Aesop Rock
Skelethon
Rhymesayers Entertainment
Street: 07.10
Aesop Rock = Del The Funky Homosapien + Atmosphere
Aesop said it best himself in a May 2012 interview with Pitchfork: “While making this album, it felt like everything around me was dying: people, relationships, all plant life in my apartment.” It’s been five years since None Shall Pass, but Aesop is back with fervent darkness. With the loss of his friend and fellow rapper Eyedea serving as coal for a morbidly poetic fire, each word on Skelethon demands attention. Even as he addresses things like eating habits (“Grace”) and haircuts (“Racing Stripes”), Aesop is relentlessly honest—”Can I get a fucking amen?” Skelethon is the first of his albums to not feature a co-rapper. Instead, we get a cameo from Kimya Dawson in “Crows 1,” in which she chants about a casket. As grim as the content is, the raps are accessible and yield easily to listeners. Aesop seems to have moved in a new direction, with less melodic flow and more eccentric samples. You’ll find everything from fresh switchboard sounds to cat meows on Skelethon, along with eerie interludes and thrashy beats. Aesop’s got a lot to dish out this time around, so make sure you fill your damn plate up—and come back for seconds. –Kia McGinnis

Ape School
Junior Violence
Hometapes
Street: 08.07
Ape School = (Magic Arm x The Cure) + The Polyphonic Spree
When the world’s greatest pop/rock band made songs like “I Am The Walrus” or “It’s All Too Much,” the music was ahead of its time and revolutionary. I’m not comparing frontman Michael Johnson’s music to the greatness of the Beatles, but his music is so sonically eclectic and still cohesive in such an artistic way that it may be ahead of its time as well. The carousel-esque sounds and synths of “Marijuana’s on the Phone” or the airy and drowsy feel of “Ready for Duty,” showcasing fine acoustic guitar backing, are examples of his songs being reminiscent of the Beatles’ timeless creations. Nothing in this album sounds out of place, despite the range of tempos and genre blends. If you want to find a new sound for an existing genre, like indie pop, then familiarize yourself with the name Ape School. –Justin Gallegos

Bailterspace
Strobosphere
Fire Records
Street: 08.21
Bailterspace = The Velvet Underground + Brian Jonestown Massacre + Nirvana
Bailterspace provide a ride full of varying guitar melodies. They are melodic masters and dissonance is key for them. At times I felt that with the fuzz removed, their sound would be much more smooth and enjoyable; although without the fuzz, they might sound overly retro, losing their simple, nostalgic touch. Take, for example, their closing track, “World We Share.” The opening guitar licks and overall melody is reminiscent of early Rolling Stones, but with Alister Parker’s subdued vocals, they manage to harness their own sound. Parker’s vocals are a must-listen-to on the album, from the punk shouts on “Island” to the Goth echoes of “No Sense.” The random buzzing of electronics stored in the back of their tracks, most evident in “Polarize,” is also a defining touch. Bailterspace is back from a 13-year recording hiatus, sharing gems they’ve been refining for years. –Justin Gallegos

Bloody Gears
Frozen Rain 7”
Grave Mistake Records
Street: 04.17
Bloody Gears = Sisters of Mercy + Alaric + (early) The Cure
Admittedly, I know fuck-all about this band, but I can say that I’m pretty impressed with this 7”. Initially, I found it sounding extremely similar to new-ish “dark punk” bands like Alaric and Cross Stitched Eyes, but that was somewhat of a tease—only the first (and title) track really brings bands like those to mind. The remaining two songs on this far-too-short release are much more reminiscent of late ’70s/early ’80s British bands —The Cure, Joy Division, Bauhaus, etc.—that would later become referred to as “goth.” Very dissonant but very catchy, with excellent dark pop sensibilities, Bloody Gears is a band I hope to hear more from in the future. If this 7” is any indication of what this band is about, I just might have actually found a “new” band worth spending a little money on. –Gavin Hoffman

Brainstorm
Heat Waves
Tender Loving Empire
Street: 10.02
Brainstorm = Dirty Projectors + Tame Impala
The main thing this album has going for it is that it’s easy to catch onto. Using repetitive, drum-heavy progressions with touches of synth keys, electric guitar riffs and hand clapping, this music is meant for foot-tapping. The vocals are lofty and a tiny bit lo-fi, and would probably be forgettable on their own, but layer nicely with the harmonies. Most of the songs follow a similar pattern, which makes Heat Waves in its entirety feel drawn out. However, a few of the tracks are killer—“Death Bells” features a tuba intro and is the most compelling, while “Lonely Ghost” offers a satisfying, sporadic rhythm. Brainstorm share a producer with Youth Lagoon and have been picking up speed in the Portland music scene, so keep an ear out for these cats if you want to be ahead of the curve. –Kia McGinnis

Cadence Weapon
Hope In Dirt City
Upper Class
Street: 05.29
Cadence Weapon = Gym Class Heroes + Cool Kids + Leonard Cohen
Hip hop and poetry have a significant yet sometimes hazy connection, and Cadence Weapon (Rollie Pemberton) is a case in point. Pemberton released Hope In Dirt City fresh off a stint as poet laureate of his hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. At face value, his tracks about underground, after-hours raves (“Crash Course For the Ravers”) and hip hop hype scapegoats (“Hype Man”) are nothing more than that. But after a bit of heavy listening, his lyrics reveal a slew of double entendres and clever lines that have their obvious meanings but leave themselves open to interpretation. This forces the listener to question the obvious meanings and proves Pemberton’s talent as a poet. The complicated production process Pemberton employs for this album seamlessly blends sampling and live instrumentation into a style of hip hop reminiscent of Kid Cudi. “Cheval,” and “No More Names (Aditi)” are a couple of proper hip-hop tracks off the album, where the title track, with its robotic drum style, slap bass and synthesizer, sounds like something David Byrne would produce. Hope In Dirt City is well versed, versatile and weird. –Chris Proctor

Callow
Orb Weaver
NXNW Records
Street: 05.03
Callow = Band of Horses + Roky Erickson + Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Callow take an alternative historical sonic route of what punk rock would have been had it evolved from The Velvet Underground’s airy slowness rather than their minimalism. Callow’s instrumentation is sparse, though, with chords that ring out on the piano and guitar-picking patterns that walk in single file, culminating in darkly beautiful compositions. Opener “Walls” strides with a gait similar to the beginning of The Wonder Years theme with singer Gared Moses’ high, Winnie-ing voice—of course, the song comes without the same teenage-angst connotations of the TV theme and, rather, intercalates the stomach with the butterflies of apprehension. My favorite track, “Come Alive,” features a deep, hollow kick drum that pumps like a heroin-ridden heart as the piano strolls along an Aeolian line akin to “Moonlight Sonata,” then picks up with subdued guitar strums and female vocals that accompany Moses’ Ben Bridwell-like wails. Orb Weaver is simply beautiful in its melancholic woolgathering, and you can hear/purchase it at callow.bandcamp.com (09.14: The Garage). –Alexander Ortega

The Contortionist
Intrinsic
eOne/Good Fight Music
Street: 07.17
The Contortionist = Textures + sci-fi + Between the Buried and Me
This band is one of the most exciting things to happen to prog metal in a while. Their 2010 debut effort, Exoplanet, was a masterpiece and one of my all-time favorite albums. The ambitious group returns with sophomore effort Intrinsic, and while the album is excellent in and of itself, the loss of some unnamed heaviness in the sound since Exoplanet is unfortunate. The band has wrapped itself firmly around its progressive roots and introduced more synth-based traditional elements reminiscent of Dream Theater. The harsh screams of Jonathan Carpenter are fewer, dominated instead by clean but digitally enhanced vocals on most tracks. Songs are beautiful, soft trips of well-thought-out lyrics and fully realized structure. It’s only personal taste that makes me miss the intense, raw soundtrack to a sci-fi daydream rather than to this closer-to-earth flight. Nonetheless, this is a superior album that prog metal fans should not miss. –Megan Kennedy

Dan Le Sac
Space Between The Words
Sunday Best Recording
Street: 07.09
Dan Le Sac = U.N.K.L.E. + Caribou + Nightmares on Wax + Gorillaz on crank
Dudes, this guy is the shit. As half of the critically acclaimed UK electronic/hip-hop outfit, Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip, he is proving his mettle and flexing his talented muscle by showing what he can do as an all-around frontman, as opposed to the producer/DJ/back-up vocalist. This debut release is as versatile and fitting as it is thoughtful and well orchestrated. It seems that most of the parts are carefully crafted, from accents of the drum-synths to the tweaking of the melodies. You can tell that no stone has been unturned in the attention to detail to make everything perfect. For example, “Play Along” has some dark steel drum accents while Sarah Williams White sings come-hither honey vocals over the top. It’s white-hot as a sultry pop track, but “Good Time Gang War” is a dance-clubber’s wet dream. The album is full of exciting directions, and I could tell you about the guests, but really, it’s all about the talents of Dan Le Sac. This album kicks ass. –Mary Houdini

Dead Ending
Self-Titled
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 05.12
Dead Ending = Rise Against + Alkaline Trio + The Bomb
Wow. What do you get when you combine members of a band I absolutely love (Articles of Faith) with members of a band I absolutely abhor (Rise Against) and members of bands I can take or leave (Alkaline Trio and The Bomb)? Based on this release by Dead Ending, you get a bad joke with no punchline. I really wanted to like this because Vic Bondi’s vocals with Articles of Faith have always been top-notch in my book, but in the end, this sounds exactly like Vic Bondi singing on a Rise Against record, and I fucking hate Rise Against. Vocally amazing and musically boring as piss, Dead Ending will end up being a decent seller for Alternative Tentacles because of all the kids who think Rise Against invented punk rock, but I’ll be shelving this in favor of The Complete Articles of Faith collection. –Gavin Hoffman

Dr. Acula
Nation
Victory
Street: 06.19
Dr. Acula = Emmure + Throwdown
Lacking distinction to everyone but suburban dorks in stunner shades and snakebite piercings, deathcore’s biggest disappointment is its haphazard co-opting of legitimate micro-genres, stripping them of vitality and farting the burned out remains into a tangy mishmash of knuckle-dragging staleness. As such, Nation is deathcore by the numbers: 12 screamy cuts that flit between slobbering cookie monster growls and high-register screeching. Discerning riff-monsters, despite their best efforts, will isolate moments of respite in the muck (the melodies on “Thinner,” the groove closing “Heavy Handed” and the lyrical genius of “Areola 51”) but they’re painfully brief and far apart. Chunky and loud, but devoid of threat, bite and the “stomp” that makes many of Dr. Acula’s influences much more interesting, Nation certainly walks the deathcore walk but to little fanfare. Like being a white supremacist pro-Frisbee champion, I can appreciate the devotion, but I won’t take the work seriously. –Dylan Chadwick

DRUNKSOULS
Revolution
Self-Released
Street: 11.04.11
DRUNKSOULS = Steel Pulse + The Specials + Phoenix
What is it about the French that makes them yearn for spotless precision in their music? Imagine Phoenix were a bunch of reggae-loving stoners instead of some hopeless romantics, and you might have a good idea of how DRUNKSOULS sounds. It’s really pretty refreshing—so much reggae is downtempo and bland, where this is fun, bouncy and well produced. Every sound is clean and the vocals, sung in both French and English, have a lilting quality to them more familiar in indie rock than reggae. Some of the songs are fast enough to pass as songs by Phoenix or Tahiti 80, while others are ska, dub (not dubstep, just plain old dub) and two-step. Favorites include the slinky “Lust,” the haunting “Separation” and the Gorillaz-esque “Always.” This record is just fun—a good one to check out if you’re a fan of any of the bands mentioned above. –Rio Connelly

Enabler
All Hail the Void
Southern Lord
Street: 07.17
Enabler = Integrity + Converge + Trap Them
In the September 2011 issue of SLUG, I reviewed a split cassette from Ambassador Gun and Enabler, and I fucking loved it. Still do, as a matter of fact. Oh, how times have changed. All Hail the Void, Enabler’s debut full-length for Southern Lord, depicts a completely different band than was showcased on that split cassette. The dirty, crusty Enabler that I loved on that released has seemingly transformed into metalcore crap, and on this release, they have far more in common with *insert Deathwish Records band here* than they do with bands like Weekend Nachos or Victims, which I lovingly compared them to on that release. Sure, it’s pissed, but it’s also way too clean-sounding, and it has the sound of a band who’s looking to cash in on the dying trend of metal-core. The drums sound Pro-Tooled to all hell, and the guitars sound like they were run direct into a board and recorded sitting down. There’s just no life in this recording at all. In one word: boring. I’ll keep my Southern Lord-trashing comments to myself, but this release really bummed me out. Note to bands: don’t change your shit up to satisfy a label or jump on a bandwagon. –Gavin Hoffman

Everest
Ownerless
ATO Records
Street: 06.26
Everest = Wilco + Black Mountain + Brian Jonestown Massacre
According to Everest’s website, Ownerless is a tribute to being free to create something that may have been previously out of reach. In their efforts to let themselves off the chain, Everest has crafted an ambitious album without veering into pretentious reinvention. Their first two albums are distinctly alt-country, but Ownerless uses that territory as a springboard into psychedelic fuzz-rock. Overall, the transition is seamless—”Rapture” kicks off the album by coupling Zeppelin-esque guitar hooks with vocal harmonies borrowed from The Avett Brothers. “Into the Grey” melts into a psychedelic blur, punctuated by whistles that reverberate across the feedback-laden vocals and guitar. Though I dug the areas that Everest has explored on Ownerless, I still found myself drawn to songs like “Raking Me Over the Coals” and “Letter” that revisit their alt-country roots. Everest’s ability to experiment while remaining consistent is definitely one of this band’s greatest assets. –Alex Springer    

Ex Deo
Caligvla
Napalm
Street: 09.11
Ex Deo = Kataklysm + Septic Flesh
The Roman-themed child of Kataklysm are back with a worthy follow-up to their 2009 debut, Romulus. “Epic” is a fair word for what Ex Deo try to tackle thematically: it all fits lyrically and musically into Roman history and mythology. It actually plays out much more interestingly than the last few Kataklysm albums. Caligvla is one of those albums that listeners are going to have a love/hate relationship with. There is a ton of orchestration backing the groovier-but-also-melodic death metal riffing. At times, it feels as if one is fighting the other for supremacy. There are plenty of songs that work—”Divide Et Impera” is a great example of striking that balance between orchestrated parts and guitar/drum/vox/bass. Ultimately, it’s a record worthy of metal fans’ curiosity who are just out for something breaking usual formulas. –Bryer Wharton

Fang Island
Major
Sargent House
Street: 07.24
Fang Island = The Fucking Champs + Apes & Androids + Cougar
There’s a dream you have where all your best friends are 12-years-old again and live in a world without adults. On top of that, you all have mustaches, headbands, aviator glasses and are all playing awesome guitar riffs with three hands while fist-pumping with the other three and standing atop conquered playground equipment. You can never remember the songs when you wake up, but now Fang Island have used some incredible apparatus to transcribe them onto their new album, Major. Hooray! Seriously, though. Fang Island is three guitars flying a triumphant air-show over amazingly solid drums and bass. As on previous releases, there aren’t vocals on every song, but where they are used, they are choral and huge, complementing the grandiose riffs. The whole release is good, but favorites include “Seek It Out,” “Never Understand” and “Regalia.” If this overwhelmingly positive indie metal has you salivating, your next step is to air-high-five me (I’m waiting, hand at the ready) and go check this out. –Rio Connelly

Flying Lotus
Until the Quiet Comes
Warp Records
Street Date: 10.02
Flying Lotus = Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory + GLK
Flying Lotus is back with a new album that reminded me from beginning to end why I’ve waited so patiently for him to release a new album after instantly falling in love with his 2010 release, Cosmogramma. Until the Quiet Comes was an absolute experience; tracks like “DMT” featuring Thundercat and “See Thru to U” featuring the lovely Erykah Badu had me in awe! My favorite track on the album would have to be “Me Yesterday//Corded”; with its soothing lyrics, phenomenal progressions, hypnotic drums and engaging synths, it drew me in instantaneously! “Until the Quiet Comes,” with its sensual, delicate-yet-forceful tones and melodies over steady bass lines took me to a beautiful peaceful state of being. “Until the Quiet Comes” is a must-buy! –Mama Beatz

Gallows
Self-Titled
Bridge 9
Street: 09.11
Gallows = Cancer Bats + The Bronx + Every Time I Die
Changing vocalists is a tricky fucking prospect, especially when the replacement has a different nationality’s accent. Gallows have pulled it off with aplomb, though, as the growls of former Alexisonfire guitarist/vocalist Wade MacNeil have been subbed in for the snarly, noticeably British voice of Frank Carter. The third album from these pissed-off Brits doesn’t quite match the scope of their previous album, Grey Britain, but it finds them honing in on their sound with a rollicking rock n’ roll swagger, gang vocals aplenty and guitars that aptly switch from sharp, cutting riffs to moody, atmospheric passages. MacNeil is in amazing form on “Everybody Loves You (When You’re Dead),” as he rattles off the names of dead punk rockers before screaming “WE NEED YOU NOW!” at the song’s conclusion. “Outsider Art” and “Odessa” are also highlights, showcasing the band’s driving sense of fury over a surprising amount of melody. Fully confident and fully pissed, Gallows have delivered one of the most surprisingly satisfying albums of the year. –Ricky Vigil

Gildas & Jerry
Kitsuné Soleil Mix
Kitsuné
Street Date: 07.02
Gildas & Jerry = Yelle + Treasure Fingers + A-Trak
The popular French label Kitsuné is back once again, this time to bestow a lovely gift of tracks from various artists from their label mixed by Gildas & Jerry; fun, high-energy tracks that helped me break a sweat or two! My favorite song on the album was Jbag’s remix of Gigamesh’s hit “Your Body,” which made want to claim a body for the night, preferably one that looks as good as this song makes me feel. Another song that I fell in love with would have to be “LOGO” by Jacob, which made me feel as if I was at robot prom on planet grown and sexy. With strong bass lines, intriguing synths and amazing breakdowns, Kitsuné Soleil Mix by Gildas & Jerry is too good! –Mama Beatz

Gobby
New Hat EP
UNO NYC
Street: 06.26
Gobby = Jacques Greene + FaltyDL + Matthew Dear
UNO NYC has been releasing some great albums since it popped onto the scene not too long ago, and Gobby’s debut EP is no exception. It’s a hypnotic, minimal breed of techno—focused, intricate and wild, yet precisely controlled. The album tips and tinkers along with a pleasant urgency, slowly building on itself, like a tin soldier army slowly but surely coming to life. Each track is a study in productive repetition. The repetitiveness draws the focus to the slight variations, a classic feature of techno, and Gobby takes this to the extreme. The influence ranges from late ’80s techno to current, more innovative experimental music, creating a sound that is familiar yet still interesting, still heading in a new direction. The drums rumble along like a deep tribal beat, a sharp contrast to the angular, clinical mids and highs. This is crazy shit, and packs quite a punch for only four tracks. –Jessie Wood

Height With Friends
Rock and Roll
Friends/Cold Rhymes
Street: 08.14
Height With Friends = WHY? + Faith No More + Bloodhound Gang
This is a weird record. Purportedly hip hop (even though it’s played by a live band and called Rock and Roll), any actual funky sensibility gets absorbed into the singer Height’s sluggish and uniformly dreary delivery. The band behind him is tight, but they don’t have anything interesting to play. They are, after all, supposed to be playing hip hop beats, so the drums and bass stay steady while guitar or keys carry the simple melodies into loops. Height says every phrase the same way: a little too much enunciation with a descending finish, and always so slow. As a result, every song sounds the same, and nothing is that great. One song that came close to good is called “Hard Work” and has Height being joined in a few vocals from his friends in an anthem to late-night work ethics, but it still isn’t enough to emerge from the overall torpor the rest of the record maintains. Check it out if you’re looking for alternative hip hop, but don’t go out of your way. –Rio Connelly

The History of Panic
Fight! Fight! Fight!
Le Grand Magistery
Street: 07.17
The History of Panic = Passion Pit + Miike Snow + Teddybears
My enjoyment of this album didn’t take place immediately. The album’s weakest parts are in the beginning, where Gerald Roesser, the band’s only member, uses a higher-pitched tone of voice when singing. It creates a punk/rock pop feel that isn’t as easy to digest as is his lower-pitched tone throughout the rest of the album. Also, the production on the first few tracks sounds too much like bubble-gum electro-pop for me. However, from there, the electronica is beautiful. There are some heavy synth bass lines on the rest of the album that create a funky and more unique sound. “The Chase” is a good example of this and features Leah Diehl to create a duet dynamic reminiscent of The Postal Service’s memorable number “Nothing Better.” Roesser has honed his keyboarding skills, which add a nice Italo-disco feel on “Fight Song.” This album has been 12 years in the making, and while some of the songs’ appeal may be past their time, there are still glimpses of pop perfection to be found within Fight! Fight! Fight! –Justin Gallegos

Hooded Menace
Effigies of Evil
Relapse
Street: 09.11
Hooded Menace = Coffins + Asphyx + Claws
Pushing play on this bad boy instantaneously released every dark and nightmarish thing that festers in my brain. Seriously, I’m hearing noises in my home and looking over my shoulder—it’s great! This is eight tracks of crushing death/doom, and “crushing” is an understatement—it feels like the immensity is being unleashed on your skull. Heavy on the bass, heavy on the guitar—hell, Effigies of Evil is just heavy all over. The vocals seem like they’re being growled from some beast at the bottom of an abyss. It’s not just all crush and growl, as the record is full of grooves and maddening atmospheres. The guitars meander into fantastic doom soloing, like some terrible beast swallowed Black Sabbath and Saint Vitus and spit them out covered in tar. For death/doom/horror, it’s really hard to get better than this—just listen to “Evoken Vulgarity.” –Bryer Wharton

Hooded Meance
Effigies of Evil
Relapse
Street: 09.11
Hooded Menace = Acid Witch + Paradise Lost + Autopsy
Melding rumbling doom and caustic death metal, then wrapping it up in squalid ’70s cult horror cinema, Hooded Menace's sonic kaalikääryleet (They're Finnish, "sonic burrito" just didn't work) has kept fickle metal critics slobbering at the bit since day one. Effigies of Evil stakes its claim not by whalloping listeners across the skull with blast beats and thrashy hunks of rebar, but by oozing like quicksand, slowly enveloping them beyond return. Megalithic monster tracks like "Vortex of Evil" and "Summoned into Euphoric Madness" seethe and unfold like behemoth bulldozers lumbering through the swamp, while the title track showcases the one-two combo of Lasse Pykkö's paint-thinning vocals and Pekke Koskelo's Bolt Thrower-esque percussion. Chained to a crawl, newbie listeners may flinch at the perceived lack of variation, but seasoned ears will find it all accounted for. Muffled 'neath the rotting floorboards and extraneous debris like the wayward screams of forgotten torture victims, it's all there. Highly recommended. –Dylan Chadwick

Hot Chip
In Our Heads
Domino
Street: 06.12
Hot Chip = Metronomy + Cut Copy + M83
Hot Chip is churning out more thoughtful music than ever. Having come with more song-oriented tracks this time around, they’re making music less like Animal Collective and more like the electronic mastermind James Murphy. They’re still providing all the obscure sounds of the ’80s, and electronics in general, but allowing their harmonies and rhythms to be more danceable and definitely singable. If you’ve heard Hot Chip’s cover of “Sexual Healing,” then you’re well aware they can handle R&B tracks with finesse. “Look At Where We Are” has frontman Alexis Taylor’s vocal delivery resembling Ron Isley’s and easily melting hearts again. While celebrating life and love, as well as paying homage to predecessors such as Prince and even Rod Stewart, Hot Chip has produced one of my favorite albums of the year. –Justin Gallegos

Kalen Nash
Ukred
Normaltown Records
Street: 05.29
Kalen Nash = CSNY + Fleet Foxes + Neil Young
Ukred is Kalen Nash’s (Ponderosa) first solo release and first release off Normaltown Records. Nash projects the same strong vocals found in Ponderosa, but replaces their upbeat, distorted, CCR-style Southern rock for Nash’s own solemn folk and blues approach. The songwriting on this album is split between the slow, gritty blues of tracks like “Don’t You Love Me Baby” and “Wake Me Up” and the ringing folk acoustics on tracks like “The Uno.” “White Oak” is the most accessible track on the album, with a great guitar hook in the intro and harmonies in the chorus that will stick in your head for days. My personal favorite track on the album is “Ramona,” with the acoustic guitar tuned in drop-C and Nash’s smooth-as-butter vocals in the chorus singing; “Oh Ramona, when you comin’ back home to the county? Oh Ramona, it’s getting kinda hard when you’re not around, you see.” Ukred is full of great folk melodies that makes this one of the best albums I’ve heard in 2012. –Chris Proctor

Katatonia
Dead End Kings
Peaceville
Street: 08.28
Katatonia = Daylight Dies + October Tide + Opeth
The kings of melancholy metal are back with a new record, and it’s sort of a return to form from the highly mellow and subdued 2009 album Night is the New Day. Fans of Katatonia’s more modern era will have to struggle hard to find fault in Dead End Kings. Eleven bustling songs keep listeners wanting to hear more or just go back and catch nuances they missed before. “Buildings” and “Hypnone” are beyond magnificent, built up with all of the Swedish band’s trademarks: big riffs in juxtaposition with extreme melancholy, even touches of anger that have been absent from the band for years. The songwriting displayed here works as good albums should: everything comprised in harmony, packed with flow in mind, catchy song after catchy song. “Dead Letters” is already poised to be a future must-hear from the band you love to be depressed by. This is easily Katatonia’s best since Viva Emptiness. –Bryer Wharton

Koko Beware
Something About the Summer
Self-Released
Street: 08.07
Koko Beware = The Beach Boys + (Bratmobile – riot grrrlishness)
Athens, Ga.’s Koko Beware play simple and too-cute surf rock about summer and love and stuff. One can get a good idea of the lyrical content of Something About the Summer by the song titles, such as “Beach Babe,” “I Miss You” and “All I Think Of.” In case you don’t get it, here is an example from “I Just Wanna Dance”: “I don’t wanna go to dinner/I don’t wanna go to the movies/I don’t wanna meet your parents/I don’t wanna meet your friends/I just wanna dance with you.” The songs on the album all blend into each other, and the lazy, off-key singing becomes unbearable after a few tracks. I might have put this record on at a summertime party if I had the will to listen to it again. –Cody Kirkland

Los Straitjackets
Jet Set
Yep Roc
Street: 08.07
Los Straitjackets = The Ventures + Duane Eddy + Santo & Johnny
If you’re not familiar with Los Straitjackets, picture four amazing musicians wearing colorful luchador wrestling masks, ripping some of the world’s best instrumental surf rock. Guitarists Eddie Angel and Danny Amis are so great at grabbing listeners’ attention that they don’t allow this record near any of the usual, boring pitfalls instrumental records are known for. “Brooklyn Slide” has a groove that is so easy to slip into that if it weren’t for the stylishly recognizable guitar work, I could’ve sworn this was a ’70s Stax Records cut. Every guitar nerd out there is going to freak when they wrap their ears around the three-and-a-half minutes of echo-soaked “Flight-of-the-Bumblebee”-esque soloing of “New Siberia.” Jet Set is the perfect title for this incredibly well crafted album and a perfect example of a band who embraces their signature surf sound, but are not willing to let it ground them at all—instead, they pack it up with them and take it along for the flight. –James Orme

Lost Sounds
Lost Lost
Goner Records
Street: 07.17
Lost Sounds = The Screamers + The Strokes + Iron Maiden
This is another band that I should have listened to when they existed, rather than years after their demise. Lost Sounds, the brainchild of the late garage king Jay Reatard and synth-punker Alicja Trout, posthumously release a 23-track collection of discarded and demo versions of songs from studio albums, plus previously unreleased material spanning the band’s career. Lost Lost, subtitled “Demos, Sounds, Alternate Takes & Unused Songs 1999-2004,” is a time capsule of upbeat garage-pop covers such as “I Cannot Lie” and “Frankenstein Twist” and depressing synth-punk originals like “No Count” and “Throw Away.” Drum machines and power metal guitar riffs surface as Reatard and Trout take turns singing about how much life sucks. Listen to “Die Alone (Promise Me)” and “I Get Nervous Pt. 1” to get a feel for the band’s pent-up nervous sound. Elements of garage rock, punk, metal, electro-rock and skuzzy pop make this lo-fi time capsule delightfully diverse and addictive. –Cody Kirkland

Mad Planet
Ghost Notes
Self-Released
Street: 08.28
Mad Planet = Metric/Bat For Lashes
This has all the elements of an ’80s hit: dreamy, Blondie-esque vocals, hazy synth sounds and a creepy, male backup singer. Ghost Notes is a slower-paced, cloudy album made by a soon-to-be-wed couple. The drums and bass maintain consistency throughout, with slight guitar developments and definite emphasis on Cooper Gillespie’s gentle alto voice. The final track, “Slowly I Turn,” offers a nice dark/light duality, but the rest of the album floats on what seems like a single wave of sound. “Pieces of You” has the most edge to it, with a heavy drum intro and some loud, distorted guitar. Fans of Beach House would probably dig this music, as it has a similar sound on a lesser scale—don’t count on it to be anywhere near as awesome, but give it a fair listen. –Kia McGinnis

Malka Spigel
Every Day Is Like The First Day
Swim
Street: 09.04
Malka Spigel = Terri Tarantula + Abandoned Pools
Malka Spigel hails from a special school of European rock that simultaneously calms and enchants. Like one of my favorite groups in the same vein, Air, the vocals are wispy thoughts laid delicately over sound waves in what is sometimes referred to as “ambient” or “space rock.” Sometimes you want to go to sleep and not rage 24/8, and that is where this type of interlude can fit into a life. And sometimes, sure, you want to make love, a special kind of love where there are songs about surfing on rockets (Air’s Talkie Walkie) or “European Weather” (track five on this album) and then you can fit a mad cuddle sesh in after. I’m not going to tell you how to have sex or anything, but this album is equally good-mood-inducing for a snuggle or an R&B-music-video-visually inspired (soft light, doves, cotton blowing in the wind) fuckfest. –JP

New War
Self-Titled
Fast Weapons
Street: 09.18
New War = Bauhaus + Swans
Melbourne’s New War mine post-punk and no wave to create angular, threatening textures. The instrumentals are compelling and unique, even if the band loses itself in the moodiness a couple times over the album’s length. The main sticking point is Chris Pugmire’s dry, up-front vocals, which don’t match the menace of the tribal, propulsive drums and diabolical tonality. The exception is on closer “Josef’s Hands,” when the vocals are strident, drenched in echo, and closer to his natural register. If that track is an indication of where they’re headed, I’m inclined to follow. –Nate Housley

No Blitz
Never Satisfied
Self-Released
Street: 04.29
No Blitz = Lucy’s Fur Coat + Future of the Left + Foo Fighters
Straightforward rock, without any of the countless subgenre suffixes or prefixes, is becoming rarer and rarer these days. Everything is “post-this” and “that-core” or something. That doesn’t mean this short EP preview of an upcoming release by No Blitz has no personality—on the contrary, it’s pretty balls out. These songs are fast, full of distortion and drum fills, honestly sung instead of just screamed, and incredibly tight overall.  “My Life” is my favorite on this four-song demo, but all the songs bode well for the full release. If you miss extending your index finger and pinky upward from a clenched fist in an unironic fashion, check this out: It’s called rock music. –Rio Connelly

The Offspring
Days Go By
Columbia
Street: 06.26
The Offspring = Ignition era + Americana era
With age comes reflection, and while the Offspring aren’t strangers to occasional heartfelt balladry, Days Go By still seems slow and contemplative compared to efforts past. Surviving this long with only one member change is a feat worth mentioning, as are the album’s strong points. The title track’s rising cadence is akin to a punker doppleganger of the Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary,” and the one-two haymaker of “Dividing by Zero” and “Slim Pickens” showcase their best features: high-speed pop hooks and Agent Orange-style crunch. Unfortunately, the ’Spring’s flipside has always been one of goofballery, and age hasn’t dulled their infatuation with pointless parodies, so “Crusin’ California” and “OC Guns” do little more than annoy. Re-recording “Dirty Magic” was unnecessary, but serves to remind us that the band could write a damn fine album and, though not on par with Ignition and Smash, Days Go By packs some shining moments. –Dylan Chadwick

Om
Advaitic Songs
Drag City
Street: 07.24
Om = Motörhead + Earth
You don’t scoff at mingling rock and religion? Then perhaps Om will come as a revelation. Not just Jesus strumming, but religion as carving sense into a meaningless world, or blasting out of a world where good sense has become intolerably oppressive. Salvation through bombast is the way of Om. Not simply a band stripped down, in Om bass and drums—twin posts of the gates of Hell—announce themselves as ontological givens: Without us, nothing. Evoking Motörhead’s Lemmy, Al Cisneros on Rickenbacker turns prop planes to trumpets of doom. Noteworthy on this album is the band’s use of classical and exotic instruments—cellos and harpsichords on “State of Non-Return, “ hand drums and zithers on “Sinai” or harmonium on “Haqq al-Yaqin”—all of which lend Om a richer and more solemn sound. Add to this lyrics dank with esoteric pseudo-profundities, and you have rock ready for poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge—“Ancestral voices prophesying war!” –Brian Kubarycz

Ormonde
Machine
Hometapes
Street: 08.07
Ormonde = Laura Gibson + Bowerbirds
It’s worth mentioning that the cover art of Machine features a woman naked on a horse with a majestic landscape background, which made me nervous about what the music would be like. As it turns out, Ormonde is a singer-songwriter duo that moved to a tiny house in Texas and lived together platonically while writing the 10 songs that make up Machine.  The result is lonesome, luscious and full of longing. Fingerpicked guitar anchors Anna-Lynne Williams’ hauntingly alluring lyrics: “Unfold your body, the day has left to end/ I’ll match your beating and join your breathing.”  Drawing inspiration from first-hand tragedies and dark stories make these songs echo with substantiality. “Cherry Blossom” introduces the vocals of Robert Gomez, which thread flawlessly with Williams and have a subtle, shadowy effect. Machine is a thoroughly beautiful piece of musical artwork, despite its unappealing cover. –Kia McGinnis

Pan
These are the Things I Love and I Want to Share Them With You
Post-Echo
Street: 08.28
Pan = Fang Island + This Will Destroy You
There are bands that some people just don’t get. When that seemingly out-of-touch person happens to be a music reviewer, to fans of the band he or she comes across as a fun-hating dick. To conclude this disclaimer, I’m the kind of music fan who can’t listen to Explosions in the Sky unless it’s soundtracking a film. Got your grain of salt? OK. South Carolina’s Pan’s first full-length is carelessly paced and short on hooks. It’s celebration music that provides no cause for celebrating, and every track is cathartic without context. What they have going for them, a sincere passion for what they’re playing, doesn’t sell me; passion is in no short supply in independent music. If you simply can’t get enough post-rock in your life, give Pan a try. Otherwise, feel free to keep hating fun with me. –Nate Housley

Peter & The Magician
Memory
Kitsune
Street: 07.09
Peter & The Magician = Chromatics x Daft Punk + Chromeo
This release of a summer-friendly dance single with four remixes comes to you courtesy of Yuksek and The Magician, former member of Aeroplane. The song begins with frantic keyboard playing and a heavy bass pulse, creating a feeling reminiscent of the opening scene of Drive. You’re anticipating action and unsure what direction it will come from, but you can’t wait. By the time the drums and synths kick in, you should be in fifth gear on the dance floor, particularly with the club mix. Le Crayon’s mix brings a sun-dazed disco feel and even a Prince vibe with a brief electric guitar outburst near the end. Esoteric producer NSFW replaces a few synths and offers a nice minimalistic house approach, while POINDEXTER makes it groovy by adding some ’70s synth love. Make sure you check out this release for a satisfying taste of Euro-electro. –Justin Gallegos

Pity Sex
Dark World
Run For Cover
Street: 03.20
Pity Sex = Dinosaur Jr. + Failure + Superchunk + Junior Low
With a persistently sunny output across popular indie acts, who would have ever thought a comeback of the music from mid-’90s MTV afternoon programming would be such a welcome return? The resurgence of fuzzed-out power chords, melodic soloing, boy-girl vocals centered around depression and being depressed recorded at passable fidelity feels like the return of a long-lost friend. The unfortunately named band has these in spades, along with a knack for couching incredibly catchy melodies in righteous angst and anger that casts itself wide across this 10-track LP available for free at pitysex.bandcamp.com. Who would have thought that with the economy in the toilet and disapproval with traditional power structures at an all-time high, disaffection isn’t really selling all that well. Enter Pity Sex. –Ryan Hall

Pomegranates
Heaven
Modern Outsider Records
Street: 06.05
Pomegranates = Sunset Rubdown + Mates of State
This is attention-grabbing right from the start, jumping into fast-paced rock without hesitation. While the guitar, xylophone and drums groove up, down, left and right, the dual vocals smooth out the sound with engaging falsettos and tenors. Heaven is something you could fully jam out to. Parts of this album have psychedelic touches, such as the track “Letters,” which is swirly, tender and progressive all at once. The closing track, “Surfing the Human Heart,” shows versatility with simple and sweet piano and stripped-down lyrics: “I really need you and that’s the truth these days.” Heaven is direct and approachable, clever and honest. Pomegranates gets a thumbs-up for being memorable in the over-saturated genre of indie-rock. –Kia McGinnis

Pressed And
Hyper Thistle EP
Mush Records
Street: 07.24
Pressed And = West in Dust Compilation + CHLLNGR + Blawan
Hyper Thistle is a tantalizingly short collection of a thousand musical voices chopped and screwed and ping-ponging into every emotional landscape possible. A Pressed And song usually starts with a forlorn instrumental loop (such as a guitar or piano) in simple musical phrases, before a legion of voices pitch-shifted up and down to great effect are dropped in the middle of a musical phrase and snappy, high-BPM rides ramshackle through its splayed-open middle. Bucking the trend of downer R&B samples, Pressed And is never maudlin, and on this four-song EP, they tackle some pretty ambitious musical territory. It will be interesting to see what comes next from Pressed And. –Ryan Hall

Propagandhi
Failed States
Epitaph
Street: 09.04
Propagandhi = Rush + Bad Religion + heavy metal
guitar licksOn Failed States, the anger is so laser focused, the songs trimmed of all fat, the buildup and release so complete, it’s hard to imagine another punk rock album coming along this year to top it. Never ones to shy away from political matters (or humor), Propagandhi managed to straddle the line between being intensely serious and slapstick, all the while making odd time signatures and complex guitar flourishes sound as visceral and immediate as Minor Threat. On album opener “Note to Self,” Chris Hannah sings, “So much for your hopes and your dreams and your children/You just sat there believing in this bullshit system,” efficiently distilling and revealing the ultimate political catastrophe of our times so clearly­—it’s impressive how simply it’s done. The song culminates in an ass-kicking final act, which sets the tone for the rest of this monster of a release that deserves many listens and listeners. –Peter Fryer

Purity Ring
Shrines
4AD
Street: 07.24
Purity Ring = High Places + Grimes
Been on indie music blogs lately? If so, Purity Ring should sound familiar. The Canadian duo consisting of Megan James (vocals) and Corin Roddick (synth) have been dropping hyped-up singles for over a year now and released Shrines as their debut full-length. Upon first listen, it won’t take long to realize that they are worth the hype. Their brand of synthpop is unique enough to keep listeners interested, and it still has a good kind of predictability to it. Where the album really excels is in the way that it throws listeners into James’ dreams. Her poignant and sometimes cryptic lyrics shed light on her deepest fantasies and fears. They are appropriately backed by washed-out synths and throbbing basslines that, depending on your mood, could swoon you to sleep or sway you to dance. Notable tracks include the dark and dreamy “Obedear,” the pulsating “Lofticries” and the standout, “Fineshrine.” –Jesse Thomas

Revolting
Hymns of Ghastly Horror
FDA Rekotz
Street: 09.07
Revolting = Ribspreader + Repulsion + Autopsy + Entombed (old)
Hymns of Ghastly Horror is easily one of the best newer Swedish death metal albums. Revolting has put out a record every year since 2009, and this one just adds to the whole “getting better” thing. You might know the main man behind the band, guitarist/vocalist “Rogga” Johansson—he’s got a laundry list of already annihilating bands to his cred, including Bloodgut, Ribspreader, and recently, the awesome Megascavenger. This new offering treads into new and familiar territories. There is the classic Swedish death metal vibe, but it feels as if the tempo gets massively fast at times, and every song is spearheaded by shredding on top of shredding. You’re going to remember a lot of the riffs here, especially their highly melodic nature. So many records tread into too easily known styles and sounds, but this is one you’re going to want to hit repeat with until your fingers bloody. –Bryer Wharton

The Ripe
Into Your Ears
Get Hip Recordings
Street: 04.17
The Ripe = The Mama’s and Papa’s + The Beatles + Ugly Beats
To be considered best album of the year, it seems pertinent that the band’s music be able to span genres, reflect past eras, and yet produce a timeless sound of their own. Several bands’ albums may contain a few songs of this nature, but it’s a true feat for an entire album to reflect this amount of depth. The Ripe have accomplished this feat on their debut album. Even with influences of the past being ever so present, it remains uneasy to compare their sound to any band. Imagine the guitar chord progression of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son” with a garage, surf-rock influence and you have “Constant Waves,” my favorite track on Into Your Ears. With songs like that and frontman Jake Garcia’s vocal style being reminiscent of The Zombies’ vocal melodies, The Ripe has produced a sound that is refreshing and nostalgic all at once. –Justin Gallegos

Rooftop Runners
We are Here EP
Self-Released
Street: 04.03
Rooftop Runners = The Knife + New Order
Rooftop Runners is composed of brothers Benedikt and Tobias MacIsaac, and with this being their first release, I am definitely enticed to follow what they will come out with next. While short, this EP is definitely promising for the band’s future release of a full length. We are Here starts off seductively with “Streets,” embodying a noir-pop style. With the provocative feel of a mystery action film, this song felt like it could be found on a soundtrack from a Quentin Tarantino film. The deep vocals throughout are reminiscent of 20s soul, and the sibling duo mixes that with a twist of industrial electronic sounds. This is a fine blend of 80s pop influences like Joy Division in a Europop way, accompanied by sultry lyrics with well-composed instrumentals. –Brinley Froelich

Sectarian Violence
Self-Titled 7”
Grave Mistake
Street: 02.29
Sectarian Violence = Think I Care + Life’s Blood + The Abused
An international assemblage of ’coreman from the States (Coke Bust), Sweden (Stay Hungry) and England (Never Again), Sectarian Violence pummels with the frothy fervor of some of the unsung heroes of NYHC’s past. Short, fast bursts of thundering fury are the order of the day, as is a moderate political bent. Like all good ’core, it’s best to take this in as one burly lump sum than try to isolate specific tracks (it’s six minutes total, anyway), but high points are the pummelling mosh bits of “No Regard” and the breakdowns in “Lined and Shot” and “Misplaced Trust.” Grave Mistake rarely lays claim to duds, and this ain’t the exception. Cop it! –Dylan Chadwick

ShadowBox
Haunted By Colors
Pictures Music
Street: 07.24
ShadowBox = Radiohead’s Kid A + Lykke Li + Cortney Tidwell
This is interesting enough. It’s not a game changer or mind-blowing in any new definition of genre, but Bonnie Baxter is doing something subtle enough to catch one’s attention. It’s very light electronica, with dreamy, sunlit beats and airy vocals that are very reminiscent of Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon, until she throws the weird minor-chord arrangement in there, or punctuates with an angelic squall. It’s background enough to make one pay attention, in a way that makes you tilt your head, forgetting that you were doing something else. And in a powerful way, that subtlety is what gives us the greatest pause. It’s almost confusing in its goodness, with production that is unremarkably good by today’s standards, until you unwillingly perk up and ask yourself, “What the fuck is this? It’s really, pretty good,” which is such a high compliment as a reviewer and by the standards of today’s shit. –Mary Houdini

 

 

Sick Fix
Vexed
A389
Street: 08.30
Sick Fix = Haymaker + Dismantle era H100's + Infest playing "Fetch the Pliars" live
Birthed from the same grimy loins as Coke Bust and Magrudergrind, Sick Fix stay above the "powerviolence" glut by ditching many of the microgenre's cliches and perfecting the others. Implementing a screechy yet intelligible vocal pitch lends gravity and a chilling resonance to the songs, lightyears ahead of their peers. Lengthy lyrical explanations in the insert make no bones about the band's social conscience ("Phoenix" is the sickening account of a charred pit-bull), but Vexed's greatest accomplishment is its display of soy-n-taters rage with an evenhanded mix of speed and groove. "Control," "No Future" and "Die, Please Die" rank highest for showcasing a thundering stomp à la Mentally Murdered Napalm Death or something swampy and Floridian. If political 'core ain't your bag, stick with it for the riffs and straight edge fix alone. –Dylan Chadwick

 

Silver Jews
Early Times
Drag City
Street: 06.19
Silver Jews = Pavement + Smog
This collection of rarities and early singles is extremely rough and lo-fi (before lo-fi was a buzz word). For fans of Silver Jews and Stephen Malkmus (he does guest vocals on a few of the tracks), it is an interesting listen, highlighting the potential behind the early incarnation of the band. It is also interesting in showing the fundamental differences between Pavement and Silver Jews (the former being far more listenable and the latter far wittier). Out of context, it is a difficult listen, with a few diamonds in the rough; when put into context, it is interesting and full of character. Fans shouldn’t pass it up; those unfamiliar should probably just avoid it. –Cody Hudson

Special People
Advertise b/w Eye Movement 7”
Self-Released
Street: 08.11
Special People = Sonic Youth + War on Drugs
This debut release from the Baltimore quartet features two lo-fi tracks, both of which show off their unique sound that is kind of a mix between grunge and metal. The opening song, “Advertise,” resembles a Sonic Youth tune, with guitar-noodling similar to that of Thurston Moore and Lee Rinaldo, but the aggressive vocals of Special People give them more of a metal/punk sound overall. The other track, “Eye Movement,” shares a similar sound, but leans even more toward the metal sound, as the band utilizes some heavy guitar chords along with louder vocals. This record is pretty straightforward with no real surprises, but the two tracks are nonetheless a good debut from Special People. –Jory Carroll

Supreme Cuts
Whispers in the Dark
Dovecote
Street: 07.10
Supreme Cuts = Evian Christ + Clams Casino + Xavier Leon
Chicago’s Supreme Cuts play the kind of electronic music that folds snippets of pitch-shifted R&B and hip hop through a bevy of filters, creating a muted, downcast sound palette that is gaining a lot of ground with young electronic producers, as the aforementioned genres have taken to bouts of navel-gazing introspection lately. The hardness and sexiness of hip hop and R&B has been ceding ground to the kind of angst and self-loathing once reserved for angry, suburban white kids with stacks of Marshall amps. This shift has opened room for young producers like Supreme Cuts to appropriate freely from both genres, taking cues from DJ Future, Drake’s producer, by layering ambient sounds and dried birch twig brittle beats and warped vocals. The result is a forward-looking and frequently beautiful record where hip hop and R&B are referenced, but never embraced as more than a means to an end. –Ryan Hall

Swans
The Seer
Young God Records
Street: 08.28
Swans = Swans
Holy Mother of Fuck, it’s tough to review a Swans release. It’s even more daunting to review a double CD/triple LP Swans release, but I’ll give it a go. Since returning from a 14-year hiatus with 2010’s insanely great My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, Swans have been busy writing and touring, and have now unleashed the brain-melting The Seer. This is the perfect culmination of all Swans records to date, featuring heavier-than-God guitars, stroke-inducing passages of droning melody and a combination of songwriting and musicianship that simply blows all pretenders out of the water. The 32-minute title track alone is every Swans fan’s wet dream, and just goes to show that the masters never die. Yes, The Seer requires an immense amount of patience from the listener, but once it’s taken in and digested, there is simply no choice but to admit that Swans remain one of the top bands to ever spawn genres and destroy hearing. –Gavin Hoffman

The Toy Dolls
The Album After the Last One
Secret
Street: 06.05
The Toy Dolls = Angelic Upstarts + 4-Skins + The Adicts
If the Sex Pistols are the “angry” English punk band and the Clash are the “serious/political” English punk, the then Toy Dolls are the “fun” English punk band. Considering what that scene was like back then, bringing the fun to punk rock may be the biggest accomplishment out of them all. For over 30 years, the Toy Dolls have been blasting out punk tunes that of all things, make you smile, or maybe even laugh. That’s not to say they don’t bring the punk to it all; I think that’s how they got wrapped up in the whole Oi scene—they have this huge sound to them. Big choruses with breakneck rhythms have kept them going this far, and the formula certainly ain’t broken on this record. “Don’t Drive Your Car Up Draycott Avenue” is honestly one of the catchiest punk songs I’ve ever heard, with great harmonies, and is just the perfect song for these guys. A special surprise is the three bonus acoustic tracks by lead singer and only surviving original member Olga—it’s so fantastic to hear him like a crazy, unbridled Billy Bragg. It’s unbelievable that a band that has done this as long as they have are still giving this kind of quality. This one goes in the win column. –James Orme

Videoing
Reader LP
Slack Electric
Street: 07.10
Videoing = Former Ghosts + Interpol
This fuzzy post-punk album is, like, 75 percent there. The dark pop melodies and Ian Curtis-esque vocals are complemented (and not ruined) by the low production values and poorly recorded drums. The album comes off as unforced, charming and almost coy … until the drum machine kicks in, followed by a shitty synth line and a girl talk-singing very forced-sounding poetry. Thankfully, those songs are in the minority. The album almost sounds like a split EP, with one band clearly being better than the other. I think Videoing shows promise, and is definitely worth checking out—if you skip all the songs with a drum machine. –Cody Hudson

Xibalba
Hasta La Muerte
Southern Lord
Street: 08.14
Xibalba = Disembodied + Merauder + Obituary
Though Southern Lord initially seemed like a weird fit for the mass of hardcore they’ve been signing, Xibalba’s newest outing (with Dan Seagrave artwork to boot) seems the least alien of all. Their foreboding, low-register squall, apocalyptic lyrics (many taken from the Popol Vuh) and extended mosh parts—à la metalcore played at 33 RPM—render Hasta La Muerte a slab of sludge-drenched hardcore, hoarse and unrelenting to a fault. Rhythmically phenomenal cuts like “Burn” and “Sentenced” brood like Madball playing at Cathedral’s tempo, and creative flourishes like the female vocals on “Mala Mujer” help break up the monotony a little, but the album’s last trio of songs (“Stoneheart,” “Lujuria” and “Cold”) practically agonize in their stubborn samey-ness, rolling over the listener without much distinction. Hasta La Muerte could make a bitchin’ EP, and it’s not without its isolated snippets of greatness, but it’s far from flawless and is a tad cumbersome. –Dylan Chadwick

Yeasayer
Fragrant World
Secretly Canadian
Street: 08.21
Yeasayer = Prince + Brian Eno
Not out of wile, but out of native tact and cultural breeding, Yeasayer’s new album refrains from flaunting its origins. Nevertheless, Fragrant World wafts of sundry identifiable musical essences, all surely selected and meticulously blended into one lovely potion. Opening strains of glitch soon transition into the best of ’80s funk and techno, though mellowed after a generation of cellaring. Mariachi horns and Farfisa organs, which years ago lent camp maquillage to bands such as Roxy Music, here figure not as coy accents, but fully and sincerely integrated elements of the band’s palette of tints and tones. Serene among the meta-quoters and curators thrice-removed, Yeasayer speaks the post-punk pop idiom effortlessly, as its mother tongue. –Brian Kubarycz
 
Zulu Pearls
No Heroes No Honeymoons
Cantora Records
Street: 09.18
Zulu Pearls = Black Keys/The Walkmen
Zulu Pearls’ music has a seductive sound. They produce rock n’ roll without overdoing it by focusing on their guitar rhythms and songwriter Zach Van Hoozer’s Southern-style vocals. The bluesy riffs are smooth, with a psychedelic influence. If you dig what Led Zeppelin did on “Dyer Maker,” then the stripped down, island rock sound that is generated throughout this album will quickly grab your attention. Although it’s a laid-back take on pure rock n’ roll, Zulu Pearls can be seen as one of the newest bands to carry on the post-punk revival movement. In Van Hoozer’s words on “Play The Hits,” “Why can’t we get high, then get low? Two step in slow-mo.” Go pick up a copy of this album wherever you can and unveil the mystery that is Zulu Pearls. –Justin Gallegos