National CD Reviews

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A Place to Bury Strangers
Exploding Head
Mute Corporation
Street: 10.06
A Place to Bury Strangers = Skywave + My Bloody Valentine + Killing Joke
It’s hard to classify a band like A Place to Bury Strangers. The noise-trio cover everything in what they call “total sonic annihilation” and fill in the cracks with melody. Huge, driven beats with precise, reverb-caked percussion provide the pulse for lush harmonies and dreamy soundscapes, creating a backdrop complemented by layer upon layer of effects (frontman Oliver Ackerman builds his own pedals under the guise Death by Audio). The album seems to go through many different styles, notably those of loud 80s bands, but build on them to modern-day standards. The first track has a very Loveless feel to it before going into the rest of the album, which sounds just as much like a wind tunnel as it does Killing Joke. APTBS are versatile and talented, and while they can shift from one vein to the next, they retain their overall original feel and sound. Fans of shoegaze, noise and dare I say, industrial, will really get on with this album. –Ryan Sanford

The Almighty Defenders
Self Titled
Vice Records
Street: 09.22
The Almighty Defenders = Black Lips + King Khan + BBQ
This album was recorded in about a week when Black Lips had to flee India and seek asylum in Berlin, teaming up with King Khan and his partner in crime, Mark Sultan (a.k.a. BBQ). Lo and behold, a supergroup was born between what are arguably two of the most exciting bands of the past decade. The album boasts Black Lips’ signature style of garage jamming (see track “Bow Down and Die”) with the infectious doo-wop of the King Khan & BBQ Show (see “Cone of Light”), while throwing in a healthy dose of soul and rhythm & blues (on track “All My Loving”), as well as a rockin’ cover of Mighty Hannibal’s “I’m Coming Home.” Fans of either band will love this dearly, but truth be told, it lacks the greatest moments of both and you may want to go back to albums Let It Bloom or What’s for Dinner. –Ryan Sanford

Angelo Spencer
Et Les Hauts Sommets
K Records
Street: 02.09
Angelo Spencer = Ry Cooder + Ennio Morricone + Link Wray
Et Les Hauts Sommets is the newest venture from former Frenchman (who now resides in Olympia, Wash.) and one-man-band Angelo Spencer. With his guitar and some accompanying instruments, Spencer alone crafts a cinematic journey. It begins with Spencer’s reverb-drenched guitar-noodling over shakers and a bass clarinet before going into the more direct and brooding second track, “Northwest.” The fourth track is a film segment all by itself—a hot, dreary ride through a Mexican town in some Sergio Leone film. The album has an overall psychedelic sound, with some of the guitar playing sounding like it’d be on earlier Can albums, while some of it is accomplished surf rock (as on “Shepard’s Delight,” a perfect mix of the two styles). Anyone who fancies psych-rock, post-rock, Spaghetti Westerns and anything in between will fall in love with this album, which feels more like a soundtrack. –Ryan Sanford

Animal Collective
Campfire Songs
Paw Tracks
Street: 01.26
Animal Collective = Young Prayer-era Panda Bear + Black Dice + Tyrannosaurus Rex
Going through Animal Collective’s back catalog is the experience of watching an occasionally listenable freak-folk noise outfit evolve into an indie powerhouse in under a decade. Originally released in 2003 on the ridiculously obscure imprint Catsup Plate, Campfire Songs is being reissued on Animal Collective’s own Paw Tracks. The five-song suite, performed live on a screen porch and recorded onto Sony MiniDisc players, isn’t given any remastering or fidelity improvement. The atonal acoustic guitar strumming and improvised soundscape’s lo-fi warmness are untouched by the studio sheen of later albums. “Doggy” is the most enduring and listenable track, combining the looseness of the album with an undeniably catchy melody. Campfire Songs is important because it serves as a reference point between their early compositional and tonal freak-outs and their strummed acoustic guitar work on Sung Tongs. I don’t envy the consternation of someone picking this up and expecting Merriweather Post Pavilion. –Ryan Hall

Animal Collective
Fall Be Kind EP
Domino
Street: 12.15
Animal Collective = School of Seven Bells + Beirut + Growing
They don’t have a new album, but this should hold over their über-fans and the seven (!) SLUG staffers who thought A.C.’s last album was worthy of being featured in our annual Top 5 List (Dec. ’09 Vol. 20, Issue 252). Though I didn’t include them in my Top 5, Merriweather Post Pavilion definitely made it into my Top 10 this year—and this EP is in keeping with the same style of greatness. There’s even some fucking South American pan flute in this shit! It’s that grand. The EP is thematically cohesive and fans of the tripped-out psychedelia will embrace this release and note it as almost inseparable from Merriweather … Five songs isn’t much for new-music fiends, but it should do the trick during our next Animal Collective dry spell. “Is everything alright/You feeling Stoney?” they ask on “What Would I Want? Sky.” You’ll have to answer that yourself after a listen or two and give thanks for the ride. –JP

Andrew Belle
The Ladder
Self-Released
Street: 02.23
Andrew Belle = Matt Pond PA + Tokyo Police Club ÷ The Fray
The Ladder is bright. A gang of upbeat instrumental friends never leaves Andrew Belle to fight for himself in his debut LP. The album begins with a banjo circling lofty auto-tuned folk vocals. It’s original. Belle just won the MTV Video Music Award for Chicago breakout artist and seems unconcerned with genre expectations. “Open Your Eyes” feels like Death Cab For Cutie’s “Transatlanticism,” and “Make it Without You” could pass as Michael Bublé. However, although The Ladder stands out as artistically innovative, it never connects emotionally and lyrics seem to be used only as placeholders for progressing musical notes. –Bradley Ferreira

Before There Was Rosalyn
The Führer: An Allegory of a History of Deception
Victory
Street: 10.26
Before There Was Rosalyn = From Autumn To Ashes + Norma Jean + Underoath
Oh dear, what an unfortunate album to come into my hands to review. All cynicisms about beliefs and all that fun stuff aside, this Houston, Texas-based five-piece Christian screamo crew have recorded an album of songs that yell boring from the hilltops. I’ve never understood how a heavy band could be Christian because you never hear any angsty religious hymns. Christianity teaches about forgiveness, compassion and love, so how can you be angry about anything? My main gripe with this record is that it’s full of forced-sounding emotions coming from its vocals and lyrics. Add to that some terribly stagnant chugging, slow guitar riffing and a virtual absence of anything deserving to be called a melody, and it’s just melancholically down-tuned riffs. If Before There Was Rosalyn were meant to inspire young minds of the power of God and Jesus and all those beliefs, they instead wind up sounding like they’re angry with Mom and Dad, not being grace-filled or faithful. –Bryer Wharton

BK-One
Radio Do Canibal
Rhymesayers
Street: 10.06
BK One = RJD2 + Blockhead + Madlib
In a time when there is more bad than good, the Rhymesayers crew stays on point. BK-One’s debut album Radio Do Canibal is an impressive display of both his DJing skills and his potential as a producer. A star-studded track listing consisting of Black Thought, Brother Ali, Slug, Raekwon and even The Grouch show that no matter what style of flow, BK-One can fabricate a beat. “GITITIT,” featuring Slug and Brother Ali, opens the album up nicely with a back-and-forth lyrical assault, in true Slug and Ali fashion. “The True and the Living,” a track featuring Raekwon, has a West Coast Latin hybrid beat mixed with Raekwon’s East Coast rhyme flow. Murs steps up and tells a little story about the benefits of keeping a young girl around to keep yourself feeling young on “Eighteen to Twenty One.” “American Nightmare,” featuring Ali and Scarface, sounds a lot like a 50 Cent song—not the best way to round out an album, but with BK-One’s own twist on it, it still sounds good. –Jemie Sprankle

Black Breath
Razor to Oblivion
Southen Lord Records
Street: 11.10
Black Breath = Motörhead + Venom + Skitsytem
This is a pretty fucking rockin’ EP from Seattle’s Black Breath. Punk-ish, Motörhead-style rock abounds from beginning to end, relentlessly pushing for either an all-out head-banging session, or a (much missed) full-blown circle pit, in all its knock-down, drag-out glory. In fact, the only complaint I have about this release is that it’s only four songs—barely eclipsing the 15-minute mark. On the plus side, a full-length is reportedly on the horizon for an early 2010 release on Southern Lord, and it honestly can’t come soon enough. If you like your music raw, fast, punishing, and, well … hard, this is something that is absolutely worth checking out. Crunchy guitars and punishing drums under Cronos-style vocal grunts seem destined to push Black Breath into the underground limelight in the very near future. –Gavin Hoffman

Citay
Dream Get Together
Dead Oceans
Street: 01.26
Citay = The Allman Brothers + Trans Am + Yes
Every dual guitar-harmony, three-part vocal harmony and liberal amounts of guitar-neck-bending, minute-long solos on Dream Get Together are strong contenders for induction into “Guitar Hero 15: The Neo-Psychedelic Indie-Rock Edition.” Citay embody every schlocky, over-indulgent, bloated moment that lend classic guitar-rock bands like Styx and Journey so much nostalgic credence and escapist fantasy in their over-the-top theatrics. This is inherently a good thing. The dual-guitar histrionics split time with Tim Green’s (of Fucking Champs) 12-string jangly pop songs. Appearing solo on one of the golden-coast, mid-tempo ramblers, “Mirror Kisses,” tUnE-yArDs frontwoman Merril Garbus’ husky croon is the best thing to happen to the album. Another unexpected and altogether heartwarming moment is their reverb-drenched cover of Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat.” All together a nostalgic, sunny ode to the music your parents made out to in high school. –Ryan Hall

The Company Band
Self-Titled
Restricted Release/Red
Street: 11.10
The Company Band = Clutch + Fu Manchu + Fireball Ministry
Finally a “super” group that is actually quite super! The Company Band is comprised of singer Neil Fallon of Clutch, Jess Margera of CKY, guitarists Jim Rota of Fireball Ministry and bassist Brad Davis of Fu Manchu. Being an avid follower of Clutch, I found that the most satisfactory portion of jamming out to the band’s self-titled debut record was listening to Fallon sing and do things he doesn’t do in Clutch. Keep in mind that with these talented musicians of similar yet different rock acts, you will get an album that will have you in a land of sheer rock with grooves a-plenty. The variety amongst the songs is fresh and appealing, giving the album replay value. It’s as if the musicians playing on the album have been playing together for years instead of possessing that usual identity crisis feeling that most super groups have. The Company Band offers flat-out rock bliss for fans of any musical genre. “Zombie Barricades” is also one of the best rock songs I’ve heard in years. –Bryer Wharton

CRGruve
The Naughty & The Nice
Solution Marketing Records
Street: 04.06
Crguve = Dubstep + 3Oh!3 + LMAFO
CRGUVE is anything but groundbreaking, but they have beat-making on their side, incorporating many genres of music such as jazz and rock. The album starts off strong with “Lunar Dance.” The Naughty & The Nice sounds like a mix between DubStep and LMAFO, which makes this album something for the club kids. “Trollin’,” a song about working your way down the bar skank line, sounds a lot like a techno remix of a cleaned-up Shwayze. Halfway through the album, on “FILFY,” the album takes a brief turn south and the lyrics start to get a bit lazy. “ My body ain’t what it used to be/My kids come first for me.” Admirable, but not lyrics you put on a track titled “FILFY.” “MILF Song,” the album’s slow jam, has an amazing beat, but like many of the tracks, the lyrics drag it down. –Jemie Sprankle

The D.I.S
Rare Cuts
Hepcat
Street: 09.08
The D.I.S = George Thorogood + Stray Cats + X
The funny thing about punk rock is that at some point it became, in the minds of most, separate from what is considered rock n’ roll, but when you look really closely, punk is rock n’ roll’s purest thriving form. Take the D.I.S, a band that built on the punk model by adding harmonica, piano, blues riffs and rockabilly rhythms, all the while carrying an attitude that would make The Sex Pistols proud. These unsung rock n’ roll pirates were comprised of members of The Gears, TSOL, The Rockats, and Levi Dexter and the Ripchords, but despite keeping it going for 10 years, they have all but faded into obscurity. Songs like “Taylor Yard Blues” and “Sight For Sore Eyes” show this band’s sophistication by using rootsy elements, while songs like “People Like Me” and “Devil’s Music” show a primal, more aggressive side. Either way, it’s a lot of fun. Don’t confuse these guys with the hardcore band DI, just give them the listen they deserve. –James Orme

Defeater
Lost Ground
Bridge 9
Street: 11.17
Defeater = Modern Life Is War + Ruiner + Verse
There need to be more hardcore records like Lost Ground. This six song, twenty minute EP pulls you in not only because of its intensity, but because of the well-crafted concept and the emotional impact it delivers. Lost Ground is a concept album focusing on an African-American soldier’s life before, during and after World War II, but reveals the same kind of angry, young angst captured by Modern Life Is War that makes it relatable to life at any time. Defeater bludgeons you with harsh vocals and a solid wall of guitar and drums, but underneath that there is a strong enough sense of melody that the lyrics are given the kind of impact that they deserve. This is smart, beautiful and emotionally resonant hardcore. Seek this one out, because it's easily one of the most impressive releases of late last year. –Ricky Vigil

Deiphago
Filipino Antichrist
Hells Headbangers
Street: 10.31
Deiphago = Revenge + Sarcofago + Conqueror + Beherit
You know those albums that no matter how many times you listen to them, you can’t quite decide if you love it or if it’s just one of those OK albums? Well, Deiphago’s second full-length, Filipino Antichrist, fits into that realm. Sometimes I’ll spin the disc and find sheer sonic brutality in the album’s noisy, swirling chaotic and evil lyrics that are just about over the top. I’ll spin it again and be lost, confused or even bored. You could easily pass the album off just as Sarcafago-, Beherit- or Conqueror-worship, but the differences lie in small subtleties amongst noisy racket. The clank of the drums or the buzz-droning of the odd little guitar solos with jazz improvisation and odd time signatures pop up, mingling amongst the crazed Satanic mayhem. Odd? Yes, but it actually gives the album its own bizarre and creepy identity. You just have to be in the right mood. –Bryer Wharton

Destrophy
Destrophy
Victory Records
Street: 10.26
Destrophy = All That Remains + Sevendust + Dragonfoce + Metallica + Bury Your Dead
I may not like it full on, but Destrophy have hit the nail on the head in creating an album that incorporates every element of modern metal. The band’s self-titled debut album plays a mix of thrash-styled riffing with breakdowns, plenty of radio-friendly melodies, ripping guitar solos and melodically epic keyboards worked in. I’m actually surprised a band hasn’t really taken on this style before. It’s just enough metal that it might reel in some prog-metal fans. The instruments are all played tightly, the songwriting is slick and streamlined and if this band doesn’t get big soon, I’ll be highly surprised. If you’re looking for something with a bit more bite than your All That Remains or screamo fair, Destrophy is a worthy investment. –Bryer Wharton

Destruktor
Nailed
Hells Headbangers
Street: 09.20
Destruktor = Impiety + Destroyer 666 + Demonic Christ + Marduk
Despite some flaws, Destruktor’s debut album offers metal carnage worthy of a listen. The flaws, while few, do affect the record. The volume level of the album is lower than it needs to be, while production is razor sharp and clear, especially in the devastating bass lines. You have to crank the volume knob to get the full effect from the album. The other flaw: the lackluster vocals (mostly death-growl barking) don’t fit the ferocity, speed and technicality of the music contained on Nailed. Flaws aside, the guitar work on the album is supremel. Some of the songs seem redundant, but they still produce some great, slaughtering riffs, running more in the fast thrash realm than standard black-metal riffing. Precise drumming adds to the aural experience, giving off the black-metal blastbeat wall of sound without being overbearing. Nailed is sure to offer thrills to fans of extreme sonic violence. –Bryer Wharton

D.O.A
Kings of Punk Hockey and Beer
Sudden Death
Street: 09.23
D.O.A = Anti Nowhere League + The Ramones + The Germs
Hockey is the perfect accompanying sport to punk rock. Screw all that skateboarding bullshit, Hockey is the way to go. Mean, fast-paced, and brutal punk bands should be playing in hockey arenas everywhere. D.O.A., the godfathers of hardcore punk, are way ahead of the curve on this one—they give you a compilation disc offering up all their best songs about hockey, being a badass punk rocker and, what else, beer. “Donnybrook” is a fight song that starts this record out swinging, “Beer Liberation Army,” is a tune about late-night break-ins at the local brewery, and “Pencil Neck Geek,” is a hilarious song originally done by professional wrestler Classy Freddie Blassie. These 13 songs are a riot from start to end. Whether pumping you up or amusing your twisted sense of humor, this record does it all and I wouldn’t expect anything less from a band as great as D.O.A. –James Orme

Exodus
Shove Headed Tour Machine (Live At Wacken And Other Atrocities)
Nuclear Blast
Street: 01.15
Exodus = Metallica + Dark Angel + D.R.I. + Destruction
I’ve never really sought out purchasing “best of” albums because if it’s a band I enjoy, I already have most of their albums, along with the sometimes obligatory live album. With this latest live offering, you get what Exodus sounds like now from some newer tracks, as compared to the old-school-sounding Exodus from thrash’s glory days. The production is clean and clear, sometimes to the point you forget it’s a live recording. The only time you can tell it’s live is when the singer screams at the fans to mosh and go crazy. The end result feels like a strictly Exodus fan affair. The downside is that there really isn’t anything on this record that Exodus hasn’t already shown us. –Bryer Wharton

FELT (a.ka. Slug, Murs)
Felt 3: A Tribute To Rosie Perez
Rhymesayers
Street: 11.17
Felt = Atmosphere + Aesop Rock
This is the third in a series of ongoing collaborations between two well-known “indie” hip-hop MCs with Aesop Rock sitting in as producer this go round. Slug and Murs are pretty well known emcees to people who know the real meaning of the term (if you think I’m talking to you, Young Jock or T-Payne whatsits fans—I’m not). And as such, Felt 3 is pretty tight and definitely made for a good bump n’ romp. I’m a big enough Aesop Rock fan that while I appreciated the efforts of “Ace” (as he’s referred to by the emcees) as producer, I definitely wanted him to get out from behind the boards and school these other emcees. Note, track nine gives not one, but TWO shout-outs to this place: one as a state, and again as “Salt Lake.” Super-group. –JP

Four Letter Lie
A New Day
Victory
Street: 10.13
Four Letter Lie = Underoath + Every Time I Die + Escape the Fate
With screamo and melodic hardcore bands being a dime a dozen, the possibility of a band standing out in the scene depends all on the band’s ability to come up with catchy songs that are going to draw fans in and keep them coming back. Unfortunately, the songwriting on A New Day is dud after dud of highly redundant songs that blend together. The songs don’t have a linear feeling to them. The entire record feels like riffs were tossed in with some melodies and stupid electronic samples. Even with all that, the music isn’t that insufferable for the genre, but the vocals are. They sound like they’re being thrown up by the singer rather than coming from an emotionally torn heart. The only hope this album has is the track “My Surrender,” which features Jesse Barrera, who breaks up the monotony of the album’s stale vocals. –Bryer Wharton

The Gears
Rockin’ at Ground Zero
Hepcat
Street: 09.08
The Gears = The Ramones + Gene Vincent + The Blasters
Back in ’79, when this album was originally released, punk rock was the most dangerous thing out there, so when bands took a cue from The Ramones and mixed blistering punk with surf and rockabilly-tinged tunes, it was downright blasphemy. The Gears did it with such a bang, however, that it became infectious. It’s unusual that four young guys could draw from influences well beyond their years. This unlikely record came about when lead singer Axxel G. Reese was searching through his garage for tapes of his other band, The D.I.S, when Reese stumbled across these golden recordings and he decided to let loose these songs of high school and girls made so simply that anyone who’s ever been through those situations can relate to them. After almost 30 years, these songs will finally get to be heard. –James Orme

Gorgoroth
Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt
Regain Records
Street: 10.21
Gorgoroth = True Norwegian black metal
After a falling out and lengthy legal battle between Gorgoroth’s sole “founding” member Infernus, ex-vocalist Gaahl and ex-bassist King ov Hell, the rights to the Gorgoroth name were rightfully restored to Infernus, and Quantos Possunt Ad Satanitatem Trahunt is the first offering of his new lineup. Unfortunately for Infernus, although the album is musically a nice return to the early 1990s wave of Norwegian black metal, vocalist Pest (who was originally with the band from 1995-1997) just doesn’t have the same effect as Gaahl did. Kudos for recruiting Obituary bassist Frank Watkins for this release (and it’s a pretty good release, ranging from blast-beaten pummeling to molasses-slow dissonance), and I wish Infernus all the luck in the world henceforth, but I think Gorgoroth deserves a better vocalist. –Gavin Hoffman

Grand Archives
Keep in Mind Frankenstein
Sub Pop Records
Street: 09.15
Grand Archives = Carissa’s Wierd + Calexico + Red House Painters
Seattle-based Grand Archives receive much of their fame through Mat Brooke, formerly associated with Band of Horses, and bassist Jeff Montano, now a member of The Shins. Grand Archives, however, sound like neither of the aforementioned. Keep in Mind Frankenstein, their sophomore effort, is a stripped-down, almost-folk, all-acoustic album. It’s threadbare. Perfect for those dog days with nothing going on. In fact, the album is so quiet that when I listen to it, I forget it’s playing until it stops. I barely know that it’s there and struggle to detect even the subtle lap steels and dulcimers found on some of the tracks. Fans of sparse, lazy folk will be won over by this. Listeners looking for catches, hooks and an array of memorable songs will not. While not outstanding, it is an honest and pleasant album that deserves a spin or two. –Ryan Sanford

Grant Hart
Hot Wax
Con D’or
Street: 10.06
Grant Hart = Paul Westerberg + New Day Rising era Husker Du
With all the accolades going to Bob Mould, Grant Hart had to work his ass off to pen some of the most tuneful and downright catchy songs of Hüsker Dü’s career. Now, more than 20 years after the demise of Husker Du, Hot Wax is proof that Hart’s musicianship and ear for melody never left. Recorded at the storied Hotel2Tango in Montreal with members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor (sounding their least GSY!BE), Hot Wax launches straight into “You Are the Reflection of the Moon on the Water” like an early-2000s garage-rock band with a world-weary troubadour fronting their noisy three-chord burners. The album falls sometimes into belabored Beatles-esque pop buoyed by excellent instrumentation before picking itself up again by the sheer volume of its soaring, soulful anthems, like “My Regrets” and “California Zephyr.” The straight-ahead rock songs on Hot Wax are absolutely must-hear singles. –Ryan Hall

The Heavy
The House That Dirt Built
+1 Records
Street: 01.05
The Heavy = James Brown + Robert Johnson + Queens of The Stone Age + Gorillaz
The Heavy is one of the most interesting bands I have heard in a long time. It’s hard to categorize them. These guys are all over the place and pimp-smack every song they play like it’s disrespecting. The first song following the introduction sounds like Rombie Zombie had a rockabilly horror-filled wet dream. The second jam sounds like the best song that the Godfather of Soul never released and on it goes. Every track has a different vibe and feel and The Heavy owns it every time. My favorite song on the album is track 6, “No Time.” Imagine if Shellac, Portishead, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Prince all had a sultry one-off orgy. Dirty, groovy, sweaty and creepy all at the same time. Check The Heavy out if you want some amazing music with variety. –Jon Robertson

Heavy Trash
Midnight Soul Serenade
Fat Possum
Street: 10.29
Heavy Trash = Tom Waits + The Bel-Rays + T-model Ford + Nick Cave
I’ve never been a big fan of Jon Spencer’s other projects. I’ve always felt that he’s been raping Muddy Waters’ dead corpse by rehashing classic old blues melodies and rhythms for years, but with Heavy Trash, I feel like he’s not just tweaking something enough to make it his own, but deconstructing the blues to rebuild it in a new and interesting way. Dabbling in some pretty dark areas, it’s a complete re-imagining of the blues and Midnight Soul Serenade displays a completely new way to look the blues. As with most experimental music, the band does go too far at times, disintegrating from music to noise. Spencer and his partner in crime, Matt Verta-Ray, are joined by a horde of musicians to make an almost-noteworthy record, but not the most enjoyable. –James Orme

Hellbastard
The Need to Kill/Eco-War
Selfmadegod Records
Street: 10.26
Hellbastard = Tragedy + (new) Exodus + Amebix
Fucked if I didn’t want to like this combo full-length/EP pack from England‘s Hellbastard…but, quite frankly, it’s just not so good. All the elements for awesomeness are there—crunchy guitar riffs that hearken back to Monolith-era Amebix, heavier-than-God, pit-punching breakdowns that would make even the most seasoned pit-ninja salivate, and gnarly-fast thrash parts that would surely leave one with a bangover … but, ultimately, the mixture doesn‘t work in these lads’ favor. The drums are obviously triggered, which is an almost immediate turn-off, and the vocals are too over-the-top cheeseball to be taken seriously. It seems like these guys took all the awesome elements listed previously, threw them in a blender and hoped for the best, without actually putting much thought into arrangement and presentation. Goddammit. –Gavin Hoffman

His & Her Vanities
The Mighty Lunge
Science of Sound
Street: 10.20
His & Her Vanities = The Strokes + The Pixies
If Nirvana mated with Hot Hot Heat and threw a husband-wife dynamic into the band, they would sound like His & Her Vanities. The Mighty Lunge is a white, glowing river of post-punk lava. It flows from eruption to apology and settles as stone in a state of unexpected serenity. Somewhere between the energy extremes is “What It Is,” which represents what is most uniquely H.H.V. The song has a clever guitar riff that holds hands with Ricky Reimer’s vocal chords. However, most of The Mighty Lunge begins with an unfamiliar scale or luring studio effect which creates early interest, but half of these songs feel like a desert in the middle. The early creativity of “Wait It Out” and “Agenda” is lost in repetitive choruses and artistic safety. –Bradley Ferreira

Hunters Moon
The Serpent’s Lust
Hells Headbangers
Street: 08.28
Hunters Moon = Bathory + Morrigan + Immortal
You can easily do the six degrees of separation thing with the members that make up Hunters Moon and tie them in with the elite of the underground Australian black metal scene by way of Nocturnal Graves and Denouncement Pyre, which have tie-ins to members of other great Australian black metal crews. Hunters Moon play epic black metal. This entire 21-minute, six-track EP actually plays out like an homage to Bathory, just without the Viking-themed lyrics—which never really is that bad of a thing, especially how these guys do it. The songs offer a great variety of epic thundering guitars, steel-on-steel-sounding drumming with guitar solos wailing up from the very depths of hell, with plenty of speed-driven moments and atmospheric melodies tossed in. This mostly mid-tempo sonic concoction is a stellar teaser to a hopeful full-length album. –Bryer Wharton

Hurricane Bells
Tonight is the Ghost
Vagrant
Street: 11.10
Hurricane Bells = Longwave + Low Shoulder + The Editors
Hurricane Bells, the newest project from Steve Schiltz of Longwave, is yet another artist to ride the coattails of the Twilight franchise’s success. The music is suitably pretty enough to fit in with the rest of the music on the New Moon soundtrack, with haunting melodies, soft acoustic guitar and lyrics of longing. Schiltz has a sweet, smooth voice like molasses that seems to deeply ponder every word he sings. It’s the kind of lovely indie music that just makes you wanna insert yourself into a fuzzed-up montage of you looking maudlin with your supernatural lover. But while the album is perfectly pleasant to listen to, most of the songs are forgettable enough, and I doubt the music will stick with me once I’m finished with this review. –Cléa Major

Ichabod
2012
Rootsucker Records
Street: 11.24
Ichabod = Neurosis + Sleep + Vision of Disorder + Clutch
While the theme of Boston’s Ichabod’s 2012 album may embody ultimate doom—it being the year some say that the world will end, including the crew of Ichabod—the music is less doom-driven and more post-hardcore and jammy. There is a mixing of stoner, hardcore and doom-type styles amongst thunderous riffs washing over listeners like waves on a beach. The album strikes a fair balance of pummeling riffs to stoner improv-type jams. The album’s tone, while somewhat bleak, also has almost a feeling of celebratory gloriousness, almost as if Ichabod welcomes the thought that the world could end in 2012 and they rejoice in the fact. Creepy melodies also make their way into the larger-than-life songs at times, crafting spaced-out floating vibes. Whether the world ends in 2012 or not, it is still safe to say Ichabod have much to offer on their third full-length for any stoner, doom or post-hardcore music lover. –Bryer Wharton

Impious
Death Domination
Metal Blade
Street: 11.24
Impious = The Crown + Vader + Behemoth + Krisiun
Just because you’re from Sweden and play death metal doesn’t mean you have to sound like all the other Swedish death-metal bands. Death Domination is played fast, very fast, but it also has a hefty amount of groove weight to it, creating catchy songs and riffs to make your head swirl. Add some crisply divine production so thick it feels as if you could literally take a bite out of it, and this requires repeated listens with volume maximized! While Impious’ influences are a-plenty, namely The Crown, there is also American and Polish influence here, adding to the plethora of death metal influences. There is your outright thrash-heavy-groove-blasting and big—I mean, epically huge—riffs and drumming, all amongst small amounts of lead guitar work that’s not too overly technical to distract from the brutality of it all. Brutal and cohesively catchy, Death Domination dishes out a nice assault of death metal. –Bryer Wharton

Jack Splash
Heir to the Throne Vol. 1
Record Label
Street: 11.01
Jack Splash = J Dilla + Wiz Khalifa + Prince
Jack Splash steps hard into his solo career with Heir to the Throne Volume 1. A preliminary first of three mixtapes leading up to the release of his full-length album, I sure hope he doesn’t blow his load early. Well-rounded is not a good enough term to use for this release, it honestly shocked me. “In the Future,” a clubby dance track sounding like a Dubstep/Prince collabo with neither one on there, does, however, have Kelis, bringing in added sex appeal without her “neck or back” getting involved. A track that will throw anyone for a loop is “Sly Stone (To the Throne)”—it starts off with a circus beat; no joke, listen to it. The ending track, a 16-minute banger song, “A Little Mo Love Music,” is something to get lost in for a minute—it’s a mash-up of some amazing songs, some from the artist. Roll one up and enjoy yourself. –Jemie Sprankle

Japandroids
Post-Nothing
Polyvinyl Records
Street: 09.04
Japandroids = Cymbals Eat Guitars + The Jesus and Mary Chain
Considering that this album was first released for digital download and vinyl in April of 2009, many of you have probably already heard of this guitar-and-drummer rocker duo a few times already. After gaining the attention of a few notable music resources, as well as becoming a serious cog in the Internet hype machine, Japandroids were signed onto Polyvinyl Records and subsequently rereleased Post-Nothing. Do they bring anything new to the table? Not really. Are their lyrics kind of bland and boorish? Yeah, kind of. Despite it all, they still have some incredibly heavy and catchy songs that probably won't leave your playlist for at least a few weeks. If you haven't heard them already, you might as well give them a little listen. –Ross Solomon

John Mayer
Battle Studies
Columbia
Street: 11.17
John Mayer = Huey Lewis & The News + Stevie Ray Vaughn + your older sister’s favorite pop star
I like John Mayer. There, I’ve finally said it. He’s one of the better singer/guitar-playing major artists out there, and by all accounts, the mafuckas got a great sense of humor, too. I imagine this is important when you’re a big celebrity and you have some sort or “artistic vision” to balance out your spreads in shitty gossip rags. My big caveat: If I hadn’t started listening to Mr. Mayer back when his first album came out, I don’t think I still would—but I do and shall continue to because: a) he’s a really good blues guitarist b) his music reminds me of a lovely girl that stole my heart for a spell c) he’s not bad on the eyes, either—damn, your chiseled features, John! I will mention without mentioning a blight on the album (Taylor Swift) but quickly cleanse the palate by referencing the track following Mayer’s duet with that broad—song four, “Who Says [I Can’t Get Stoned]?”—which should eventually be regarded as one of his classics (and I don’t need to Google if this song has a video or is on an abysmal local light rock station to verify). Who says you can’t get stoned? Not me, Johnny, light me a fatty ’cuz I always got your back from the haters. –JP

Kid Sister
Ultra Violet
Universal Republic Records
Street: 11.17
Kid Sister = Lil’ Kim - Whorishness + Disco Electronica
When listening to Kid Sister, expect your inner ghetto dance moves to start surfacing. With high-energy choruses and punchy verses, "Right Hand Hi," "Control" and "Switchboard" are full-force dance songs. Old-school drums mixed with some chopped and screwed electronica sounds are guaranteed to get your jelly wiggling. Kid Sister’s lyrics have all the sassy, aggressive flavor of Lil’ Kim, but without the element of over-the-top gross sluttiness. Instead of rapping about vaginal juices, she opts for lyrics about getting her nails done and being an independent, fresh female. In the song "Pro Nails," featuring Kayne West, she creates an anthem for all the bad-ass ladies out there with lines like "Rhinestones all in they face/Gold charms and paper chase/Talk smack from around the way/Gotta put these chicken heads in they place." This album is as fresh as they come for an up-and-coming female rapper. –Bethany Fischer

Kurt Vile
Childish Prodigy
Matador Records
Street: 10.06
Kurt Vile = Bruce Springsteen + Sebadoh + Neil Young
Kurt Vile’s latest album is slightly different from past releases in that it’s straightforward and very mature sounding. The Violators, his backup band, join him for a few tracks, most notably in the rockin’, guitar-heavy opener, “Hunchback.” Aside from these few tracks, Vile again shows us his penchant for simple, lo-fi songwriting habits, as on the alt-country hummer “Overnite Religion,” the debonair “Blackberry Song” and the almost epic “Amplifier.” It'd be obvious to say Vile's music exists somewhere in the past. Something classic and nostalgic about it makes it seem instantly familiar. There are some very timeless and original qualities on Childish Prodigy that make it a worthwhile listen (see “Monkey” and “He’s Alright”), with the only downside being that besides the obvious maturation in his music, Vile still lacks consistency and could use some direction. Much of the same here and Vile will most likely keep getting better with age. –Ryan Sanford

Kush Arora
Boiling Over
Record Label Records
Street: 12.20
Kush Arora = Bassnectar + AC Slater + Buraka
I have to admit, when the first notes of this album played over the speakers, I was less than enthused. The first track, “Boiling Over,” is an almost visceral experience, and aptly named, with a convoluted, warped-out and distracted bass line and just enough smattering of drumbeats to make a person go insane trying to pick it all out. But the album grew on me, and after a few listens, I was hooked. The music changes between dubstep and psychedelic electronica, with a few tracks (“The Staircase” and “Constructing the Absence”) straying into the ambient down-tempo genre complete with world music samples, although the album is at its best when pursuing the harder dubstep sound, and “DealBreaker”—with a heavy-on-the-synths, distorted, progressive, upbeat 2-step rhythm—is the best song on the album. –Jessie Wood

Letters & If It Ain't Breakfast Don't Fix It
Scattered Areas Where a Thousand Follow in Likeness
Ms Valerie Park Distro
Street: 10.15
Letters & If It Ain't Breakfast Don't Fix It = Hockey Night + Beirut + Olivia Tremor Control
Being in an experimental gig has got to be tough these days. Really, all anyone wants to hear are some irritating voices (Of Montreal) layered over dreary-eyed beach music (Real Estate). Seriously, music buffs, what the fuck. I'm not sure why everyone thinks that music needs to regress to progress, but this album proves that at least some people have the right idea. Letters, with the collaboration of cellist Geph Shannon (If It Ain't Breakfast Don't Fix It), has managed to avoid this crowd of jeering, dreary-eyed, irony-loving clowns with Scattered Areas: a wonderful assortment of musical experimentation. Styles range from “Grand,” a track featuring beautiful, melodious harmonics alongside a distant cello pizzicato, to “A Very Important Coin Toss,” which is reminiscent of the instrumentation employed by Beirut. It takes a journey to find what you might love about this album. Eventually, though, you will. –Ross Solomon

Lita Ford
Wicked Wonderland
JLRG Ent.
Street: 10.06
Lita Ford = Genitorturers + Mötley Crüe (modern era) + noise that resembles music
Yeah I’ve listened to my fair share of 80s glam and hard rock; that said, I never really listened to Lita Ford. I can understand her return to music—recording, touring, all that fun stuff—especially since a feature film based on The Runaways is in the works. But to set the record straight, Wicked Wonderland isn’t glam or hard rock, it is a god-fucking-awful way too long album of terribleness. This record does not have one redeeming quality, not even one decent song. The whole thing is surrounded in terrible electronic programming which maybe was intended to mask the generic and boring and at times sloppy guitar work, the drumming might as well come from a machine, and Lita’s voice is stretched to the point of not even fitting in with the music. Add some terrible sexually laughable lyrics and it just gets worse. I’m off to go douse my ears with acid to cleanse the horrid set of songs I just endured. –Bryer Wharton

Ludo
Broken Bride EP
Redbird
Street: 09.29
Ludo = Meatloaf + Say Anything + Cute Is What We Aim For
Are these guys for real? Why is this happening? were some of the questions running through my mind when I first heard this bizarre little slice of weirdness. Ludo established themselves as the annoying emo/pop-punk band most likely to write songs about zombies and murders with their last somewhat popular album, You’re Awful, I Love You, and now they’ve re-released this “rock opera” that they originally penned in 2005. Why they thought anyone needed to hear this again is a mystery to me. It’s convoluted, the music is weird and grating solely for the sake of being weird and grating, and vocalist Tim Convy continues to have one of the most annoying voices I’ve ever heard. –Cléa Major

Malakai
Ugly Side of Love
Domino
Release date: 02.02
Malakai = Massive Attack + Pink Floyd + Kinks
Have you wondered what kind of music Syd Barrett would make today? I’m pretty sure it would sound something like Bristol duo Malakai. This is what happens after trip-hop makes love to a psychedelic Nuggets boxset and makes a baby. Album opener “Warriors” takes samples from the 80s cult classic film of the same name, begging you to come out and play. “Shitkicker” has hints of a Spaghetti Western, while “Snowflakes” is straight-up skuzzy garage rock. Portishead mastermind Geoff Barrow plays producer and mentor on the album and his influence is prominent on the swirly “Only For You.” Climate change is the topic on the upbeat “Moonsurfin’,” with lyrics speaking of surfing without the seas, and “Fading World,” which was written after a news report on Hurricane Katrina. Ugly Side Of Love promises to send you into a woozy state of mind; you won’t even remember what you did the night before. –Courtney Blair

The Mercury Program
Chez Viking
Lovitt Records
Street: 11.24
The Mercury Program = Tristeza + Labradford + Tortoise
For a long time now, math-rock quartet The Mercury Program have been making what could best be described as “lounge rock.” Chez Viking is more of the same, with the delayed guitars, slow grooves, electric Rhodes, vibraphones and so-called “jazz drumming” all in place, making a very chill, shimmery album that is perfect for late-night drives, cooking and very serious elevator rides. This was three years in the making and it shows, coming across as very precise and premeditated, almost flawless for what it is. I believe even the most serious post-rocker will dig this (unless of course you can’t “lounge”). However, with so much time spent, you’d think they’d come up with more than just seven tracks at 31 minutes long. This leaves much desired. Luckily, the tracks flow into one another with ease, so if you set it on repeat, you probably won’t notice until it’s played six or seven times. –Ryan Sanford

Mischief Brew & Guignol
Fight Dirty
Fistolo
Street: 11.24
Mischief Brew & Guignol = World/Inferno Friendship Society + Gogol Bordello + Zydepunks
Fight Dirty is a collaborative affair featuring seven songs by anarcho-acoustic punks Mischief Brew on which instrumental gyspy-punk band Guignol is the backing band, six Guignol tracks with Mischief Brew mastermind Erik Petersen playing guitar, a Django Reinhardt cover and an Iron Maiden cover—it sounds exactly like you’d expect. This release is a lot of fun, but a little bit goes a long way. Guignol (which features Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady on accordion) is great at what they do, but their songs tend to drag on and Petersen’s contributions are barely even noticeable. The Mischief Brew songs fare better, but even so, 16 tracks of clarinet-fueled, accordion-propelled, tuba-filled punk rock is just too much. The Maiden cover (“Hallowed Be Thy Name”) is pretty awesome and there’s definitely some cool stuff on Fight Dirty, just don’t expect to make it through the album without skipping a few tracks. –Ricky Vigil

Mnemic
Sons of the System
Nuclear Blast
Street: 01.26
Mnemic = Fear Factory + Strapping Young Lad + Meshuggah + Soilwork
Mnemic is a band I’ve been listening to since they began. I enjoyed the band’s first two albums, but the last record, Passenger, was a dud in so many ways. The band was breaking in a new singer and bringing some big stylistic changes that really played out for a terrible and disjointed-sounding album. Thankfully, the band has returned, starting the year off with a nice, cleanly heavy and melodically catchy record. If there were ever a way to incorporate breakdowns and have them not sound completely overused and redundant, Mnemic have found a way to do it on Sons of the System. The record is also the most melodic the band has ever sounded, using a lot of clean singing, which they should’ve done on the last record, which was unpleasantly chaotic. With Sons of the System, Mnemic paint a futuristic, metallic, clean, atmosphere, heavy wrecking-ball of an album, be it in the band’s extensive and brilliant keyboard/programming, stop-and-go Meshuggah-type tempo changes and/or subtle yet potent melodies. –Bryer Wharton

Mudvayne
Mudvayne
Epic
Street: 12.21
Mudvayne = Korn + Alice in Chains + Stone Sour + Pantera
The rap/rock leanings of nü-metal may be long dead or suffering in the underground, but the mainstays of nü-metal still strive and thrive forward; hence, a new record from Mudvayne. The album sounds like everything they’ve done before, mixing simple, heavy riffing à la Pantera’s groove style of guitar riffs, with Korn-style chugging and easily accessible melodies and clean singing. It basically doesn’t seem to portray any real emotion, but was created because the band has had success with the sound and it’s easy to hold on to those fans and make new ones by making music that is straight from a cookie cutter. I never quite understood the appeal of Mudvayne; the vocalist has a decent scream, but his singing voice is terrible, making the ballad-type songs that rip off Alice in Chains sound pretty damn horrific, and the really sad thing is, guys are going to play this while they make out with their girlfriends because it’s so sensitive yet dark and chicks dig that in a guy, don’t they? –Bryer Wharton

MV + EE
Barn Nova
Ecstatic Peace
Street: 10.13
MV + EE = On the Beach-era Neil Young + White Rainbow
I usually put psychedelic music into categories: the kind of psychedelia I can enjoy on a purely aesthetic level, and that in which I would have to be on a dangerous level on drugs to enjoy. Fortunately for me, Mike Valentine’s and Erika Elder’s thirtieth-something album falls squarely in the first camp. Barn Nova combines ramshackle Americana with spaced-out ragas and drones. Bands incorporating Indian modal tonality and scales is nothing new in rock n’ roll, but on Barn Nova, the Eastern leanings of this musical commune are so subtle they are integrated into the corpus of their very American sound. The guitar solos on “Summer Magic” and “Wandering Nomad” are sure to melt the face of every J Mascis-worshipping guitar strangler. Now, while I enjoy Barn Nova on its own merits, I’m not saying that it can’t be enjoyed with a healthy dose of the two. –Ryan Hall

Netherfriends
Calling You Out EP
Emergency Umbrella
Street: 07.21
Netherfriends = Animal Collective + Brobecks
Chicago-based Netherfriends have created an instantly nourishing record. Calling You Out is the early incarnation of Shawn Rosenblatt's creative genius and it's likable from the first track. Poppy, high-energy vocals are bound together by tribal beats and packaged in a logical smear of playground sounds. The electric guitar style of this album reminds me of Vampire Weekend at times. Calling You Out is unapologetically influenced by a group of Baltimore musicians with animal alter-egos, but when the awkward conversation about similarity arises at the dinner table, they laugh along with the jokes. They're comfortable in their own skin, and their style is distinguished enough to separate them from hordes of impostors. Every track reads like a new book, but united, they become some type of abstract intellectual birthday cake with word filling. –Bradley Ferreira

NOFX
Cokie the Clown
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 11.24
NOFX = The Adolescents + Lagwagon + The Vandals
Keeping with their great tradition of not keeping any sort of traditions, NOFX have released a preview EP for their new album, Coaster, more than six months after its release. The cover art of Cokie the Clown, an endearingly horrifying oil painting of NOFX frontman Fat Mike decked out in clown makeup, is easily the best part of this release—the music is pretty standard NOFX fare. The title track doesn’t really live up to the expectations set by the accompanying art, though it’s always nice to hear Eric Melvin singing part of a NOFX tune. “Straight Outta Massachusetts” and “Fermented and Flailing” are forgettable, but the acoustic version of “My Orphan Year” (which appeared in electric form on Coaster) reveals a rarely seen side of NOFX, as Fat Mike ditches his normally jovial attitude to cope with the death of his parents. Cokie isn’t an essential NOFX record, but it’s OK for what it is. –Ricky Vigil

Nommo Ogo
Across Time and Space
Record Label Records
Street: 07.09
Nommo Ogo = Faust + Black Dice + Autechre
Hockey moms and the Alaskan experimental electronic-noise scene have one thing in common. They are both demographics created by Sarah Palin to lay claim to her State’s tangential relevance to the United States. Well, maybe only one of those is true. If there is such a thing as an Alaskan electronic-noise scene, Nommo Ogo are credited as the creators of it. Their latest long player documents their collective experimentation from 2002-2007 and shows a band enthralled in the organic texturing of extreme frequencies, fractured electronic beats, and a free-flowing journey through a frigid sea of decaying synthesizers and ancient sequencers. Amazingly, composition and melody are not thrown out the window, but consistently glue each track loosely together. A required headphone listener, Nommo Ogo’s collaborative improvisation keeps each track’s shelf life well past the 7-8 minutes of buried vocals and pitch-shifted everything. Going Rogue. –Ryan Hall 

Ólöf Arnalds
Viđ og Viđ
One Little Indian
Street: 01.10
Ólöf Arnalds = Joan Baez + by way of Björk
When a debut album receives as much praise as this one has, and fellow Icelander Björk endorses you (this is even released on Björk’s same UK label) you know there must be something to it. Folk singer and Múm contributor Arnalds has created a soothing, eclectic mix that at times sounds like lullaby—yet is intriguing and complex, too. It doesn’t even matter that it is entirely sung in Icelandic––that just adds to the beauty. Originally released two years ago, ViÄ‘ og ViÄ‘ is finally receiving its overdue US debut in the form of an enhanced CD. The album was produced by Sigur Rós’ Kjartan Sveinsson and features mainly acoustic guitar with some occasional bass and strings and is highlighted by Arnalds’ unique and delicate vocals. Her voice also has a soothing quality to it, and the more reflective moments do recall a peace and tranquility, but again, in an intriguing way. The song titles—also all in Icelandic—seem irrelevant to list, as this is one of those great albums one can listen to from start to finish and still want more. –Dean O Hillis

Oppressor
The Solstice Of Agony & Corrosion
Mortal Music
Street: 11.03
Oppressor = Morbid Angel + Pestilence
There really is only one reason I’ve heard of Oppressor and it stems from metal fans crying “sell-out” years ago when hard rock band Soil broke into the scene with their second album, Scars, in 2001. Soil currently contains three members of Oppressor, so metalheads screamed “sell-out” at Soil because how could the members of a death metal band play in such a commercial, radio-friendly band. Whatever the members’ reasoning, it doesn’t matter much to me, I’m just stating why I know of the band. This best-of compilation album featuring songs from Oppressor’s three full-length studio albums feels like a lesson in redundancy. Yes, said studio albums may be out of print, but considering you can snatch any one of them up for less than the price of a new CD on eBay shows that the demand for re-releasing this material isn’t really there. As for the tunes, at first glance Oppressor plays decent tech/prog death metal, but any knowledgeable death-metal fan is going to notice they sound not-so-coincidently similar to Spheres-era Pestilence and the mid-career of Morbid Angel and a boring version at that. –Bryer Wharton

Polka Dot Dot Dot
Syzygy
Bicycle Records
Street: 11.12
Polka Dot Dot Dot = Deer Tick + Diane Cluck + Horse Feathers
Today’s over-abundance of folk bands is good and bad for different reasons that I won’t go into, but Olympia, Washington’s Polka Dot Dot Dot can be categorized under both lists. A lot of groups right now are doing the crooning, eccentric, banjo/ukulele “weird-folk” (thanks no doubt to Beirut and Joanna Newsom), and while Polka Dot have a unique approach, I don’t feel that it sets them apart. Syzygy is an eccentric album which left me divided at times. I liked the soft tunes and sparse leanings that open and close the album (“Nijewel,” “Nautilus Teef,” “You’re On the Phone” and “Up All Night” being standout tracks) but couldn’t stand the rest of the album, which was wasted on these quirky, highly annoying, sometimes a cappella, hand-clapping, bouncy, whimsical tunes driven by the harpy voices of the girls in the band. The wrong ideas or mostly filler?—it’s hard to tell. –Ryan Sanford

Raise the Red Lantern
Raise the Red Lantern
At A Loss Records
Street: 11.10
Raise the Red Lantern = Mastodon + High On Fire + Neurosis
Someone wake me up when this whole fucking proggy NeurIsis trend finally goes away. Listen up, kids—I’m glad you can write music. I’m glad you can bring the heav. I’m glad you get loud and stay unapologetic. But for fuck’s sake, stop following trends and write music for yourselves. Maybe it’s simply the way this music was captured on this recording, because I could easily see myself raising a beer to these guys in a live setting, but this sucker is just plain boring. As in, re-hashed, heard-this-all-a-million-times-before-and-have-the-T-shirts-to-prove-it type boring. That said, if you’re one of the clones that simply have to have everything that bears any semblance whatsoever to Neurosis and/or Mastodon, this is probably right up your alley. As for me, I’m too goddamned grumpy right now to find anything interesting about this release. –Gavin Hoffman

Real Estate
Self-Titled
Woodsist Records
Street: 11.17
Real Estate = Galaxie 500 + Woods + Yo La Tengo
Real Estate’s catchy, light-hearted brand of so-called “beach punk” is contagious. I picked this album up after seeing them play at Kilby Court on a wet, cold day to a crowd of about five people and it’s rarely left my player since. The moods on the album shift between breezy and light to uplifting and reassuring, with frontman Martin Courtney IV showing he has the ability to pen nearly perfect lo-fi pop songs in “Fake Blues” and the timid “Green River.” At times, it sounds very threadbare, like Galaxie 500, while other times it comes across as being sprightly, chilled-out surf rock. Repeat listens allow the album to open up and tracks that seemed to shy away from notice before stand out, as in the case of the 6-minute amiable and groovin’ “Suburban Beverage.” I don’t think this New Jersey quartet have put a foot down wrong in making this 10-track debut. –Ryan Sanford

The Riptides
Tales from Planet Earth
Asian Man Records
Street: 10.13
The Riptides = The Queers + The Riverdales + The Lillingtons
These Canadian pop-punkers’ tendency to adhere far too closely to the Ramones-core aesthetic is a bit cringeworthy at times (the first song makes reference to high-tops, leather jackets, plaid skirts and knee-high socks ... all in the first three lines), but Tales from Planet Earth is still a fun record. It's kinda weird to think that there are so many different kinds of bands that play this style of punk rock, but The Riptides are a strictly traditional pop-punk band, mixing songs about girls ("Hung Up") with cheesy, B-movie inspired tunes like "Omega Man" and "Dial M for Murder." The inclusion of a Christmas song is weird, but I guess the world needs a few more punk-rock holiday songs. If you need a three-chord, cheese-fest fix while you're waiting for Ben Weasel's next project to inevitably implode, check this one out. –Ricky Vigil

Salvador Santana
Keyboard City
Quannum Label Distribution/RED
Street: 01.10
Salvador Santana = Mozart + Carlos Santana + Beastie Boys
The range on Keyboard City is ridiculous. Every song on the album has a different feel, but doesn’t ever sound schizophrenic. Starting off putting the good foot down, “We Got Somethin’” is an old-school pimp-walking song with a new-school feel. This being Santana’s first solo album, it’s invigorating to think what the spawn of Carlos Santana will produce in the future. Every beat is diverse and unique. “Under The Sun” is something refreshing, sounding like a Ladytron song with a stronger drum and guitar sound. He shows off of his Latin roots on “ Keyboard City ” and his Bay Area swagger on “Don’t Do It”. Along with superb beats, Santana lays it down with vocals to get a real “total package” vibe. The last track, “Keep Smiling,” an impressive feel-good song with a marvelous brass sound, crisp drums and soothing vocals, is a proper way to end an album. –Jemie Sprankle

The Shaky Hands
Let It Die
Kill Rock Stars
Street: 09.29
The Shaky Hands = The Walkmen + The Rolling Stones + The Shins
The Shaky Hands, of Portland, return with their third offering, Let It Die, belting out 11 tracks of classic, straight-forward, cathartic rock music. Drawing on the jangle pop of the late 60s, this album is never short on circular, arched guitars with feet-stomping and piano-banging all present, while singer Nicholas Delffs’ voice trembles, peeling away the bouncy exterior to reveal a nearly fragile and emotional undercurrent. The most agreeable track is “Allison and the Ancient Eyes,” a catchy, hand-clapping song of lost love that borders on divorce-rock. Several of the tracks here wouldn’t sound out of place on Sticky Fingers (notably, the title track and “All You Recall”—both are great songs), as well as having a feel somewhat similar to a less adventurous Oh, Inverted World, all the while reminiscent of The Byrds. While many bands do this same thing, The Shaky Hands do it a little better. –Ryan Sanford

Siegfried
Nibelung
Napalm Records
Street: 12.15
Siegfried = Battlelore + Crematory + Tristania + Trail of Tears
To get any sort of enjoyment from Austria’s Siegfried is a stretch. Yes, I’ve enjoyed a few gothic/epic metal-type bands in my day. Siegfried’s concept is slightly unique, singing about the Nibelungs, a race of dwarfs that hold a treasure stolen by none other than Siegfried. It all sounds highly D&D sounding, but the Nibelungs do come from actual German mythology. Siegfried’s music reflects the band’s interpretation of the concept. Their interpretation is probably much more interesting than how they present that interpretation on the band’s third full-length album, which is an exercise in mediocrity. With bland, emotionless male (clean and harsh) and female vocals coupled with stagnant orchestration and droll, repetitive guitar riffing sans anything technically or melodically appealing, the whole record sounds forced and uncomfortable, even with itself. While the band tries to do a lot, it comes off as poorly executed and silly-sounding. –Bryer Wharton

Sprocket
Medicated Empty
Blynd Pheasant
Street: 01.19
Sprocket = Stabbing Westward + The Out Circuit + Unwritten Law
I have some astonishing news! The members of Sprocket have been in relationships, in break-ups and now have ex-girlfriends. The world has more then certainly come to its end. The lyrical content of this album is horrendous. It’s all mumbling, suicidal, sulky-ass bullshit about how the other person in the relationship fucked these dudes over. It’s too bad that the lyrics are so bogus and boo-hoo, because the music and vocal melodies are actually pretty good. Sprocket brings a good amount of mood and electronic experimentation, and then mixes it up with unexpected riffs to make their music enjoyable, if only they would get over their past relationships. To quote the great Garth Algar: “Just get over it; go out with somebody else.” –Jon Robertson

Sunset
Gold Dissolves to Gray
Team Clermont
Street: 11.24
Sunset = George Harrison + John Cale + Van Dyke Parks
Sunset’s frontman Bill Baird obviously wears his influences on his sleeve, which isn’t always a bad thing. Gold Dissolves to Gray, the debut album from this Austin, Tex., ensemble, is a Rolodex of influences. Intentional or not, it works to their favor (sometimes). The second track (“Sunshine Hair”) would fit perfectly on Brian Eno’s Another Green World. That song bleeds into a cover of The Melodians’ reggae hit “Rivers of Babylon,” which would fit nicely on John Cale’s Vintage Violence album. Gold Dissolves is sometimes a tad bit Townes Van Zandt, while other times it feels very Stephen Merritt. The song “Pocketful of Debt” begins suspiciously, like John Lennon’s “Imagine,” embedded with a recycled and undeniable George Harrison influence, and the next track, “Sandy My Love,” has that particular Johnny Cash stench to it. While I feel this album is good, it’s hard to determine how original and sincere it truly is. –Ryan Sanford

Swallow the Sun
New Moon
Fontana Universal
Street: 11.17
Swallow the Sun = Katatonia + Daylight Dies + Insomnium + Tiamat
With a name like Swallow the Sun, you would think the band would be a purveyor of complete darkness and utter despair, but such is not the case with this Finnish band’s fourth studio album. Swallow the Sun play a more hopeful melodic death/doom metal; in fact, it’s probably the cleanest set of death/doom songs you’ll ever hear. Admittedly, some of the heavy doom-styled riffing is catchy, as well as the leads, but the band’s previous praise has me wondering if this album is just worse than previous fare or they’re just over-hyped. There are plenty of bands playing this style, so it takes a lot to stand out, and New Moon feels a bit too by-the-numbers and not as out-of-the-box emotion-wise, like the band nailed how they wanted to sound, but might have sacrificed some energy or truly dark feelings to create a catchier mood for album. New Moon is accessible, yes—challenging, no. –Bryer Wharton

Temple of Baal
Lightslaying Rituals
Agonia Records
Street: 10.12
Temple of Baal = Antaeus + Obscurus Advocam + Glorior Belli
Temple of Baal has, for better or worse, always flown under my increasingly inactive black-metal radar, and I’m not exactly sure why. Lightslaying Rituals, the latest release from this veteran black-metal outfit, is sheer punishment from start to finish, as is most quality French black metal these days. I’m still unsure why it is that the majority of metal music and horror movies I’ve enjoyed lately come from France, but I’m not complaining, and as long as they continue exporting amazing art, I’m going to keep slurping it up. Back to the task at hand, however—this release is simply, well, awesome. Satanic black metal at its absolute best, without pandering to the current pack of Johann-come-latelies and wannabe “tr00” and “kvlt” idiots. Temple of Baal have almost restored my faith in the dark one and his musical missionaries. –Gavin Hoffman

Tenebrae In Perpetuum
L'Eterno Maligno Silenzio
Debemur Morti Productions
Street: 11.03
Tenebrae In Perpetuum = Mayhem + Bethlehem + Gräfenstein + Beatrik
Tenebrae In Perpetuum without question display mid-90s black-metal style on L'Eterno Maligno Silenzio, the Italian band’s third full-length. First impressions feel like more typical Mayhem worship, and while there is quite a bit of that going on with the record, there are also plenty of subtle or not-so-subtle down-tempo and atmospheric moments with clean vocals. Repeated listens will imbue black-metal fans with the feeling that they’ve heard a lot of this album before from other bands—the production is clear, yet retains the raw edge that underground black metal is known for, especially with the metallic sheen coming through the guitars. Yet when the tempo goes low and the haunting, almost chant-like, clean vocals shine through, the album gains its own identity and ultimately will have you returning to listen to the songs that contain those moments and basically ignoring the songs that sound like so many other bands that have come before. –Bryer Wharton

Various Artists
Ashley Beedle & Darren Morris Present: MAVIS
!K7
Street: 01.10
MAVIS=A TRIBUTE TO THE MUSIC OF MAVIS STAPLES AND THE STAPLES SINGERS-MAVIS STAPLES & THE STAPLES SINGERS
DJ extraordinaire Ashley Beedle and his musical cohort, Darren Morris, have obviously put a lot of effort into assembling this original tribute to gospel singer and civil rights legend Mavis Staples and the payoff is huge. Though I confess not to know the music of Mavis or the Staples Singers at all, nonetheless, these songs are phenomenally inspiring and the vocal talent here unprecedented. Lambchops’s Kurt Wagner gets things off to a very fine start with the hypnotic “Gangs of Rome,” leading into the equally great “What You Looking For,” with the incredible vocal talent of John Turrell. It is refreshing to find the lesser-known talent to be up to the task as well. Disa’s contribution on “Sinful Love” and Cherilyn MacNeil’s on “4:14” are both fantastic. Edwyn Collins’ “Feeling Lucky” is particularly uplifting, especially after all his real-life health problems. And any album that feature’s Saint Etienne’s resident goddess, Sarah Cracknell, is instantly better—her vocals on “When I Walk With You (Heartbreak Song)” are lovely. Beedle and Morris have created a mellower, though by no means boring, soundscape behind these great vocalists, and the result of all this talent equals a triumphant success to their original muse, Mavis Staples. –Dean O Hillis

Various Artists
Saw VI Soundtrack
Trustkill Records
Street: 10.20
Various Artists = rock, metal and hardcore songs that have nothing to do with Saw
The term “music inspired by [insert film name here]” is usually suspect because most soundtracks that are labeled as such contain bands B-side tracks that didn’t make their albums or are just a tool to get a band’s name more exposure. I’ve been suckered into these so-called soundtracks before, wasting good money on a soundtrack that only had one song I wanted to hear on it with the rest being crap. The Saw VI soundtrack tunes have nothing to do with the Saw series other than some of them do sport some violent themes, but none of them get close to the themes of the gorefests that usually are the Saw movies (I haven’t seen this installment of the series yet). If you’re looking for a decent comp showcasing a virtual who’s-who of modern heavy music, this is worthwhile and thankfully features the likes of Converge, Danko Jones and Nitzer Ebb paired up with lesser quality bands like Kittie, It Dies Today and Suicide Silence. –Bryer Wharton

Ventana
American Survival Guide Vol. 1
Trustkill
Street: 10.06
Ventana = Mushroomhead + Dope + Mudvayne + Static X
I’m either confused or extremely out of touch, but why Trustkill Records, which used to be a beacon and a bastion for true hardcore, has signed Cleveland’s Ventana, is a mystery to me. They’re not any form of hardcore and they’re sure as shit not industrial metal. While the band only contains one member of the notoriously bad-costumed nü-metal band Mushroomhead, they sure sound a lot like them, which ultimately means bad, chugging riffs with occasional rap-styled vocals, and forced angst growls with hints at ripping off Faith No More. The Mushroomhead member of the band is actually the keyboard/programming guy and he does an awful job at setting any sort of atmosphere or mood, let alone providing another dynamic layer to the music. I’m not quite sure who listens to bands like this anymore; it’s not 1998 and Korn aren’t the hottest band in the world. What a worthless use of pressed CDs, cellophane and paper. –Bryer Wharton

Vetus Obscurum
Blood Revelations
Debemur Morti Productions
Street: 11.03
Vetus Obscrurum = Krohm + Animus Mortis + Bahimiron + Beatrik
While USBM act Vetus Obscurum came before mastermind Numinas’ revered solo black-metal offering Krohm, the trio that is Vetus just recently laid the Blood Revelations EP to track and it’s one giant tease. While Krohm is appealing in its lo-fi produced, mid-to-down-tempo depressive black metal, Vetus Obscurum unleash an unabashed, raging set of four blazing, epic and well-produced set of tracks. I say the EP is a tease because there are enough songs to get you going and then, well, it just ends right in the middle of you wanting more and more of these pale, grim-frosted songs. The biggest quality of this EP, aside from terrific songwriting, is the production—it’s raw enough to open wounds but clear enough to savor every devilish, miserable note. Vetus Obscurum offer another nail in the blood-drenched coffin that is sealing the victories of so many USBM bands that are becoming dominating forces in the metal scene nowadays. –Bryer Wharton

Vulture Whale
Bamboo You EP
Skybucket
Street: 01.19
Vulture Whale = Wild Sweet Orange + older Kings of Leon + anglophile pretentiousness
I’m going to take a stand here and now against singers faking accents that are not their own. This goes for white guys aping Jamaican accents in reggae, and it definitely goes for Vulture Whale’s singer Wes McDonald’s cringe-worthy fake Cockney (or whatever the hell this is supposed to be). Musically, Vulture Whale produces garage-bandy Americana rock with “quirky” lyrics that are sometimes genuinely funny but mostly fall flat. They’re not awful, but the accent is just so wha? that it’s annoying me preemptively and keeping me from giving this band a fair shake. –Cléa Major

Walken
Walken
Self-released
Street: 10.29
Walken = Voivod + Grayceon + The Accused
Bay Area foursome Walken’s self-released debut album, simply stated, is progressive thrash metal with hints at hardcore and crossover sounds, but the simple explanation doesn’t cut it. While there are outright thrashing hardcore and punk-fueled tunes that burst forth from the album, there are more progressive-type songs too, and it’s all done in a way that gives the record that feeling as if you’re discovering a niche genre for the first time. The heavy, progressive, intricate guitar harmonies, rhythms and melodies and atypical drumming without question come from the band’s two members of the renowned avant-garde group Grayceon. Depth of songwriting and pacing is all orchestrated to near perfection. There are moments on the record that leave the thrash at the door and bring the prog-metal in full force, which is a nice mix. Instead of playing the entire record at full tilt, Walken are exactly what the thrash scene needs, they have notable influences but have crafted a style unique to the metal and rock realm. –Bryer Wharton

Worn In Red
In the Offing
No Idea
Street: 11.24
Worn In Red = Planes Mistaken For Stars + Grade + Small Brown Bike
Worn In Red fulfill two great needs currently facing the punk-rock world: the need of a great new band from Richmond, Va. (whatever happened to Smoke or Fire, anyway?) and the need for a new darkly complex and intense post-hardcore band in the vein of Planes Mistaken For Stars. Worn In Red deliver dynamic songs that are intense, emotional, ambient and aggressive. Opening track, "Vital Joys," pummels the listener with throat-shredding vocals and sets the mood for the whole affair, while "And You Know" slows the tempo and lets a dark atmosphere bubble to the surface and ends with an explosion. Even with all of the good stuff on In the Offing, it seems the band might be trying to incorporate too many influences into their sound. Once these guys get a little more focused, they have the potential to be truly great. –Ricky Vigil

Wu-Tang
Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture Vol.2: Enter the Dubstep
iHipHop
Street: 11.10
Enter the Dubstep = Wu-Tang + Slaughter Mob + Skream
If you like dubstep or Wu-Tang, you’ll love this gritty, beat-crunching two-disc set. Each DJ featured on this album take classic Wu-Tang verses and hook and smash them against the fast-growing dubstep genre, creating a sound that is harder, dirtier, and gnarlier than ever heard in hip-hop. Dubstep is a sound that grew out of the UK garage scene, characterized by a 2-step rhythm that is offset by ever-present, heavy rumbling bass lines, sparse drums that scatter around the beat, and echoey, warped synths hovering between the bass and the drums. Some songs, like Chimpo’s remix of “Cinema” and Scuba Scythe’s remix of “Street Corners,” hover just past the realm of hip-hop, in a chill, low-key zone with little dubstep bass lines, while songs such as Jay Da Flex and Yoof’s remix of “Deep Space” and Stenchman’s remix of “Handle the Hustle” bring coarse, sandpaper-y heavy, wonked-out beats that just beg you to go nuts. –Jessie Wood

Wyclef Jean
Thoussaint St. Jean
R.E.D. Distribution
Street: 11.10
Wyclef Jean = The Fugees + Bob Marley + Nas
Almost two years since his last release, Wyclef Jean is back and he brought some bangers. Thoussaint St. Jean is one of the most well-rounded hip-hop albums to come out in a while and it has got a little of everything. For this release, Wyclef teamed up with DJ Drama and a gang of other music industry legends like Cyndi Lauper, Eve (“Suicide Love”) and even Lil’ Kim (“Gangsta Girl”) to create his version of a mixtape. Cyndi Lauper is featured on the track “Slumdog Millionaire,” and it’s dope—expect it to get remixed plenty. Every track has a world-class beat and all but one of them was produced by Wyclef. Wyclef teamed up with Timberland, who is featured on “More Bottles,” one of the two serious club bangers of the album. Alongside the club jams, Wyclef continues with his rough-and-hood style on “Toussaint vs. Bishop.” It’s clear that Wyclef plans on letting the new generation know just who he is and never letting them forget The Fugees and what they did. –Jemie Sprankle