sounds an awful lot like someone tried to clean The Growlers up to be radio ready and possibly open for the Black Keys at a hockey stadium. The music tends to jangle on, lacking any grittiness, and, while the vocalist is clearly talented, he is only interesting half the time. I am not sure how you can sound so clean when half of your album is clearly about cocaine, but these guys have done it. The album is peppered with interesting moments, but is mostly filler. When they move away from the ’90s Britpop sound (they are British), they are most engaging, and coincidentally, sound the most like The Growlers. I think the biggest problem with the album is the conflict between the two sounds—Britpop and blues. These guys need to pick a side. –Cody Hudson

2 Edit
Datsun Tropicalia
Party Like Us Records
Street: 06.12
2 Edit = (Boys Noize + Fake Blood) - SebastiAn
L.A.-based producer 2 Edit seems to be perpetuating the new trend in some circles of electro house that is toning down the full-frontal synth sound. Instead, the two original tracks on this single are sparse, focused more on the beats than melody. The synths are pretty much just used for percussion purposes, with the result being a more simple, back-to-the-roots electro-house sound. Sure, there are some synths that provide texture or body, but for the most part, these two tracks are just beats. Which is, in a way, refreshing, but also kind of boring. And don’t get me wrong: it is entirely possible to have a minimal sound and not be boring at all. Hundreds of artists make their living off music like that, but this is not music like that. They beg remixes, and luckily, this single comes with two different remixes of “Datsun Tropicalia.” The JWLS remix brings the sound back to standard electro house, with soaring buildups, and a very Tiesto-turned-electro sound. All in all, though, it’s not really an improvement, and it’s even more boring than the original track because it sounds just like 100 other songs. The Torro Torro remix has been praised across the web, but to me, it sounds like any other Skrillex wannabe, which in turn, makes this remix also sound like 100 other songs. All in all, forget the remixes, but check out the two original tracks for something not amazing, but a bit different from the standard pop-electro house sound. –Jessie Wood

Alice Cohen
Pink Keys
Olde English Spelling Bee/Crinoline Records
Street: 06.12
Alice Cohen = Grimes + The Vels
Alice Cohen: animator, singer, fine artist and ’80s pop idol, brings one of my favorite summer albums with a splash of ’80s synth-pop and 20-teens-era lyrics. Layer me up some tunes that would fit equally well on the Labyrinth soundtrack and the iPod of a disaffected Williamsburg broad on a single-speed, and you have a perfect summer jam LP. The solid bass lines and lilting lyrics on tracks like “Dead Leaves in Milk Glass” recall the Cocteau Twins, and it’s not bad at all. Though Alice Cohen has been around for a while (since the ’70s in fact) as a singer in The Vels and as a fine artist, I found this her most accessible work. I’ve worn a groove in my phone’s media player on track seven, “Mauve  Mood”— it’s nearly perfect, and blends all the best of Cohen’s oeuvre into one. –JP

Anywhere
Self-Titled
ATP Recordings
Street: 07.24
Anywhere = Minutemen + The Byrds + Shakti
To date, Cedric Bixler-Zavala has had more side projects than I’ve had birthdays, but Anywhere’s LP is more than a typical post-At the Drive-In ego vent for Bixler-Zavala. Instead, this album seems like an esoteric documentation of what would’ve become of Bixler-Zavala if he never made it past “Deloused in the Comatorium.” To be accurate, Anywhere is like The Mars Volta—except they’ve traded in their latter-day pretentiousness for humility. You can hear hints in songs like “Anywhere,” a modicum of Bixler-Zavala’s rampantly creative energy within Christian Eric Beaulieu’s progressive rock confines. Interestingly enough, this is all done with acoustic guitar and eastern reggae similarities. Being an incredibly peculiar act, I won’t be surprised if some critics are left digging into their genre tool kit for hours for categorization’s sake. However arguable, Bixler-Zavala would be wise to make Anywhere a full-time gig—even if it means cutting his hours elsewhere. –Gregory Gerulat

Bloody Knives
Blood
Saint Marie
Street: 05.15
Bloody Knives = Gliss +My Bloody Valentine
While leaning towards the shoegaze fundamentals of guitar effects and unidentifiable vocal melodies, Bloody Knives has mastered an ambient yet industrial sound. The snarling guitar riffs and racing drums are played at just a low enough volume for the synths and lead vocals to glide over the madness. This creates a rather blissful sound in an unordinary way. Frontman Preston Maddox’s airy voice is definitely the icing on the cake for the band’s sound. “Bleed Out,” the album’s closing track, can haunt you with its lyrics while simultaneously lifting you with its repeating synths and percussion, creating an awakening sound. “Blood” is another standout track on the album. With careful precision, Bloody Knives has brought some real rock muscle to the shoegaze genre. –Justin Gallegos

BPOS
Pos Tapes The Album
One League Entertainment
Street: 06.26
BPOS = Blackalicious + Dilated Peoples
The Bay Area’s BPOS hip hop collective is a refreshing slap in the face with their crime-fighting antics, fast-pitched verses and wild agility on every note. Can you keep up? Because I couldn’t. With bionic speed ripping up every track, you don’t get a second to breathe. Mangling your ears with their eloquent verbage on tracks like “I’m High,” they spit power on perspective and society: “I feel high from the info/I ain’t gotta lotta time/I know my life is just a window/I know I rather have a clue/It’s time to open the mind to find a panoramic view.” Vibrant and adrenaline-packed from superhero throw-downs to the apocalypse, the plot thickens with every track, graphically and linguistically plastering your brain with comic strips. On this tape there isn’t room for sidekicks—get on that super level. –Meera Masud

Brandi Carlile
Bear Creek
Columbia
Street: 06.05
Brandi Carlile = KT Tunstall + Josh Ritter
Don’t let the overwhelming country sound of the opening track “Hard Way Home” fool you into thinking that this is what the rest of the album sounds like, because it isn’t. Carlile weaves through different styles, ranging from alt-country to pop folk, but her strong voice allows her to pull it off seamlessly, albeit not altogether memorably. The second track on the record, “Raise Hell,” changes gears in a heartbeat, with a driving tempo mixed with a gritty blend of folk and country. Other standout tracks include the piano ballad “That Wasn’t Me” and the upbeat tune “100.” Clocking in at just over 50 minutes, there are some hits and misses among the 13 new songs that make up the album, and by the time you reach the final tune, “Just Kids,” it may feel like you just finished a daunting task, but it was pleasant nonetheless. –Jory Carroll

Broken Heroes
This Is Oi!
Skinflint Music
Street: 06.06
Broken Heroes = Combat 84 - overt right-wing politics + The Templars
With perhaps the most apt album name I’ve seen this year, Jersey’s Broken Heroes don’t try to evoke any artsy fluff in this album. Plainly and simply, this is straight-up Oi! with three chords and rock beats at a mid-tempo, with an occasional double-stop guitar lead. The eponymous opening track features vocalist Scotty Violence cataloguing what Oi! is and is not with an aggressive, froggy bellow. He continues with classic Oi! themes like drinking, the working class, anti-racism and what a real skinhead is. The songs don’t vary much from each other for the most part, but Broken Heroes’ passion definitely shines through with every track. The last half of the album, such as “Oi! Don’t Pay The Bills,” features some solid rock n’ roll guitar work, and “From You” exhibits Oi!’s penchant for gang choruses—“We’re not gonna take it from youuu!” It may not be virtuosic, but, damn it, it’s honest. –Alexander Ortega

The Cheats
Pussyfootin’
Screaming Crow
Street: 07.03
The Cheats = Ducky Boys + Electric Frankenstein + Roger Miret and the Disasters
There is something about punk rock that is full of rock n’ roll tropes like Chuck Berry guitar jacked to 11, and infectious rhythms that pull you right in. The Cheats have nailed their third album with working class rock n’ roll that’s steeped in late ’70s punk and tells the stories of these five malcontents from Pittsburgh. “Better than the Rest” is a catchy rocker tune that showcases Todd Porter’s (ex-Silver Tongued Devil) guttural vocals against a backdrop of catchy yet ripping guitar work. The sweat and the dirt just pours out of the speakers with this band, and the enjoyment they get out of playing together is stamped on each track. The Cheats aren’t going down in history as innovators, but what they lack in originality they more than make up for in truly fun, hard as hell rock n’ roll. –James Orme

Cinema Cinema
Manic Children & The Slow Aggression
The Lumiere Label
Street: 07.10
Cinema Cinema = Black Flag + Babes in Toyland + Hella
Manic Children & The Slow Aggression is a more than fitting title for an album traveling without pause between noise, delicately picked acoustic guitar and melodies bordering on pretty. “Pretty” is my adjective of choice, because referring to any element of Manic Children as “pop” would put me in fear of being slapped with a snare drum. On the subject of drums, Paul Claro’s playing is monstrous yet intricate, and my favorite aspect of Cinema Cinema’s sound. The duo’s musicianship is solid. Ev Gold’s lyrics can be rather unsettling, as can his scream, but you don’t turn to Cinema Cinema for comfort. If Lemmy started a knife fight with The Stooges and punched Kim Thayil in the face as a warm-up (don’t know why Kim’s there, but it’s happening), it might sound like Manic Children & The Slow Aggression. The sight would be just as disturbing, yet intriguing. –T.H.

Codeine
When I See The Sun
The Numero Group
Street: 6.19
Codeine = Bedhead + Seam + Red House Painters
Like many genre pioneering bands, Codeine helped forge what would become “slowcore” in the early '90s while grunge was at its height, and broke up before seeing much of the success others received afterward. Nearly two decades later the band reunited in early 2012, and to mark the occasion they set up select tour dates and released this 52 track box set. This contains their two full-length albums and one EP, all beautifully restored from the original masters, along with demos, live recordings and the almost required addition of the Peel sessions at the BBC from '92-'94. Along with essays from Sub Pop's Jonathan Poneman, Love Child and The Flaming Lips, this is about as comprehensive a release as you'll ever see from the band. If you're into slowcore at all, you need a copy of this album. – Gavin Sheehan

The Daredevil Christopher Wright
The Nature Of Things
File Under: Music
Street: 06.26
The Daredevil Christopher Wright = Sufjan Stevens + Fleet Foxes + Beirut/The Beach Boys
This trio has all the elements of a modern day baroque-pop band—classical voice training, refined string instruments such as the mandolin—yet they fearlessly remain unique in their delivery. It may be the sometimes dark content of their lyrics. Jesse Edgington, on vocals, is a natural storyteller with themes ranging from addiction to divorce, reminding us that the nature of things is ever-changing. With mostly eerie vocal harmonies, “Church” plays like something you might hear at a friendly gathering in Jack Skellington’s backyard during a Tim Burton film. The band is not afraid to expand their sound, either, which I like the most. The tempos change often, and for being a group of three, they effortlessly provide the sound of a bigger band. If you want something new, with eloquent beauty and all-natural instruments, then don’t regret missing this album. –Justin Gallegos

Deadly Remains
Severing Humanity
Deepsend
Street: 08.07
Deadly Remains = Decrepit Birth + Pestilence + Severed Savior
When the scene leaders start to falter or the band that had a couple bad-ass albums releases a turd, look to the underground—you’ll find a plethora of great bands. Deadly Remains is one of those great bands, delivering So Cal death metal: brutal but precise, and rooted strongly in the legends of death metal. I hear a ton of influences brimming all over this beast, and though it sounds a bit familiar, it also sounds equally new. The production on Severing Humanity is all death metal fans could ask for: every instrument audible, guitars heavy and groovy or fast and techie when needed with a nice, thick layer of bass noodling adding a bunch of extra special sauce to the mix. The drumming pounds and marches on like war drums. Also, you’ve got to love the absence of the general brutal death metal bree, squee, gree jock grunting, replaced by a nice growl similar to Pestilence at their height. –Bryer Wharton

The Dig
Midnight Flowers
Buffalo Jump Records
Street: 05.29
The Dig = Fences + Portugal. The Man
This sounds like what a lot of things sound like lately—indie rock that’s sort of lo-fi and sort of synthy. That being said, The Dig uses those elements to their advantage, especially woozy vocal harmonies, clean guitar and mild bass. The tracks are arranged in a satisfying, Coldplay-esque manner, with simple progressions and hooks. Having toured with The Antlers, The Dig most likely appeals to a young, hip crowd. For example, “I Already Forgot Everything You Said” is something you would hear at a party where everyone is drinking PBR and comparing Instagram photos. The Dig calls for a casual listen or two, but doesn’t seem to offer anything timeless or memorable that will make listeners want to revisit more than a few times.  –Kia McGinnis

Diplo
Express Yourself
Mad Decent
Street: 06.12
Diplo = Flosstradamus + Major Lazer + Dillon Francis
Diplo is perhaps the strangest producer in dance music. And by strange I mean completely original, and willing to take risks, break the rules and speak his mind. He is truly a gem in the increasingly slick and poppy world of EDM—specifically, electro house, the genre he falls into most often. Of course, all of this comes through in his music, so that by listening to it, you might start to feel a little weird too, and might want to spray paint your date gold while smoking salvia or something. To me, that is the joy of Diplo’s work. It’s like he’s calling out to an entire generation (or two), “We are all fucking weirdos, so just get freaky and go nuts.” Go Express Yourself, if you will. His productions are never the best of the year, or even the month, but goddamn it, they are fresh. They are unique. They are seriously weird, and there is value in that in a genre that has always embraced different, new sounds, but now is getting stagnant with popularity and money. So, go listen to this album. It’s weird as shit, and, honestly, whether you will like it or not is completely a personal decision. You may hate it. Or you may plant your hands on the ground and throw your legs in the air, because apparently, that is what Diplo wants you to do. –Jessie Wood

Dreamers
Self-titled
Germ
Street: 05.22
Dreamers = The Knife x Alec Empire (Atari Teenage Riot) + Florence & The Machine on coke
You know who likes this band? A lot of people. They’ve got great press and glowing reviews and a good website, distro and bio and a hot singer and good beats (maybe?) and and and …. maybe I’ve got shitty taste? But, maybe it’s just not my thing. It might be the kind of album that is so “advanced” that you have to spend time with it (I fell in love with The Knife after about a zillion multiple tries and a girlfriend who kept forcing it on me). I personally found this album overly aggressive and well, “masculine,” which is not a term I feel very comfortable with when describing music. I find it contradictory to their bio, as singer Megan Gold “didn’t want to sing in another dude band”; however, I feel like there was little change as to what they, as artists, are trying to do or convey, and the overall feeling is very, well, dude. There are some nice parts, but when the songs get raucous, it sounds messy and structure-less (although I am sure that is not the case), and while it’s “cool” to sound dated, it sounds, well … dated. But in a glass-half-full, desperate kind of way, they must have a lot of fun, right? And hey, since I don’t like a lot of “newsworthy” bands these days, they’re likely to headline Coachella next year, amirite? Huh? Pitchfork, anyone? –Mary Houdini

Dusted
Total Dust
Polyvinyl Record Co.
Street: 07.10
Dusted = Sonic Youth + Bob Drake + Olivia Tremor Control
Total Dust is an end-of-summer album released in the middle of the season (going by weather, not solstice date) with a Rorschach exploding head on the cover—good start, though the slightly busy cover image doesn’t necessarily match the music. I’m not going to complain. The music’s good. This is a very spare-sounding record, and is better for it. Brian Borcherdt and producer Leon Taheny recorded Total Dust in a small garage and a near-empty cabin. Despite the small spaces in which Total Dust was composed and produced, there is a deceptive sense of distance rather than intimacy to the songs, due to the use of reverb on the vocal tracks. Borcherdt and Taheny knew what they wanted to achieve and what was best for the songs. There aren’t any moments where I found myself wishing somebody had known better than to ask, “Do we have any room left for a tambourine?” –T.H.

Echo Lake
Wild Peace
Slumberland Records
Street: 06.12
Echo Lake = Lotus Plaza + Beach House
Easily one of my favorite albums for the summer, Wild Peace reminds me of the feeling you’d get while taking a nap on a blanket in the park. Dreamy vocals by Linda Jarvis keeps the songs soft and graceful, and it’s sad to hear that drummer Pete Hayes recently passed, as he keeps the beats on the album precise and wraps them together skillfully. The album ends with the slow jam, “Just Kids,” concluding on a tone that leaves you with a type of floating-in-space weightlessness. –Brinley Froelich

EDH
Yaviz
Lentonia Records
Street: 06.12
EDH = Blouse + Broadcast + Chicks on Speed + Ils (2006)
In my experience, there is a certain kind of creepiness that is terrifyingly and specifically French. The latest release from Emanuelle De Héricort (or EDH ) is notably dark, yet its beauty comes in the stark nature of it. It’s decisively analog, and her deep, monotonous voice fluctuates very precisely and rhythmically in clipped English over minor-chord synth sounds that are suspenseful, edgy and somewhat cold. It’s successfully intriguing, in a drug-induced kind of ugly way, but maybe a better example would be to watch her videos. She’s got two that I could find. The first song from Yaviz entitled “ICE” shows her and her bandmates being overtaken by ominous blurry figures in hooded sweatshirts and disfigured faces which reminded me of the terrifying French horror movie called Ils (translation: Them). A video for a song called “Ramble” shows EDH singing and playing bass against a white background, which seems simple enough, though as the song continues, she develops blisters and lesions. As the song “ICE” also suggests, cold can be terrifying and beautiful which makes this worth a listen with the lights on. –Mary Houdini

The Flaming Lips
The Flaming Lips & Heady Fwends
Warner Bros.
Street: 06.26
The Flaming Lips = Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci + Syd Barrett + Can
Originally available as a Record Store Day double-vinyl exclusive, The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends has now been released for all to experience. If the word “fwends” isn’t obvious enough, Lips frontman Wayne Coyne basically pulled out his little black book of who’s who in the music industry for this all-star collaborative album. His fwends include Neon Indian, Yoko Ono, Lightning Bolt, Jim James and more. The bratty pop princess Ke$ha steps outside the Top 40 box as she sings, “Put me under your acid spell/Cause I want my mind to be toast” over the thrashing squeal of the guitar on album opener “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded),” an ode to The Stooges’ “1969.” Justin Vernon of Bon Iver croons about a robot dog world on the David Bowie-esque “Ashes In The Air.” The low point is the unorganized mess of “You, Man? Human???” as Nick Cave does an impression of Mark E. Smith’s rambling vocals, which are then buried in a heavy sea of feedback. The key moment is the 10 minute slow-motion version of “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face,” featuring the always-brilliant Erykah Badu. –Courtney Blair

Future Twin
Future Twin Deluxe Edition
Self-Released
Street: 07.12
Future Twin = Karen O + Blondie
In the band’s own words, “giving a shit is the new not giving a shit.” Based on the idea that you can imagine the type of person you want to be and become what your ideal “future twin” might be, the sounds fit well with the attitude of letting go of apathy and having fun while creating a better reality to live in. Coming from San Francisco, Future Twin definitely fall under a garage-punk category, but don’t let that label limit their sounds: these riot girls have a little dose of ’80s pop and ska influences, reminiscent of No Doubt. “Landslide” easily gets my vote for best song on the album. –Brinley Froelich

Giant Giant Sand
Tucson
Fire
Street: 06.12
Giant Giant Sand = Justin Townes Earl + Nick Cave + Chris Isaak
The large scope of the record is off the charts. Giant Giant Sand march with a cavalcade of broad influences and genres. By the end of the grand six-and-a-half minute long “Forever and a Day,” they’ve used mariachi, tex mex and zydeco all over the bed of this long-lost country base. Tucson is like a Coen Brothers movie—the more times you watch it, the more you appreciate it. Band leader Howe Gelb has accurately dubbed the record a “country rock opera.” The jazz ballad “Not the End of the World” sinks sweetly into my ears and I know, just like every track on this record, the next one won’t be anything like this. I have to mention the loping rockabilly-esque “We Don’t Play Tonight,” which slowly rolls into a bouncy, infectious rhythm. I feel as though I’m doing this record a disservice by keeping this review short, but there’s so much here that to touch on everything would take up the rest of the magazine. If you’re into Americana music, this is for you on so many levels. –James Orme

Grass Widow
Internal Logic
Hannah Lillian Raven Records
Street: 05.29
Grass Widow = Eternal Summers + The 5.6.7.8’s
Reminding me of a band you might listen to in a malt shop during the ’50s with a pop-punk remix, Grass Widow performs with obvious influences from a surf-rock background. This is fitting, as the band hails from the sunny state of California, in the lovely San Francisco. Since there’s no one member who does lead vocals, the album includes catchy harmonies; however, the variety of the tunes tend towards monotony. I personally enjoyed the Spanish guitar in “A Light in the Static,” and the sci-fi opening in “Goldilocks Zone,” but wish they incorporated those experimental sounds more throughout the album. –Brinley Froelich

Grave
Endless Procession Of Souls
Century Media
Street: 08.28
Grave = Entombed (old) + Dismember + Unleashed
Nothing like getting to dive into a new record from Swedish death metal legends, Grave. Most of the band’s post-reunion albums have been solid and consistently dirty death metal blows. Endless Procession of Souls enjoys a bit of beefed-up production sound, mostly in the realm of clarity—the rawness that has always has been Grave’s trademark still stands strong. The record doesn’t strive for something new—there’s no reason to mess with a good formula. The guitars crush at every turn, whether it’s speedy grooves or doom-like dirges. “Disembodied Steps” is superbly heavy, with a riff that will have you coming back for helping after helping. I’m confident in saying that Endless Procession of Souls is Grave’s best post-reunion album. –Bryer Wharton

The Hangmen
East of Western
Acetate Records
Street: 05.08
The Hangmen = Deer Tick + Jeff Lynne
Roots rock groups these days are rarely able to achieve the Zen-like balance of anthemic and artistic, but The Hangmen handle it easily. East of Western holds enough strutting rock to be a bullet on dive bar jukeboxes, but enough pop sensibilities to grant it a lengthy foster life on most record collectors’ shelves. Lead singer Bryan Small, has a proto-punk inflection drenched in a country upbringing, perhaps like Iggy Pop scoring a Spaghetti Western film. On tracks like “Had a Girl,” the band smooths over their energetic edge down to the intonation of a wistfully laid-back, Tom Petty rarity. The sleazy punk energy of “She Cracked” whips out enough satiation for those who yearn for a good bar-stomp melody. The Hangmen are another contemporary example of going against the grain by neglecting flair and focusing on grit. Everybody wants to be The Beatles, but we honestly need more Rolling Stones. –Gregory Gerulat

Icebreaker feat. BJ Cole
Apollo
Cantaloupe
Street: 06.26
Icebreaker feat. BJ Cole = Brian Eno + Daniel Lanois + Murray Gold
Attempting to reproduce Brian Eno’s Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks was no doubt a daunting undertaking for Icebreaker and steel guitarist BJ Cole to even consider. Apollo is likely Eno’s best-known instrumental/ambient work, for good reason. A beautiful collection of compositions originally conceived as the score to For All Mankind—Al Reinert’s documentary about the Apollo space missions—Apollo has aged very well and influenced many musicians in the decades since its 1983 release. Admittedly, I was initially quite worried, but Icebreaker’s performance of Apollo is as close to perfect as I’d imagine possible. Cole’s performance is as invaluable on this recording as the use of steel guitar was on the original. The instrument’s presence brings a sense of comforting terrestrial familiarity to soundscapes conveying the vastness and loneliness of outer space. As is the case with Eno’s Apollo, this recreation of the album is best listened to in its entirety. –T.H.

James & Evander
Bummer Pop
Velvet Blue Music
Street: 05.15
James & Evander = Ming and Ping x Depeche Mode / M83
From the album cover, which I love, to the production, James & Evander’s success here comes simply. Bummer Pop is mid-tempo electro-pop with simple lyrical themes and beautiful tinges of sadness. The melancholic vibe on this album is just as appealing as any one of The Smiths’ albums. There are even beautiful traces of early Smashing Pumpkins on “I Don’t Mind.” Most of the tracks are sonically lush from the beginning, but the ones that do build slowly are well worth the wait once the sound climaxes. The album contains their most creative appeal when they place live or natural instruments throughout the songs. Such as the timeless yet dismal piano key arrangement on “Nostalgia” that lays the foundation for spacy synths and a drum machine in the most endearing way. Through a sound you might as well just call “bummer pop” James & Evander offer pure electronic bliss. –Justin Gallegos

JBM
Stray Ashes
Western Vinyl
Street: 05.22
JBM = Jose Gonzales + The National
This whole album sounds like the end of an episode of Scrubs or the turning point in a romantic comedy. Jesse Marchant sounds eerily like Jose Gonzales, which is one of the best-selling points of the album, I suppose. The songs are well crafted and dissonant—it makes a lot of sense that he has been opening for both A.A. Bondy and Sondre Lerche. The album is pretty, intimate and overall solid. Lush and atmospheric, while overused adjectives, are completely apt in describing this album, and is reminiscent of The National’s Boxer. The production on this album is impressive, and while it maintains a very similar soundscape from start to finish, it doesn’t bore. –Cody Hudson

Jinja Safari
Locked By Land
Cooperative Music
Street: 08.29.11
Jinja Safari = Maps and Atlases + Islands + Sufjan Stevens
There’s dream pop that invites you to daydream along all day with the music, such as Youth Lagoon, and then there’s dream pop that inspires you to get out and bring excitement to reality. Jinja Safari’s adventurous sound is definitely the latter. This four-track EP has traces of many current experimental pop standouts; even Animal Collective-esque noise rhythms are comparable to this. However, it’s the unique use of instruments—like sitars creatively played to sound more pop than usual, and flutes—that give Jinja Safari the sparkle they need to sound original. The bursts of extremely fast electric guitar riffs with soft, spoken-more-often-than-sung melodies atop draw me to this band the most. These guys are from Australia, and if you’re feeling the need to “get away,” maybe even somewhere closer to where they come from, then give this album a listen. –Justin Gallegos

Junk Culture
Wild Quiet
Illegal Art
Street: 07.31
Junk Culture = Fiery Furnaces + Starfucker
“Oregon,” the first track on Junk Culture’s (Deepak Mantena) Illegal Art debut is a friendly opener for an album that later delves into more Illegal Art sample-staple territory with track six—a street noise loop mixed with some wacky pianer. I could do without some of the weird overtones of “Ceremony,” which houses an insipid theme about family and what appears to be a dark incident from Mantena’s childhood involving a ceremony and abandoned children. I’d rather have some more of that electronica funk with Beach House-esque tonal maneuvers on your keyboard’s pitch knob, Mr. Culture. I like the first part of this disc best, and it could have been an amazing, tight EP and not a dragged-out nine-songer, though the last track, “Washington,” is solid. More tracks like the opener next go-round (if anyone is keeping track at Illegal Art). –JP

A Lull
Meat Mountain EP
Lujo Records
Street: 06.12
A Lull = Here We Go Magic + LCD Soundsystem
Ironic that their band name connotes a kind of soothing when Meat Mountain is an EP that would more likely make you want to dance. With sounds similar to TV on the Radio, this EP mixes dreamy experimentation with beats that take the front of the stage and grab your attention, sounding tribal and mystic. “Still Got Pull” is a song that you may find yourself humming to, with vocalist Nigel Evan Dennis woo-ing in ways that make you want to sway along with him. My only complaint is that the EP ends while I want it to keep going. –Brinley Froelich

Neneh Cherry & The Thing
The Cherry Thing
Smalltown Supersound
Street: 06.19
Neneh Cherry & the Thing = Gil Scott-Heron + Sun Ra
Swedish singer Neneh Cherry is known for her ’90s hip-hop career and her chart-topping album, Raw Like Sushi. On The Cherry Thing, Neneh collaborates with the Scandinavian jazz band The Thing (who borrowed their name from Neneh’s stepfather Don Cherry’s track on the 1966 album Where is Brooklyn?). The album features free jazz and angular funk cover songs originally by Suicide, MF Doom, Stooges, Ornette Coleman and others. Starting with the only original song “Cashback,” the group creates a wall of atmospheric tension and improvisational sprawl. Neneh’s twisting and turning velvet voice is backed by lazy horns and cacophonous drums on the brilliant eight minute version of Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream.” Another highlight is Neneh showcasing her dominance as she spits “Leaving pussy cats like wild hoes need Kotex” over the smooth bass line of MF Doom’s “Accordion.” Middle Eastern textures line the dark sensuality of Don Cherry’s “Golden Heart.” The Cherry Thing is inspired and a must-hear. –Courtney Blair

New Look   
Self-titled
!K7
Street: 06.19
New Look = Berlin + Missing Persons – The Motels
As with any music made by a “model” (here, the pretty Sarah Ruba), there is an unspoken notion about what it will sound like. Turns out—in the case of Canadian duo New Look anyway—fairly good, made better by the fact that Ruba’s partner in crime is her husband, Adam Pavao, and not some exploitive producer. The duo is immersed in 80s synths, creating everything themselves, but therein also resides the problem: they don’t know how to finish their ideas/songs. Atmospheric “Nap Of The Bow” and bouncy “Relax Your Mind” are pleasant, but lacking. “Teen Need” tries harder, but unfortunately, recalls Katy Perry. “Numbers” feels like the most fully realized track here—containing a breathy Goldfrapp-esque quality—but “You & I” is just downright cloying. While not a total disaster, the missing key is obviously a skilled producer who could help them hone and sharpen their apparent talent. –Dean O Hillis

Nihiti
For Ostland
Lo Bit Landscapes
Street: 05.27
Nihiti = Lustmord + Ben Frost + Jesu
There is ambient-drone music that is cerebral. It takes a certain kind of critical detachment from pop music to appreciate sound for the sake of sound. There is another kind of ambience that punches you straight in the gut with a primal force that takes your breath away. Nihiti is that kind of ambient music. For Ostland dips into a coal-black sea of ambient sound while ominous drones crack and disentegrate like giant icebergs. This is frigid music. It’s the same kind of ambient dronescapes with nuclear-blast-in-reverse dollops of industrial noisiness that Silber and Blindsight Records have been putting out for the past few years. Taking cues from the turntable/guitar deconstructionists The Fun Years and the unrelenting dark clamor of early Swans records and pouring them into their own fractured landscapes, Nihiti makes For Ostland a fascinating and terrifying taxi to the dark side. –Ryan Hall

Ombre
Believe You Me
Asthmatic Kitty
Street: 08.21
Ombre = Brian Eno x Ennio Morricone
Ambient music is too frequently the realm of the dabbler. That’s partly what makes this record so striking—this collaboration between Julianna Barwick and Helado Negro sounds professional. The first sound on the record is a clear, jazzy chord plucked on a nylon string guitar, and rather than meandering around in reverb, Believe You Me maintains this sense of purpose throughout. While those without much appreciation for ambient music will want to retreat to the safety of the drum machine-assisted “Cara Falsa,” fans of ambient will find much to appreciate in the Latin flavor, not to mention the focus, that Ombre bring to the genre. –Nate Housley

Patti Smith
Banga
Columbia
Street: 06.05
Patti Smith = Joni Mitchell + Marianne Faithfull - Nico
It is hard to believe that Patti Smith has only released 11 albums in her 41-year musical career. Her legacy is such that when she releases an album, it announces itself as a monumental event. While not always the smoothest of listening journeys, Banga nonetheless reveals its beauty upon repeated listens. Her present band—including longtime collaborator Lenny Kaye—co-produced and add to the impromptu sound of some of the tracks. “Fuji-san” is her answer to the devastating 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and while her Amy Winehouse tribute, “This Is The Girl,” has a lovely melancholia, even sadder is her homage to the late French actress Maria Schneider on the nostalgic “Maria.” Lead single “April’s Fool,” featuring Tom Verlaine on guitar, is playful, whereas opus “Constantine’s Dream” is demandingly epic, but reprieve arrives after it with her cover of Neil Young’s “After The Gold Rush,” which is simply charming. –Dean O Hillis

Permanent Collection
Newly Wed Nearly Dead
Loglady Records
Street: 08.12
Permanent Collection = Black Angels + My Bloody Valentine
Coming out with their second album, Permanent Collections’ frontman Jason Hendardy (from Young Prisms) has presented us with a solid collection of psychedelic, dreamy, drone-pop sounds. There are plenty of repetitive loops and ambience in this album to lose your mind to. Vocals during “Matter of Hand” reminded me of Morrissey, adding an element of synth-pop sadness without overwhelming your emotions. With a full band this time around, Newly Wed Nearly Dead holds a good mixture of refined sounds coupled with a good balance of brain-melting chaos. –Brinley Froelich

pOnk
Remaking the Past
Mush
Street: 05.29
pOnk = Tortoise + Ghosts and Vodka + Cul de Sac
The word pOnk, used here as a moniker, must be some kind of onomatopoeia describing the way Frederik Knop adds percussion into his sprawling electro-acoustic tracks—a sturdy and satisfying ponk, like a ping-pong ball into a cup of warm beer, right into the heart of an arpeggio. Remaking the Past is a deconstructed take on mOck’s (Knop’s other band) self-titled 2012 debut. Knop takes fragments of this album—a guitar riff here, a bass line there, a snare tap or tom hit—and strips them down to their naked elements and then builds them back up, woven in with electronic beats, witty percussion from objects found lying around his apartment and other domestic, found-sound samples. The result is a twelve-minute composition that floats independent musical ideas into each other like sets of waves. Remaking the Past is simply one of the best headphone albums of the year. –Ryan Hall

The Psyched
Self-titled
Slovenly Recordings
Street: 05.19
The Psyched = Billy Childish (earlier years) + The Hospitals
I remember attending a party years ago where a trustfund baby confessed having a vice for New York garage rock—and went on to name The Walkmen. That egocentric pop act is not New York garage. The real New York garage scene has its candle steadily lit with acts like The Psyched. The album is pumped full of stridently fuzzy guitar crunches and cranium-shaking choruses, cementing the band’s sound alongside other underground garage-noise mongrels like The Black Time. The album is absent from any radio-redeeming hooks or overly sugary pop catches. “Hey Mona” is possibly the best affirmation of this. If you ever catch yourself in a drunken conversation with a dude who says “New York garage” and “The Strokes” in the same sentence, play this album for him. He’ll be too busy puking on himself to continue conversing. You’re welcome. –Gregory Gerulat

Saltillo
Monocyte: The Lapis Coil
Artoffact Records
Street: 05.08
Saltillo = Bonobo + Beats Antique + Emancipator
The Lapis Coil is the vinyl version of the LP Monocyte, which was released as a companion to Saltillo’s comic book of the same name in February. Only six tracks long, The Lapis Coil is essentially a condensed form of Monocyte. With three remastered tracks, two remixes, and one brand new song (“Necromancy”), this collection is a lot more accessible than its father. The melodies are more present and overpowering than before, which tends to make the tracks catchier. In my previous review, I mentioned that Saltillo manages to create true modern classical music. This album is more modern. Perhaps it is just the length and song choice, because on Monocyte, there were definitely places that it could lose the listener, but The Lapis Coil is captivating through and through. “The Right of Action (remix)” is the song to take on a trial run. The remix is fairly close to the original version, but the original is more distorted, with more cymbals and snares, while the remix focuses on the track’s strengths, which is the haunting, rapturous melody brought out by cello and violin. “Necromancy” is different from any Saltillo track I’ve heard before. It’s got a fast tempo, a chorus, and is incredibly upbeat. But it retains the glitchy drums and somewhat dark melody that carries the song, and is worth checking out just to hear something new. In fact, that goes for the entire album as well. –Jessie Wood

Samothrace
Reverence to Stone
20 Buck Spin
Street: 07.31
Samothrace = Sleep + (the soul of early) Black Sabbath + Earth + Kyuss
With psychedelic tunes taking precedence in pretty much every musical realm at the moment, let’s not forget psychedelic’s friendly but evil brother: stoner/doom. Seattle’s Samothrace are at the top of their game here. Reverence to Stone demands to be heard on vinyl due to its two song format and the richness of audio. This record seems to shun convention and just jam, be it crunchy and heavy or smooth and mellow buzzing. The live/improvised feeling of the recording works brilliantly. The heart and passion of the songs are right in the forefront, but so is the ability of the music to be a vessel to transfix listeners in different ways all depending on their mood or their individual reactions. –Bryer Wharton

Shmu
Discipline/Communication
Self-Released
Street: 06.05
Shmu = Midlake + Kings of Convenience “Versus” + Beck “Midnight Vultures”
I didn’t know what to expect from this release, but from the moment I pressed “play,” it’s kind of been blowing my mind. Creatively compelling, these songs are well thought out, even as it’s apparent that there are a lot of risks being taken. Shmu is a great singer, lending his smooth tenor to multiple treatments, layering over the top of his own vocals with hooks that reek of so many influences, it’s hard to pin him down to a genre. He croons over the top of ’90s indie pop (“Directions” is a total ringer for fans of The Sea and Cake) or ’80s glimmering guitar sweeps (“Shadowgames” opens à la My Bloody Valentine), or he chops up glitchy psychedelic drum-machine rants before just going balls-out to the dancefloor (“@hearts”/“Heads Will Fall”). But these descriptions don’t do this release justice. He’s cohesively all over the place. This is a guy who is just barely scratching the surface of his potential, even as you’re standing there slack-jawed at his raw talent. Give him a few years to channel it and I’ll put my money on him being the next big thing. –Mary Houdini

Stevie Jackson
(I Can’t Get No) Stevie Jackson
Banchory Recordings
Street: 07.03
Stevie Jackson = Belle & Sebastian + Nick Lowe
Belle & Sebastian guitarist Stevie Jackson’s solo debut stays largely in the same vein as his main gig. Maybe I should say veins—like Stuart Murdoch, Jackson shows off his versatility in the indie pop milieu, moving from winking blue-eyed soul to power-pop to ersatz Americana with comfort. It’s a shame that the leadoff track, “Pure of Heart,” is a bit of a misstep—it doesn’t sound as lived-in as the rest of the tracks and finds an awkward position in between sincerity and humor—because the rest of the record is so breezy and fun. Granted, Jackson is no Murdoch in terms of charm, but only because his collaborator has set such a high bar. –Nate Housley

The Tallest Man On Earth
There’s No Leaving Now
Dead Oceans
Street: 06.12
The Tallest Man On Earth = Bob Dylan + Nick Drake + Ryan Adams
From start to finish, this third LP from the Swedish folk singer Kristian Matsson is drenched in mellow sounds, with lengthy, poetic lyrics accompanying each song. Despite a small band joining Matsson on the album, the main focus is kept on his distinct voice, which kind of reminds me of Deer Tick’s John McCauley. Midway through the album, Matsson puts down his axe and gets behind a piano on the title track, which gives your ears a break from the relentless onslaught of his simple guitar folk songs. Although Matsson has already established himself as a talented musician through his previous albums, There’s No Leaving Now is another shining example of his skills as a wordsmith and musician. If you’re a fan of soft, acoustic folk tunes, this album delivers 40 minutes’ worth of just that—however, Matsson’s expansive lyrics put him up a notch on the totem pole and sets himself apart from other folk singers. –Jory Carroll

Tankard
A Girl Called Cerveza
Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.31
Tankard = Manowar + Bruce Dickinson + Sodom
A teutonic force through and through, Tankard cop a slap-happy power thrash aesthetic from the jokey school of cornball moshery (Acid Reign? Metal Duck?) and a “bottoms up!” mentality honed since the days of the Berlin Wall. Though the group continue to employ their standard bag of old tricks on A Girl Called Cerveza, they’re not without some serious chops. “Rapid Fire (A Tyrant’s Elegy)” and “Running on Fumes” seethe and swagger like rumbling battle chariots, shrieking and crooning like Halford and Dickinson in a boozy match of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots. However, in terms of beer-swilling buffoonery and a ham-fisted take on a genre once obsessed with pit-violence, nuclear armageddon and the occult, Tankard can’t escape the limitations of a pint-deep lyrical well. Rollicking and competent, albeit predictable, A Girl Called Cerveza knows its strength and never strays too far from it. Tankard’s latest release is middle of the road at best.
–Dylan Chadwick

Teenage Bottlerocket
Freak Out!
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 07.03
Teenage Bottlerocket = The Ramones + The Lillingtons + The Apers
I will never get tired of Teenage Bottlerocket. This four-piece from Wyoming (seriously?) harkens back to the glory days of pop-punk, complete with their leather jackets, bubblegum hooks, whoa-ohs and songs about girls. Freak Out! doesn’t deviate in any real way from the band’s four previous full-lengths (including the cover art), but Teenage Bottlerocket are so goddamn good at what they do, it doesn’t even matter. “Headbanger” is a killer three-chord stomper about the dangers of, uh, headbanging. “Necrocomicon” recounts the tale of the comic book of the dead, and “Punk House of Horror” is about, you guessed it, a haunted punk house. “Never Gonna Tell You” is an excellent punk rock love song on par with “I Want You Around,” and “Radical” will bring back all of the weird feelings you had about that girl with the mohawk you knew in 10th grade. These guys are the best at what they do, and Freak Out! is yet another testament to that. –Ricky Vigil  

YAWN
Happy Tears
FeelTrip Records
Street: 06.20
YAWN = Gang Gang Dance + of Montreal
One foundational lesson musicians learn early on is that there’s a major difference between working influences’ material into your own and passing it on as your own. Unfortunately for this Chicago based freak-folk/psych four-piece, it’s hard for me to differentiate. The only identifier I like about Happy Tears is the slight leaning into Yeasayer-styled acid house territory, shown only on “Yabis.” Otherwise, YAWN is making miniature flag claims on certain peaks, which have already been mastered within the past decade. “Momma’s Boy” plays like a rough cut of an early Panda Bear album filler.  Combine this with Kevin Barnes’ pop glitter, and you have the next track, “Then They Come.” Although alluring at the start, the album rounds down to being garden-variety psych-folk efforts. Unless they mold a more unique style in the following full-length LP, this record will only serve as extra shelf bulk for freak-folk collectors. –Gregory Gerulat

Whitechapel
Self-Titled
Metal Blade Records
Street: 06.19
Whitechapel = Carnifex + All Shall Perish
“Dynamic” is the word of the day for this newest release from deathcore champions Whitechapel. This record hasn’t abandoned the formula that these dudes had down to a science, but comparatively, old albums feel almost flat and lacking in variety, a paint-by-numbers built around breakdowns. The breakdowns remain, sure, but they’re fewer, and no longer the centerpiece of a song (and when they do show up, like at the end of “Section 8,” they are some of the most brutal breakdowns the band’s ever produced). They’ve been replaced with paranormal melodies, beautiful shredding bridges, and more acrobatic, layered guitar work. Songs like “Hate Creation” actually pull back the thrash at parts to let the guitars wail like lonely wraiths in the distance, and the incredible drumming of newcomer Ben Harclerode takes center stage, building tension where before there was only rage. Phil Bozeman has expanded his vocal playbook, too, and with excellent results, again adding variety and maturity to the band’s sound. Every song feels like a structured and individual creation. –Megan Kennedy

Zombiefication
Reaper’s Consecration
Pulverised
Street: 08.14
Zombiefication = Grave + Entombed (old) + Morbus Chron
Worshippers of old-school death metal, Mexico’s got a rising talent. This EP, the band’s follow-up to 2010’s overly exciting Midnight Stench, should satisfy that thirst for gritty guitar tones and grimy bass with enunciated and serious growls. I tend to be optimistic in favor of tunes—there’s the same old bitching that if a band isn’t doing something “new,” they’re just hacks. News to the cynics: No band is really doing anything new, nor have they in a long time. The songwriting flows excellently—each track speeds along nicely, with some equally dirty guitar-soloing breaking up the five tracks. “Necrohell” has a seriously catchy core riff that will get your head swirling in death metal furies. “We Stand Alone” gives some serious guitar leads in conjunction with pounding riffs, giving anything Bloodbath has done a run for its money. Reaper’s Consecration is a big EP worth its price in plastic or wax. –Bryer Wharton