National CD Reviews

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3
The End Is Begun: Special Edition
Metal Blade
Street: 02.19
3 = Coheed & Cambria + Porcupine Tree + Pink Floyd It's funny how when promoting a "Special Edition" release, Metal Blade would send the already released version to be reviewed. The difference is minuscule; according to the band bio the special edition includes a Pink Floyd cover track and a bonus DVD offering live footage and video clips. The group in all its progressive nature has crafted a record uniquely different from their previous album, Alien Angel. The sound is a bit mellower than before; this is not a drawback at all, though. The focus on here is songwriting and musical prowess. The abundant use of acoustic guitars alone transports The End is Begun to a higher musical plane. Forget your standard progressive metal that Dream Theater and Fates Warning (as good as it may be) releases. The diversity in instrumentation, catchy lyrics and quirky vocals is enough to interest fans of indie rock and other genres not associated with metal. Hell, the song, "My Divided Falling," is enough to reel any rock listener in. –Bryer Wharton


Abbie Gale
2
Inner Ear
Street: 12.11
Abbie Gale = Indie Evanescence Abbie Gale's 2, label Inner Ear's debut album, certainly seems promising within the first few tracks. Good female vocals, strong guitar work and all-around tight musicianship are some qualities that initially stand out. Unfortunately, with repeated listens—nay, even a few tracks into the album, one very apparent flaw rears its ugly little head: repetitiveness. Tracks blend together with almost no defining point for any particular song. Vocal conventions and guitar riffs repeat endlessly. Even the setup of each song is very similar, often starting slowly and building up to a climax that always resembles one featured in a preceding track. Abbie Gale possesses a very sweet voice and instrumentals that aren't half bad, but the execution ends up falling painfully flat in the end. –Ross Solomon


Alestorm
Captain Morgan's Revenge
Napalm Records
Street: 01.29
Alestorm = "Scottish Pirate Metal!" Booze, Wenches, Treasure and more! How much more awesome can you get than Pirate metal? Lyrically, songs about women, drinking and sailing the seas looking for treasure and battling is where the most fun in the album is at. Face it, like the actual music of the record or not, the songs are great to get drunk to. I can picture a bunch of bar boys singing along to these tunes after only a couple beers. The music itself is also fun as all hell, sweeping keyboard and flute-type melodies pepper an established, heavy guitar-filled battle madness. The drumming is near perfection, keeping the tempo up and glorious. Add some gruff vocals and you'll feel like you're on a ship smelling salty air and fighting. Metal should always be this much fun and to make the package even better, you will never get tired of hearing any of the 10 pirate-filled tracks of mayhem. –Bryer Wharton


Arson Anthem
Arson Anthem
Housecore Records
Street: 02.19
Arson Anthem = Doom + Discharge + Hellhammer Dirty, raw and brutal are just some of the adjectives that could be used to describe Arson Anthem. Born from an utter disdain of the modern heavy music scene, this super group of sorts is out to destroy and create a new audience and attention for old-school hardcore and punk groups that have come and gone. The songs on the EP are brief; the longest being a minute and 39 seconds. Phil Anselmo's guitars give a whole new meaning to shred and have renewed this reviewer's interest in what Phil is out to offer these days. Add to that, throat-shredding vocals from Eyehategod's Mike IX Williams, thick visceral bass lines from Collin Yeo and a total drumming assault coming from none other than Hank III. Disenchanted with the current state of hardcore and metal? Then take a glorious trip back to the sound that started it all done in a renewed fashion that both pays tribute to the great bands of old but also brings in a whole new breed of extremity. –Bryer Wharton


The Billionaires
Really Real For Forever
Team Clermont Records
Street: 3.4
The Billionaires = The Islands + I'm From Barcelona + Los Campesinos Wow, these guys really like to drink. I like that. Let me explain. I have heard (from a drunken blonde girl) that there are only two kinds of people in this world: Happy drunks and mean drunks. Yes, I was in a bar and yes, I know this is ridiculous. Well, given this phenomenal affirmation, I can only pigeon hole The Billionaires as "Happy Drunks". There, I said it. Their music is poppy, happy, cheery, jovial, and inebriating. It shows you what can happen when you grow up around creative people in a California fishing town with nothing to do but throw house parties, start fires, fry clams, chase kicks, and play music. I can't wait for these guys to pass through Salt Lake City so I can catch their live show. For two reasons...the music is great and I have a crush on the keyboard player. There, I said it. –Lance Saunders


vBlood of Kingu
De Occulta Philosophia
Supernal Music
Street: 01.05
Blood of Kingu = Nile + Hate Forest + Drudkh Questionable personal politics aside, I have been anxious to hear this release since it was announced last year. Blood of Kingu is the "new" project from Roman Saenko, he of Drudkh and Hate Forest infamy. This seems to be a new direction for Mr. Saenko, being lyrically (and sometimes sonically) occupied with ancient Sumerian/Egyptian mythology and history. Musically, it's above-standard black metal; extremely fast, for the most part, and if the tones were different, it would be easily mistaken for death metal. Vocally, however, it's 100 hanting ... think Buddhist monks gone evil. Completely recommended if you happen to enjoy Drudkh or Hate Forest, but don't expect Part II of either band. –Gavin Hoffman


B-Movie Rats
Radio Suicide
Rankoutsider
Street: 01.28
B-Movie Rats = Brett Michaels + L.A. Guns + Guns N' Roses If the B-Movie Rats ever come in concert, I am going to cover my body in leather or maybe shiny black vinyl, put a popcorn ball down by my junk so my bulge looks a little bigger and go to the show. I'm not going to actually watch the show, I'm going to wait outside backstage and hope that if I display my popcorn ball the right way in my tight leather pants that I can get hooked up with some of the leftover groupie chicks. This music is heavensent from the 80s realm where all bodacious 80s musician go when they party it up too hard. I am grateful to still be able to hear hard-rocking, sexed-up 80s hair metal music. It is truly a miracle of God; I think this is what KISS was singing about in their song " God Save Rock N' Roll To You II". –Jon Robertson


Bronze
Calypso Shakedown
Self-Released
Street: 01.22
Bronze = Stephen Chai + Bee Gees + Esquivel Bronze is the cool collected make-out of the nu-soul and disco genre. The songs lend themselves to exquiste bachelor-pad appeal as your typical three-piece band is supplemented with orchestral flourishes by harmonium, Rhodes piano, cello and viola, among other instruments. Songs such as "Chinatown" are noirishly aloof with hints of Magnum PI thrown in to give this track a little more punch while "On the Clock" is more innocently 90210 and self-aware. Not surprisingly, each track can be made into a theme song for any number of smash TV hits from the late 80s to the early 90s, from Perfect Strangers to Dear John. Its easy, laid-back sound and cocktail-hour appeal has carved out a special place in my CD collection and will be played when I bring back ladies to my casa for some brandy and a nightcap. –Erik Lopez


Cadence Weapon
Afterparty Babies
Upper Class Recordings/Anti-/Epitaph
Street: 03.06
Cadence Weapon = Buck 65 + Spank Rock
With experience as a club DJ, Cadence Weapon's production borrows from that mode's peculiarities—particularly its synth and dance drums. Playful rhyme-scheme/flow come together with this style on "True Story," Cadence finding disjointed synchronicity with the beat's erratic club percussion—a complementary display that warrants the choosing of his moniker. Sadly, the rest of the album's earnest ballads of L.A.'s hipster indie-hop scene are innocuous enough to make one feel remorseless when "True Story" is put on repeat-one. –Makena Walsh


Cassettes Won't Listen
Small-Time Machine
Self-Released
Street: 03.11
Cassettes Won't Listen = The Postal Service + et al The fun thing about The Postal Service's album, Give Up, being so prolific is that it inspired so many other budding musicians to take a stab at recreating those feelings we felt when hearing Benjamin Gibbard crooning over glitchy Nintendo-esque music for the first time. Although Cassettes Won't Listen is undeniably influenced by TPS, there's a certain aspect to it that I really enjoy. From the DIY presentation to the catchy lyrics, all 30 minutes of this quick album is quite enjoyable. Most notable is the track "Freeze and Explode," which features some rather wonderful vocal harmonies throughout the chorus. There's also some frequent piano use which weaves throughout most of the songs and even some distorted guitar which is used tastefully. Listen to this not to stave off your hunger for new TPS material, but for the ambition, and you'll hopefully find it as rewarding and exciting as I did. –Conor Dow




Clutchy Hopkins
Walking Backwards
Ubiquity Records
Street: 02.05
Clutchy Hopkins = DJ Shadow + Cut Chemist It's hard to determine which is better: Ubiquity Record's advertising gimmick for Clutchy Hopkins, or the latter's Super Mario-castle-theme instrumentals. Ubiquity, embracing an "alternative advertising" strategy has set out to dupe both music journalists and gullible 13-year-olds alike. According to my treasure-hunt press sheet, Ubiquity doesn't know who exactly Clutchy is—it came by the record through "thrift store finds, red herrings, a pizza parlor, and a list of characters long enough to cast a B-movie." You can even join the hunt yourself by searching Youtube and Ubiquityrecords.com for clues to Waldo's (I mean Clutchy's) whereabouts! How expensively mysterious. Likely, Clutchy's real identity is that of one of his derisively boring labelmates, Shawn Lee or Connie Price. Oh well, the beats are so sticky-icky the record should come replete with rolling papers. "Love of a Woman" (feat. Dorando), wins "Best Song To Make Babies To" in 2007. –Makena Walsh


Del the Funkee Homosapien
11th Hour
Definitive Jux
Street: 3.11
Del = Hiero Imperium + George's brother + Gorillaz Del is one of hip hop's true originals and definitely a legitimate leader of new and true school hip hop that I have grown up listening to, that's why this album leaves me disappointed. Falling from his own family tree, Hiero Imperium Records, Del falls into the hands of Def Jux with his fifth solo release. I have two outlooks on his decision to change labels and I might be correct with both. One, Del could be trying to gain a larger audience through the utilization of Def Jux, or two, this album could have been thrown from his own branches (referring to the family tree) for being such a horrible and lackluster creation. I know Del has been around for a long time and he has established a large name for himself, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable to be lazy. The 11th Hour is by far the worst addition to his very respectable and funky catalogue. –Lance Saunders


Die!Die!Die!
Promises Promises
S.A.F.
Street Date: 02.12
Die!Die!Die! = Buzzcocks + Jane's Addiction + Wives – Plot to Blow up the Eiffel Tower Promises Promises is an outcast record, lying somewhere between West Coast proto-punk and 90s alternative—all the more bizarre, considering the band hails from New Zealand. Unbeknownst to Die!Die!Die!, the sound on this record occasionally brushes with a distinct style that could potentially develop into a new genre altogether. Vocally, the sound is more in line with '77 punk, while the drumming and rhythms bring to mind Antioch Arrow or Guyver One. Fans of both genres will admire this unique mashup, while the layperson may have a difficult time appreciating the subtleties of this album. –Ryan Powers


3
The End Is Begun: Special Edition
Metal Blade
Street: 02.19
3 = Coheed & Cambria + Porcupine Tree + Pink Floyd It's funny how when promoting a "Special Edition" release, Metal Blade would send the already released version to be reviewed. The difference is minuscule; according to the band bio the special edition includes a Pink Floyd cover track and a bonus DVD offering live footage and video clips. The group in all its progressive nature has crafted a record uniquely different from their previous album, Alien Angel. The sound is a bit mellower than before; this is not a drawback at all, though. The focus on here is songwriting and musical prowess. The abundant use of acoustic guitars alone transports The End is Begun to a higher musical plane. Forget your standard progressive metal that Dream Theater and Fates Warning (as good as it may be) releases. The diversity in instrumentation, catchy lyrics and quirky vocals is enough to interest fans of indie rock and other genres not associated with metal. Hell, the song, "My Divided Falling," is enough to reel any rock listener in. –Bryer Wharton


Abbie Gale
2
Inner Ear
Street: 12.11
Abbie Gale = Indie Evanescence Abbie Gale's 2, label Inner Ear's debut album, certainly seems promising within the first few tracks. Good female vocals, strong guitar work and all-around tight musicianship are some qualities that initially stand out. Unfortunately, with repeated listens—nay, even a few tracks into the album, one very apparent flaw rears its ugly little head: repetitiveness. Tracks blend together with almost no defining point for any particular song. Vocal conventions and guitar riffs repeat endlessly. Even the setup of each song is very similar, often starting slowly and building up to a climax that always resembles one featured in a preceding track. Abbie Gale possesses a very sweet voice and instrumentals that aren't half bad, but the execution ends up falling painfully flat in the end. –Ross Solomon
Donita Sparks & The Stellar Moments
Transmiticate
Sparksfly Records
2.19.08 Donita Sparks & The Stella Moments = L7 + Garbage + The Cliks Donita Sparks' first solo album isn't just a rehash under a new name; it's a new sound. While former L7 contemporary Dee Plakas is also featured on drums, The Stellar Moments will seem familiar, but there's a definite shift in the sound of this group. It's the same grrl/grunge, but with a softness about it now. Not that the edge is gone off the music so much as Sparks has grown past rage-induced tampon tossing and into a newer style. From near-jazzy tracks like Creampuff to grungy Dare Dare, this album is a blast to listen to for both L7 fans and newcomers. Transmiticate is a fantastic way for Sparks to remind people just what Grrl rock really sounds like. -Kat Kellermeyer


Drew Danbury
Mother
Independent
Street: 02.06
Drew Danbury = Beach Boys on whip-its + Pete Yorn on laughing gas + Bright Eyes on prozac Drew Danbury is your standard singer/songwriter action using his best friend, the acoustic guitar, as his weapon of indie-pop destruction. But he does all the little things that let you know he cares. Like on the first track, "I'm Pretty Sure This Is Someone Else's Song. But I Couldn't Figure Out Whose So I'm Keeping It!" (that has to be one of the coolest song titles of all time) like overlaying people's laughter into the background of the song. As if he is secretly laughing at the fact that the first track could quite possibly be someone else's song, but it ain't no thang. I like the way this guy works. He's hating on himself while still saying that he doesn't care if you claim him as being a poser. Even if he does cry himself to sleep every night while cuddling his acoustic guitar because he has a low self image. –Jon Robertson


Envy
Abyssal
Temporary Residence
Street: 11.20
Envy = Mono + Corrupted + Isis Ah, Envy ... I've never been completely sold on this band, and this release doesn't quite cement my feelings for them, although it comes ever closer. I quite enjoy the arrangements and songwriting capabilities on this release, ranging from insanely pretty to insanely heavy, and the musicianship is second-to-none, but Abyssal leaves me ... well ... wanting more. MUCH more. And I can't quite tell if this is a good or a bad thing. The mid-tempo marching dirge that is the mid-section of "A Road of Winds the Water Builds" is one of the best pieces of music I've heard in quite some time, but it's still not enough ... ah, fuck it. This is a great release, and I'm jumping on the Envy bandwagon. –Gavin Hoffman


The Epochs
The Epochs
The Rebel Group
Street: 2008
The Epochs = Bedouin Soundclash + Architecture in Helsinki Pause, pause, pause...um, wow, consider my jaw dropped and head bowed for The Epochs. Now, I am an admitted alt. country junkie, and it takes a great deal of musical force to pull me from its grasp. Honestly, I was completely faithful to the genre until DeVotchka let me get to third base on the first date. I've been straying from the committed path ever since. All one night stands until The Epochs, smelling so nice, caught my ear and kept it fixed on their siren's song. The fact that I don't know who to compare them to is so refreshing. I daresay we have an original recipe on our hands that you won't want to take a lemon scented wet nap to, allowing for delicious 24/7 finger smelling. They're a tropical blend of funk, pop, politics, and probably Axe body spray. P.S. Hold your breath, you'll feel it more. –Jessie Price


For the Fallen Dreams
Changes
Rise Records
Street: 01.08
For the Fallen Dreams = Norma Jean + As I Lay Dying + Dead to Fall
This CD couldn't finish fast enough. Listening to Changes is the musical equivalent of sitting through an Uwe Boll film—if Uwe Boll were a hack mosh/melodic/metalcore act instead of a director. No wait, it's not even that entertaining or engaging. This crapfest is a horrendous amalgam of terrible vocals that sound more like constipation than anger, awful lyrics that read like Scholastic Books' 6th-grade-level Mad Libs of Terror lyrics, and songs that sound so painfully similar that I had to actually check the CD player to make sure I hadn't repeated it. The song structures are all the same, open D (or C or whatever) chord, some trite melodic guitar, and back again. That's it. This is the worst piece of aural fecal matter that has emanated from my stereo in a long time. I just hope I can get the stains out of the speaker box. –Peter Fryer


Get Back Loretta
Over The Wall
Pacific Records
07.01.06 Get Back Loretta = Radiohead vibe + Sugary pop keyboards + vintage influence With a Beatles-inspired name you'd better expect the tunes to be damn catchy, and Get Back Loretta delivers. This indie-rock band has pumped their music so full of colorful, upbeat melodies that if you're not singing along by the second verse, you might want to check and see if you've got a pulse. The vocals by bassist Steven Bradford and keyboardist Kevin Martin are energetic, soulful, and spot on, especially highlighted in tracks like "Ketamine," "Dreams Got Scattered," and "It's Not Over." Add in a splash of brass, strings, and woodwinds, and this album might just put your doubts toward modern pop/rock to rest. -Kat Kellermeyer


Graveyard
Graveyard
Tee Pee
Street 02.19
Graveyard = Cream + the Nomads + Danzig When presented with a Swedish band called Graveyard, it would be completely normal to entertain mental images of black metal occultists in fright makeup burning churches to the ground. And while the music on this disc is nothing like you'd expect, it stills seems at least a little linked to these misconceptions. In reality, Graveyard's style is much more in the vein of 1970s psych rock—think Cream melting into Black Sabbath. And where Tee Pee Records has made a serious stand putting out retro-style psychedelic rock, this release is much harder than anything else they have recently put out. And, in an almost surreal way, Graveyard's singer Joakim Nilsson howls and grovels in a near-perfect approximation of Glenn Danzig's signature holler. The end result is quite fantastic. Graveyard manages to cover hard rock in a dark haze with nine songs of almost perfect psychedlia. –James Bennett


Here I Come Falling
Oh Grave, Where is Thy Victory
Rise Records
Street: 01.08
Here I Come Falling = The Chariot + With All Sincerity + The Devil Wears Prada
Actual printed lyrics: "Father i can't undersand how You could ever love me when i'm so undeserving and unworthy of anything"—yeah, especially a record contract. On a more intellectual level, the only words capitalized in this entire lyric sheet are "Father," "King," "Lord," and "God." This gimmicky, calculated, dishonest, almost automaton knee-jerk Christianity coupled with unsettling references to being surrounded by demons and picking battle lines that smack of Crusades and Jerry Falwell leaves a bad taste that just can't be spit out. Freedom of religion is an inherent right and should be a right of any musician, but empty-shell televangelist propaganda is insulting. Musically, why are people still buying into this? The screamo sound is so played out it's almost embarrassing to write it. Lyrically, this one could provide fodder for 10 Christopher Hitchens critiques, and musically, it's close to undeserving of just one. –Peter Fryer


Holy Rolemodel
The Sum of Our Parts
Circle Game Records
Street: 02.01
Holy Rolemodel = AFI + a couple other generic bands + 10 chemistry classes worth of boredom Holy Rolemodel would have you believe that they are a "blistering North Bay post punk band." The truth is that they are just boring. Boring is the music, even more boring than that are the lyrics, and more boring still is singer Aaron Browe's voice. Dude sounds so bored singing these songs that it's impossible to believe that he cares about any of the issues he's singing about. That's a problem if you are a fairly political band, which Holy Rolemodel is. The obligatory Misfits cover ("Skulls") makes an appearance on the album as well. The problem here is that it's the strongest track on the album and really the only one in which Browe shows any energy. Even if you've never heard The Sum of Our Parts before, believe me, you're all too familiar with it. –Aaron Day


Horrorpops
Kiss Kiss Kill Kill
Hellcat Records
Street:02.05
Horrorpops = Stray Cats + Depeche Mode + Cramps The Horrorpops are an anomaly, really they refuse fit into any of the genres that people want to fit them into. They're not punk, psychobilly, new wave, or pop, but some how they fit elements of all these genres and more into their music. The Horrorpops third record Kiss Kiss Kill Kill shows that this band has honed they're skills to a razor sharp edge. Not forsaking variety the 'pops have cultivated a signature sound that is more apparent on this record than any of the previous. Songs like "Missfit," and Horrorbeach Part 2" are thrilling takes on ska and surf sounds done only a way the Horrorpops can. This time out the band looked to the cinema for inspiration such as the stunning "Hitchcock Starlet," and the opening track "Thelma & Louise." Kim Nekroman's guitar work has really come into its own, and is the catalyst of this explosive mix of rock. Patricia Day's upright bass drives the rhythms along with drummer Niedermeir's complex beats, while her infectious vocals grab you and pull you into the song. What the Horrorpops do is simply play the music they want to play with out the bullshit, that's it, end of story. –James Orme


Jason Collett
Here's to Being Here
Arts and Crafts
Street: 02.05
Jason Collett = Tom Petty + Bob Dylan If Jason Collett isn't a pseudonym for Tom Petty, plus or minus the heartbreakers, then the only other possibility is that Collett is the product of a drunken evening where the aforementioned Petty temporarily acquired female organs and Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan contributed equal parts sperm to those organs. To his daddies' infinite approval, Collett turned out to be one of those rare and more than likely home-schooled children that turn into their parents instead of resenting them. "Here's to Being Here" dares to venture dangerously close to tribute album territory, inspiring questions like, "Have I heard this before," as opposed to the desired "Where have you been all my life" reaction. So, whether it's name brand or store brand or Collett or Petty, if you want quality singer and his guitar music, flip a coin because either is going to have the same exact effect. –Jessie Price


Joe Gilmore
On Quasi-Convergence and Quiet Space
Cut
Street: 09.07
Joe Gilmore = Kaffe Matthews + Joe Henderson Quite often, the results of computer "improvisations" end up as cacophonous sound clusters, a purge of the performer's hard drive and an attempt to see how much of the "Abyss of Freedom" he can explore. Not so with Joe Gilmore's latest work, an artist who opts for restraint and prudence instead of chaos and indulgent abandon. Just as the bebop masters of the 1940s preferred to mine life from harmonic scales, hitting chromatic tones and non-sequential notes for dashes of color, Gilmore works within a tonality of sorts for each of these tracks, all pieces built from mulched hums, microphone manipulations, sine-tone ripples, echoes and clicking misfires. Though the sounds are interesting enough alone, his use of economical, classic musique concréte techniques—simple panning, phasing, augmentation and reversal, not masturbatory DSP abuse—furthers the appeal. Gilmore's work is a stunning path marked by subtle furrows and dimples, not wild exclamations. –Dave Madden


Left Lane Cruiser
Bring Yo' Ass To The Table
Alive Records
Street: 01.08
Left Lane Cruiser= Pink Lightnin' + The Black Keys (if they had a musical orgy)
Left Lane Cruiser have four years under their belts now and its about time they put out another doozy of an album. The energy of these guys is really intense, almost death metal-ish, and oh-so-perfect. When listening to the record, you can close your eyes and almost picture them onstage in front of you. All of the riffs and solos are fuckin' amazing, and the fact that they use anything else they can to make more noise (i.e., ladders, hub-caps, trash cans, etc.), only sweetens the sounds coming from the musical device. This is high-quality music from a group who practiced in a heatless garage in Indiana, and whose philosophy in music is "Let your soul drive what you do." Pretty good philosophy, if I say so myself. – adam dorobiala


Leopold and his Fiction
Leopold and his Fiction
Native Fiction Records
Street: 11.06
Leopold and his Fiction = The White Stripes + The Hives + The Kinks

Dear friend. Do you find yourself shiftless between White Stripes albums? Are you lookin' for a little bit of ass-shaking lovin'? Well, goddamn! Look no further. The first two tracks on this debut album, "She Ain't Got Time" and "Shakey Mama Blues," will hit your dancing legs like too many shots of espresso, except with absolutely NO bitter aftertaste. While many bands will leave you longing for the raw infatuation of the first tracks, Leopold and his Fiction will sex your ears up until the morning light. They come full force with crunchy blues riffs, ballistic backbeats, and raw vocals. They even manage to successfully slow things down and caress you softly on "Miss Manipulation." Close the blinds, turn that picture of Jack White around so he won't see, and get dirty with Leopold and his Fiction for a while. They won't be discreet, but I swear you won't mind. –Joey Richards


L'ocelle Mare
Self-Titled
Sickroom
Street: 02.12
L'ocelle Mare = Joan of Arc + John Cage + John Fahey L'ocelle Mare is the solo project of Thomas Bonvalet. This 16-track album was "recorded in different deserted French places in one week," and sounds like the culmination of loneliness, several cups of coffee and high levels of anxiety/ambition in the system. Frantic fingers monkey bar on the acoustic guitar while the sporadic but illuminating squeals of harmonica and nighttime buzz grounds the sound. It jumps irregularly between chaos and order, making for a blend of low tones and dark roast. –Spanther


Mahjongg
Kontpab
K Records
Street: 02.12
Mahjongg = Need New Body + Konono no. 1 + Clinic
With more jungle charisma than Mowgli from the Jungle Book, Mahjongg start off their intrepid album with "Pontiac," a repetitive, dancy calypso track that slowly builds among treblely polyrhythms. Kontpab is a wide maneuver away from other tribal or organic-oriented dance bands (and you know who you are) because they let the beat slow down, sink and steadily climb like intercalary chapters in novels like The Grapes of Wrath. Smooth! Tracks like "Problems" break through and drive the album forward again as understated sing-talk stings the simple guitar melody and popping drum beats. It would be easy to lump these guys with experimental avatars like Animal Collective and the like, but it's not nearly as unfocused, and this well executed, emotional and direct dance record has more in common with Gang Gang Dance. The new sound of spring. –Erik Lopez


Metabolismus
The Social Club No. 7
The Social Registry
Street: 01.22
Metabolismus = FCS North – Arcade Fire + Jab Micah Och El
This ethereal pop record, despite its brevity, creates an astounding amount of atmosphere and feeling using a simple arrangement of eclectic noises. Delicately layered on top of each other, there is nothing that stands out to define the genre or focus of the album, which is perhaps its greatest strength. That being said, the feeling is more of a soundtrack than a standalone song – the attitude and emotion created by this work are interpretable innumerable ways. The slick blend of electronic beats and orchestral instruments is done in such a subtle manner it is difficult to imagine the how such a work was composed, whether one layer at a time, or all at once by a makeshift orchestra. Either way, this is another excellent addition to the Social Club series. ¬–Ryan Powers


Motion Turns It On
Rima
Self-Released
Street: 02.01
Motion Turns It On = Explosions in the Sky + Kid Kilowatt A four-piece hailing from Houston, Texas, Motion Turns It On follows the Texas trend of instrumental rock bands, but also takes significant tangents along the way into psychedelia, feel-good jazz, and NASA-sponsored space exploration. MTIO turns post-rock into a glowing asteroid that's fun for the whole family. No more dense mathematic textbook guitars and drumming; this asteroid has soul and jive. It's something you can dance to without working about getting your ankles in a knot. –Spanther


Norbert Moslang
<>
Cut
Street: 09.07 Norbert Moslang = Oval + David Tudor + James Tenney
Norbert Moslang's extramusical processes, the concepts behind what and why he makes what he makes, generally contend with the actual results for the role of importance; this would be a crutch of sorts if his aural payoff wasn't just as captivating as his ideas. Translating light into sound, Moslang "changed the headers of video stills from Swiss video artist Silvie Defraoui to create sound files." The outcome is seven varying drones, all but two punctuated with an initializing pop (similar to an igniting light-bulb). From here, each of these pieces becomes immediately stifling, demanding attention in the same hypnotic way La Monte Young used to entice listeners into enduring an hour of a single perfect fifth; sparks turn to psychoacoustic, torrid swells, and time stands still in anticipation of hairline progressions. Ranging from stark and monophonic to lugubrious and contrapuntal, Moslang has once again created the sublime from irregular means. –Dave Madden


Qebo
Wroln
Low Impedance Records
Street: 12.28
Qebo = Autechre + Aphex Twin Electronic noise at its glitchiest, Qebo's sound is well defined by off beat electronic percussion driving a slew of distorted bleeps, sweeps, and creeps to the point of ridiculousocity. Ultimately the sound is rather simplistic, keeping within a self-defined realm of slow progressions through what sounds like a haunted house in outer space. The constant background hum is enough to make you scared for your audio equipment. Certain tracks border on an almost acid-bass sound, wet overprocessed leads driving the majority of the melodies. In the end, I would say electronic noise nerds only on this one, but I would love to hear the group expand their sound library outside of the few repetive glitch patterns that dominate the album. –Ryan Powers


Only Son
The Drop To The Top
Cassette Recordings
07.01.06
Only Son = The Postal Service + Starsailor + The Decemberists Until Jack Dishel opened for Regina Spektor, I hadn't heard of Only Son. Boy, was I missing out. Though the album's been out a while, it's getting more attention now that Dishel is touring and deserves a listen. A one-man band, Drop To The Top is a cozy blend of guitars and synths that comes together in way that feels part indie and part retro. The melodies vary from upbeat and peppy, to haunting and sad, to soft, simple ballads like Sleepyface, all delivered in Jack Dishel's quietly sincere tenor. To top it all off, not only is the music aesthetically pleasing, the lyrics are thoughtful and serve as the perfect compliment to their catchy counterparts. Hunt this one down. You won't regret it. -Kat Kellermeyer


The Out _Circuit
Pierce The Empire With A Sound Lujo
Street: 02. 12
The Out Circuit = Thrice + Coalesce + Stabbing Westward + The main dude behind all the chaos on this album is Nathan Burke, formally of Frodus. I think that he secretly has a pissed-off trip-hop band hiding in his soul. Imagine telling Portishead that they were lame and them getting all bummed out and angry, then deciding to burn your house down while screaming at the blaze, like Lisa Left-Eye Lopes from TLC, and you would have The Out _ Circuit. This album is creepy. Its like if you had a nice, relaxing conversation with a serial killer and then he just gave you a big old hug and a kiss on the cheek and you never saw from the serial killer ever again. If you don't own The Out _Circuit's first album, Burn Your Scripts, Boys, punch yourself in the face and go out and buy it right now. Then after that, go get this album. –Jon Robertson


Plants and Animals
Parc Avenue
Secret City
Street: 03.25
Plants and Animals = The Anniversary + Andrew Bird I'm sitting in the boarding area at SFO airport and my flight to SLC is delayed by two hours, so I have plenty of time to listen to P + A. But for some inexplicable reason, I can't bring myself to do it. Instead, I'm listening to Punk In Drublic on repeat and drawing pictures of businessmen on their cell phones/laptops and plump women relaxed, reading heavily creased paperbacks. I've listened to Parc Avenue a few times last week, and it's pretty solid as far as gloomily charming indie-rock goes, but I don't care to ever listen to its whiny orchestration and wimpy rainbows ever again. The blanket of blandness that has become of this genre is depressing at best. It's time for linoleum, again. –Spanther


Prizzy Prizzy Please
Self Titled
Lets Pretend Records
Street: 09.24
Prizzy Prizzy Please = Kings of Leon + Captured! By Robots Apparently, when listening to music from "The Nutcracker," sugar plum fairies will dance in your head. Well, when listening to Prizzy Prizzy Please for the first time, the primary image in my head was Fozzie the Bear licking the wallpaper in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Why? Hard to say. It just seems like a sport-on soundtrack for such an event. For the most part, the initial sampling just made me hyper and hungry for pixie sticks. However, the first impression of a screamer pop metal band proved superficial when a grab bag of quirks surfaced with each new listen. Beyond the in-your-face aspect of it all, you'll discover a fusion of pop, metal, punk, techno, rockabilly, and a sense of humor in the lyrics that offer shelter from the storm of singer/songwriter sensitivity flooding today's music selection. Fuck Charlie Bucket, Prizzy Prizzy Please wins the factory. –Jessie Price


Rafter
Sex, Death Cassette
Asthmatic Kitty
Street: 01.22
Rafter = Beck + Elliott Smith + Isaac Brock
Artist Jonathan Dueck deserves a gold star for his artwork on this album, as he properly captures what will take 150 words to describe: tye-dyed skulls, swollen hearts, cassettes photoshopped with oversaturated colors, a horizon overtaken by blue trees and what appear to be Legos and two photos of Rafter Roberts, one from the headphones up and one at a four-track recorder—that sums up this collage-work album. Following a poppier, less liberally disjunct direction than his previous record, Roberts now first seduces with cooing vocals, lulling you with gorgeous timbre in front of a backdrop of, say, Mariachi rhythms and drums constructed from thumping a microphone ("Casualty of BOC"). Alright, maybe you could use the tag "unconventional" here, but Roberts's confidence on the microphone, both lyrically and vocally, is a terrific addition to his lawless instrumentation, and he furthers his mythology as the guy taking Beck's early experiments where they could have gone. – Dave Madden


Science For Girls
Science For Girls
Team Clermont Records
Street: 3.11
SFG = Air + Imogen Heap + Joao Gilberto Indie electronica? Synthetic Brazilian-pop? Acoustic Jazz? Hybrid-bi-classic background music? Whatever you want to call it, SFG is one of those projects you end up hearing in a Wes Anderson film. This album etches some new landscapes into the spectrum between all described genres I stated above. By treating every instrument and sound source as a separate track, the mixing of this album is an exercise in electronic-studio processing. Every track is digitally cold and clean, but it still holds onto the warm elements of acoustic instruments and lo-fi vocal takes. However, some of the lyrics on this record can't be held up to the genius of the music itself. Songs like "Australia" sing about wanting to hang out with wallaby's and grooving to didgeridoo's, while songs like "Sweet Life", which talk about wanting to milk cows and eat corn on the cob every day. Too often, the lyrics don't match the music at all, but not everyone can be on the same page when working with nine different vocalists. –Lance Saunders


The Shondes
The Red Sea
Self-Released
Street 01.08
The Shondes = Alanis Morrisette + Serj Tankian Here comes another fake punk band with a cranky female vocalist. Like we haven't had enough already, The Shondes come out with their album, The Red Sea, to remind unfortunate men of the feminist ex-girlfriends they once had or are dying to get rid of; the ones that just yell louder to make a point. If you tune out the undesirable vocals, the album isn't all that bad. With clever guitar and violin collaboration on their song, "Let's Go," it's bound to make itself on to the next Rock Band. In any case, all those songs sound the same anyway, so for the Shondes to get anywhere with their music, other than swanky, feminist pubs, drop the vocals and look for something with a little more flavor—Baskin Robbins, perhaps? As for taking the Yiddish word for disgrace as their band name, great choice. –Lyuba Basin