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