National CD Reviews

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Drag City, Inc.
Street: 05.17
Bachelorette = Enya + Björk - attitude, style
The first thing that struck me about this spiritual electo-psych band with a synth-pop twist was the complete lack of tangible personality. Listening to the record is like being stuck in the waiting room of some awful New Age spa, and like the wait I’m envisioning, these songs go on forever. The instruments are ridiculous in the blandest way possible, and the vocals are as soothing as a fluorescent lamp. All the songs were written and played by Annabel Alpers, and although I applaud her efforts, I can’t help but find the record indulgent, self-masturbatory and redundant. At its best, the album isn’t bad, but it’s rarely at its best; at its worst, it’s not bad enough to be entertaining. Buy this album if you hate me, and hate me if you buy this album. –Mike Abu

Bass Drum of Death
GB City
Fat Possum
Street: 04.12
Bass Drum of Death = The Black Keys + Wavves + Nobunny
Bass Drum of Death has joined the ranks as one of my new favorite two-piece bands—a coveted position which they now share with the likes of The Kills and the aforementioned Black Keys. Although Bass Drum of Death is a relatively new outfit out of Mississippi, this debut LP sounds as if it came from a more seasoned duo. A dingy, whiskey-soaked sound permeates the 11-track album, which guitarist and lead singer John Barrett recorded himself using a USB microphone and a computer. “Nerve Jamming,” “GB City” and “Get Found,” the three opening tracks of the album, buzz with lo-fi guitar, a heavy drumbeat and a loose, jangly style. As the album nears its end, songs start to blur into one another, but not before the surly charm of GB City sets in. I can’t wait to see what Bass Drum of Death turn out next. –Jeanette D. Moses

Beady Eye
Different Gear, Still Speeding
Street: 02.26
Beady Eye = Lennon solo + late Oasis + Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy-era Who + The La’s
Simply put, Beady Eye is Oasis minus Noel Gallagher … and it sounds as such. Entire pages pilfered from the British rock canon, rife with Liam Gallagher’s Lennon-esque warbling and teetering on the delicate line separating homage and plagiarism (check the not-so-cryptically titled “Beatles and Stones”), the album carries on like a Gallagher Bros iPod playlist. Still, it’s never staid, and the group seems noticeably looser, weaving between psyche-drenched espionage (“4 Letter Word”), wheezing blues (“Wind Up Dream”) roiling mod-rock (“Bring the Light”) and Paul-Weller-drunk-on-Champagne-Supernova balladry (“The Morning Son”). At times, Noel’s focused presence is missed and Liam’s poetry veers on the clumsy side, but with an all-star cast of musicians behind him (notably Ride’s Andy Bell), cuts like “Wigwam” showcase something soaring and magnificent. It has its flaws and it’s a tad long-winded, but it’s much greater, much fresher and much loftier than anyone expected … and that’s a bloody triumph. –Dylan Chadwick

Benny Benassi
Ultra Music Records
Street: 06.11
Benny Benassi = Night at the Roxbury + E-40 + MSTRKRFT
The new album from Benny Benassi is what you would expect from the godfather of electro. Hard but smooth bass, hypnotizing synths and of course, beautiful vocals from people such as Chris Brown on the mega hit “Beautiful People,” all make appearances on Electroman as Benny shows that his consistency doesn’t end at the turntables. Even as an album, Electroman holds the feeling of a mix, with its fluidity in sounds and lyrics. The way he mixes elements of pop/hip-hop with electro is genius, and by doing so, he’s able to appeal to a much larger crowd while maintaining his underground fan base, especially with bangers like “House Music.” That track sounds like what my feet feel like when dancing, plus with its high-energy synths, you’ll want to throw your hands in the air and exclaim “house music”!!!” Then there are tracks like “All the Way (Live)” featuring the Ying Yang Twins; the track is ingenuity at its best, and it takes your ass on a dirty South electro-ride all the way to the floor. This album is nothing less then what I would expect from Benny and more of a delightful surprise of beautiful collaborations and wonderfully produced tracks. It’s worth the legal download. –Mama Beatz

Bill Callahan
Drag City
Street: 04.05
Bill Callahan = Nick Cave + Glen Campbell + Leonard Cohen
It took me awhile to get a read on this record. It didn’t click for me right off the bat, and was pretty easy to dismiss as bland alt-country, but I gave it a few more chances. I did find some enjoyable elements, but nothing that changed my mind. Apocalypse is very slow paced and repetitive; nothing grabs you from these seven tracks. Without Callahan’s vocals, the well-crafted production around these tunes would make a great soundtrack for a movie, but as a centerpiece, these five-minute epics loose my attention less than halfway in. I’m sorry, but the only way I could get through the last track, “One Fine Morning,” which is longer than eight minutes, was to keep in mind that it was my duty as a responsible critic. There was some interesting instrumentation at times, and great production, but nothing that sticks, so excuse me, I have to go sleep this one off. –James Orme

Black Lips
Arabia Mountain
Vice Records
Street: 06.07
Black Lips = Ramones + The Beatles + 13th Floor Elevators + Wavves
Black Lips have hit gold with their sixth release, Arabia Mountain. The newest release marks the first time the Atlanta-based garage rock band worked with a producer, and the result is 16 highly infectious tracks that channel the sounds of bands of another era. Teaming up with producer Mark Ronson for eight of the 16 tracks and Lockett Pundt for an additional two has benefitted the Lips immensely. Arabia Mountain is awash with short, tightly written songs that I’m sure will be on repeat all summer long on my iPod. Although the album is far more produced than anything the band has previously released, the quality of recording doesn’t detract from the Lips’ signature style. If anything, it allows their talent as a band to shine through. “Raw Meat” and “Bone Marrow” channel the energy of the early Ramones while “Go Out and Get It” and “New Direction” have a shimmery surf rock feel. From start to finish, Arabia Mountain is cohesive and catchy, which earlier Lips albums often failed to be. Nothing gets stuck in the layers of gritty garage rock and I couldn’t be happier. –Jeanette D. Moses

Adventures in Counter-Culture
Street: 04.10
Blueprint = J.Dilla + Pete Rock + Mos Def
Adventures in Counter-Culture is an album that puts out nothing but positive vibes. This is a truly unspoiled indulgence. It’s not just good. It’s genera-bending good. It’s got the hip-hop on lock, and as a whole, eases you in nicely. A real early standout track, “My Culture,” rings a real true bell about this sad generation of ours. The album comes complete with big backup vocals that bring the album together perfectly. “So Alive” is around the album’s midpoint, and with its soulful sound gets you ready for the second half of this album. Closing out the album, “ The Other Side,” with its harmonizing vocals and euphoric synthesized beat, are send-you-off proper. This is a for-sure pickup for any hip-hop enthusiast. –Jemie Sprankle

The Book of Knots
Garden of Fainting Stars
Ipecac Records
Street: 06.14
The Book of Knots = Tom Waits + (Björk + Crime and the City Solution) x Bowie/Eno
Based out of Brooklyn and featuring a core lineup studded with underground stars from Pere Ubu and Skeleton Key as well as several guest luminaries, The Book of Knots takes “concept” to the stars and beyond with this third in a series of albums. Previous releases covered land and sea, while this one tackles the mysteries of space with a big sound and excellent recording values (never a bad thing, but especially important with so much going on). It launches with “Microgravity,” a rocking jazzy number featuring a smoky-voiced Carla Kihlstedt (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) reminiscent of Björk. In orbit, it explores zero-G with Blixa Bargeld (Einstürzende Neubauten, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) on the eerie “Drosophilia Melanogaster,” Mike Watt (The Minutemen, fIREHOSE) on the glitchy infinite tape-loop construction “Yeager’s Approach,” and Mike Patton (Faith No More, Tomahawk) on the beautiful and huge soundscape “Planemo.” On re-entering the atmosphere, it explodes with the freakish, mind-blowing “Nebula Rasa,” and lands where it started, with glitchy jazz and spoken word over a metal number featuring Trey Spruance (Secret Chiefs 3, Mr. Bungle) and Kihlestedt in a big Twilight Zone finish. A gem rarer than moon-rock and as otherworldly. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Bosco Delrey
Everybody Wah
Mad Decent
Street: 06.14
Bosco Delrey = Chris Isaak + Local Natives
When you first hear Bosco Delrey, you may not know what to think. The odd meld of electro pop and playful rockabilly hits hard, then sticks with you. There’s a lot of originality here, despite the fact that most of the music is produced with vintage synthesizers and drum machines. Every sound is deliberate, be it the tribal beats and chanting of “All Are Souls the Same” or the frantic cymbal-heavy dance groove of “Cool Out.” If you’re like me, you’ll listen to the album many times over, and still not know for sure if you like it or not. One thing will be for sure, though: You won’t be able to stop listening to it. –CG

Brandi Carlile with the Seattle Symphony         
Live at Benaroya Hall
Street: 05.03
Brandi Carlile =Melissa Etheridge + Indigo Girls
For my very first encounter with a singer I’m not familiar with, going the “live” route is not necessarily the best introduction. This is not to say Brandi Carlile possesses a particularly unpleasant voice, but she definitely has the kind that seems to have to grow on you. Vocally, she’s a little bit too country-leaning for my taste, and yet her song choices here are not. Recorded over two nights last November at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall with The Seattle Symphony, there is a fairly interesting mix of her own tracks on this album, like her hits “Dreams and The Story,” mixed with some interesting covers like Elton John’s “Sixty Years On” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound Of Silence.” There’s even a “hidden” cover of Alphaville’s “Forever Young,” fitting perhaps for someone born in the 80s, but still a strange choice. Strange also is the number of covers found here, especially for someone with only three albums under their belt. It feels slightly like she’s grasping at straws, and this climaxes with the closing track, “Hallelujah,” which, while enhanced with the orchestration, the world doesn’t really need another cover of. Her reading hardly brings any great revelations, unlike, say, k.d. lang’s stellar interpretation, as an example. The orchestra at times highlights another problem with the recordings: it threatens to drown her vocals out. Much better is when Brandi’s joined vocally with her longtime collaborators, Tim and Phil Hanseroth, like on the crowd-participating “Turpentine.” The twins are the highlight of the especially nice “The Sounds Of Silence” (sans Carlile entirely); otherwise, they are generally drowned out, too. Without the intrusion of the orchestra, I’m guessing Carlile sounds a lot different and Salt Lake will get its turn to hear her in this setting at the sold-out Library Square benefit on June 18th. –Dean O Hillis

Breakneck the Mage
Overdubs & Overdoses
Sonic Swings Records
Street: 01.16
Breakneck the Mage = Slug + KRS One
It’s hard not to like Breakneck the Mage. Where many rappers come across as arrogant and self-absorbed, Breakneck sounds big-hearted and sincere. He thanks everyone, and I mean everyone, including SLUG Mag–who’s ever supported him. Of course, when treating classic rap tropes like dissing other MCs or unfaithful women, his good nature makes for a bit of awkwardness—he puts a cheating girlfriend on blast in “Girls,” but not without disclaiming first that he’s broken-hearted, too. Breakneck the Mage is a unique voice in hip-hop, but it’s a bit disappointing on his fourth LP to not hear him embrace his singular personality in favor of retreading tired rap subjects. –Nate Housley

Cameron McGill & What Army
Is A Beast
Street: 04.12
CM&WA = Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s + Early Winters
I feel like I am slowly starting to hate indie rock because of albums like this. Painstakingly mediocre, the album’s lush instrumentation feels wasted. Cameron McGill’s voice, while not awful, is nothing special. Songs like “Let’s Make the Dinosaurs Extinct” with its nonsensical chorus/pickup line might get the high school pseudo-hipster girls wet, but all in all, I am underwhelmed. I think the only song I didn’t hate was “Dead Rose,” a song that sounds like Andrew Bird channeling Robert Smith. If you like shitty indie rock, this album is for you! –Cody Hudson

The Chain Gang Of 1974   
Wayward Fire   
Modern Art Records
Street: 06.21
The Chain Gang Of 1974 = LCD Soundsystem in the Hot Tub Time Machine
Kamtin Mohager’s new recording under his “The Chain Gang Of 1974” moniker sounds like a joyous paean to the ‘80s, yet combines elements of more updated electronica and the occasional sample for a modern touch.  Somehow, it all works.  Sounding a bit like Psychedelic Furs’ Richard Butler fronting early New Order, Mohager’s speak-sing vocal style is pleasant and interesting enough to hold your attention. Mohanger seems to be a one-man band in every sense of the phrase, layering both synths and multiple instruments—along with his vocals and samples—to build each track. “Matter Of Time” builds on a Gary Numan Cars-ish groove, while explosive first single “Undercover” possesses an irresistible catchiness.  Equally adept at the occasional ballad—á la ‘80s-sounding power variety—“Teenagers” and “Don’t Walk Away” sound like they could be on a lost John Hughes’ soundtrack, which one suspects is exactly how Mohager intended them to.  Unlike recent art/pop music stars’ overrated ’80s homages, Mohager actually appreciates his subject and, therefore, excels at it because he has something to say. –Dean O Hillis

Chop Chop
The Spark
Street: 04.26
Chop Chop = New Order + Unicorns + Blonde Redhead
The third album from Catherine Cavanagh’s solo synth-pop project Chop Chop is simply hard to listen to. It induces the sort of discomfort one feels when they think someone else should be embarrassed. Oddly, as amateurish as the bubbly dance tunes are, they do have the potential to get stuck in one’s head. That’s not entirely a compliment. For me, they had a sort of “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” effect, where they were incredibly resilient to my conscious efforts to rid my brain of the melodies. In addition to melodic simplicity, the lyrics, built around a sci-fi rock-opera concept, have a junior high-band quality to them. Sadly, Cavanagh got it right when, on opening track “Steal Her in the Night,” she laments, “No one would notice if I were gone. No one would care.” –CG

Chucha Santamaria y Usted
Chucha Santamaria y Usted
Young Cubs
Street: 06.11
Chucha Santamaria y Usted = Sneaky Sound System in Spanish + The XX + CSS
The electronic melodic sounds of Chucha Santamaria Y Usted catch you by surprise, with a world of smooth bass, tambourines, beautiful vocals and cool synths. The band consists of members Sofia Cordova and Matthew Kirkland. With this album, Chucha Santamaria Y Usted showcases their heavily ambient influences mixed with mild up-tempo beats and provoking lyrics. Every track on this album will make you contemplate, whether it be yourself or the world. It’s one of those slightly political albums that has resulted in an incredibly moving piece of work. The track “I Came for You” is probably my favorite track on the album. Its 80s pop feel instantly grabbed me by the hand with its first set of “ahhhs.” Even though most of the album is in Spanish, the feeling that Chucha Santamaria translates is captivating, and that’s what we all look for—that feeling that listening to this album could change your life or just your day. On this debut album, Chucha Santamaria teases listeners’ ears with their obvious potential epic-ness. I think we better keep a watchful eye on them. –Mama Beatz

City Center
K Records
Street: 05.10
City Center = The Pains of Being Pure at Heart + Deerhunter + Blonde Redhead
If there’s anyone out there who still thinks that a catchy pop song has to be clean and pretty, City Center is out to change your mind. Redeemer is the sophomore release from the duo Fred Thomas and Ryan Howard, a pair of indie rockers with a particular skill for writing an infectious, simple melody over lo-fi drum and guitar tracks, only to muddy it up with a lot of sloppy reverb effects and strange sounds. If you’re one who enjoys swimming in a little mud with your shoe-gazey, experimental pop (as I am), check out Redeemer. The songs blend together so well that you’ll listen to the whole album in a dreamlike daze without realizing that 40 minutes have passed you by. There’s also a versatility to the album that makes it equally enjoyable through headphones on the train and as background music to a small house party. –CG

The Clutters
Breaking Bones
Chicken Ranch
Street: 5.10
The Clutters = The Morlocks + AC/DC + The Greenhornes
Nobody visits Nashville to listen to rock n’ roll, but maybe they should. The Clutters play the kind of driving rock n’ roll that you might hear in a bar where leather-jacketed goons throw empty Olympia cans at each other. The songs are mid-paced and catchy, but where the record falls flat is in its production. This slab was recorded by Joe Costa, the same guy who has worked with Ben Folds, and the sound seems like it might be a little better suited for, well, Ben Folds. There’s good songwriting, sure, but it’s all played in the over-mixed, over-produced style that makes longhaired old dudes who don’t know shit about the past 10 or 15 years of rock n’ roll dance around and feel like they know what’s up. Like I say, the recording is pretty good; alright, but see if you can catch these guys live, and I’m sure you’ll have a blast. –Nate Perkins

Com Truise
Galactic Melt
Ghostly International
Street: 07.11
Com Truise = Star Wars + Playboy + Snoop Dogg
Imagine a movie about the galaxy being infected by a tribe of synth aliens, who are trying to destroy the universe and only Snoop Yoda can save us. In the backround of that movie Galactic Melt is playing. As a debut album, it puts seniors in the game to shame. If I never heard this album, my life would be lacking. The whole time listening to it, I felt I needed popcorn and to dim my lights, so to better enjoy the experience, my ears were eager to take part. Tantalizing synths and provocative voices keep you captivated with the album through its entirety. If I were asked where funk went, I would say it’s on hiatus inside Com Truise’s body doing acid and snorting molly 24/7. This album is guaranteed to set the mood right. Mama Beatz

Crystal Stilts
In Love With Oblivion
Street: 04.12
Crystal Stilts = (The Doors + The Damned + Bongwater) x 13th Floor Elevators
Jangly psychedelic surf-rock and darkness don’t usually mix, not since Jim Morrison rode the snake off to Père Lachaise and Roky Erickson blew a mental gasket on too much LSD, but on this sophomore release by the Brooklyn-based Crystal Stilts, it’s like The Doors invented punk rock. “Alien Rivers” mixes Kyle Forester’s very Ray Manzerak-esque organs with layer after layer of sound, building up the alien landscape to be eaten away by slow waters of frontman Brad Hargett’s deadpan delivery. Some tracks, like “Through the Floor” and “Shake the Shackles” recall a Misfits-like doo-wop, while “Half a Moon” reminds me of The Damned, but hazier. The album features 11 excellent, appealing tracks, but is marred by a little too much overbearing reverb—someone should have torn down the wall of sound, or hung some sound blankets up in the cavern where they recorded. It’s going into heavy rotation for me, but audiophiles may be turned off by the heavy, retro recording. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Dangerous Ponies
Punk Rock Payroll
Street: 03.22
Dangerous Ponies = The New Pornographers + Motion City Soundtrack + Piebald
It’s hard to write a happy pop song that isn’t annoying. Optimism is usually so much harder to listen to than bitterness, pain or negativity. Dangerous Ponies is a seven-member party-pop band from Philadelphia that have dedicated themselves to creating joyful, fun songs that are still listenable. On their self-titled debut full-length, they have accomplished just that. “I Only Wear My Favorite Clothes at Home” and “You Are Dangerous” transmit a rambunctious live show feel that makes you want to dance and sing along. Pick this up for something to play on sunny days. –CG

Dark Mean
Dark Mean
Street: 06.14
Dark Mean = Conor Oberst x Ben Gibbard
Nothing distracts me more than a band name misnomer. Neither dark nor mean, this album sounds more like something you would listen to while cuddling on the grass with a new girl/boyfriend. The album does boast a summery feeling and crisp instrumentation, even if the songwriting is a bit sugary—”Happy Banjo” grooves along smartly enough, until the banjo gets a bit too happy for my taste. Not that this album is something to avoid if you’re not swooning, but proceed with caution. –Nate Housley

Dave Nada
Blow Your Head Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton
Mad Decent records
Street: 05.31
Dave Nada = Pitbull + Diplo
Moombahton is a new genre in the electronic music world that was introduced and created by Dave Nada last year. Imagine if Dutch house and Reggaeton had sex and “Bump and Grind” by R. Kelly happened to be playing in the background—Moombahton sounds like crazy jungle animal sex on the dance floor. With a bpm of around 109, it’s mostly for whining and getting down low, real low. It’s a genre for all seasons, but is best in the summer, because that’s when we all like to glisten in sweat the most. It is honestly very easy to produce, so a lot of “shit” comes out, and Moombahton isn’t really appealing if it’s not done correctly. Thankfully, Dave Nada exists and compiled the best Moombahton tracks into one CD that features artists such as Diplo, Dillion Francis and Maluca, Think of this as a Moombahton crash course. Even though it’s only about 15 tracks, it’s 15 of the best Moombahton tracks you could ever infect yourself with. These tracks have a tendency to linger with their catchy phrases and festive drums. Munchi’s banger, “Sandungueo,” is one of the tracks that sent the Moombahton movement to the next level of notoriety. I can’t help but have this on repeat. After listening to this mix, not only will you have an overwhelming feeling of urgency to preorder the CD, but you’ll wanna Moombahton the summer away. Mama Beatz

Dead Rider
The Raw Dents
Street: 05.03
Tizona Records
Dead Rider = David Bowie + Of Montreal + NIN + Morphine
This was a surprise to me, as it is a new kind of weird that is pretty unpredictable and not so easy to cast aside.  It’s dark, and theatrical, and slightly vampiric and macabre, better for basement dwellers and night owls.  I personally do not really sway too much toward the gothic lifestyle, but I gave this a few spins and found myself enjoying it as an expressive and artful representation, and was impressed with just how much atmosphere Dead Rider creates with these thoughtful dark tales.  The Raw Dents has no shortage of tight, well-crafted songs.  My favorite is the pulsing hi-hat tic of “Just A Little Something,” with Todd Rittman’s breathy vocals intertwining with a deep synth bass lines and moody organs.  When the horn section appears like an apparition, it will tastefully blow your mind.  A great record throughout, and phenomenal for an angsty, moody night. –Mary Houdini

Carnival Is Forever
Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.12
Decapitated = Vader + Meshuggah + Ulcerate
Poland’s Decapitated started out in 1996 as a band of very young death metal phenoms. Unfortunately, in 2007, while touring in Europe, their tour bus crashed, tragically killing the band’s drummer Vitek (who was 12 when the band started) and seriously injuring the band’s former vocalist, Covan. Carnival Is Forever marks the band’s first album in five years and contains only guitarist Vogg as the sole remaining member. With that change comes big change in the band’s core sound. Decapitated are still tech death metal to no end, but the new offering deviates from the more brutal tech death format to a stop-and-go rhythmic killing machine reminiscent of Meshuggah but entirely more interesting than said Swedes’ last few albums. The star of the show here is Vogg—the crazed, pounding guitar rhythms twist and turmoil your brutality senses, keeping the core “beef” of the songs nicely blasting your cranium—but wow, when Vogg gets to soloing, that’s when things get beyond awesome. Check “United” for a taste of that awesomeness. When all is said and done, and the intense 42-minute run time is done, I want more and more. For all the things that could’ve gone wrong with Decapitated’s recorded return, the band scoffs at the “what could have been downturned” with something fresh and completely enticing. –Bryer Wharton 

Delicate Cutters
Some Creatures
Street: 07.19
Delicate Cutters = Rilo Kiley’s Take Offs and Landings + Anna Calvi + too much violin
Delicate Cutters have a very skilled violinist. Really! Kevin Nicholson is a master of his craft. Unfortunately, though, this is one of the only things I took away from Delicate Cutters’ second album, Some Creatures. For the most part, what they present are alternative pop rock songs that require little or no violin. Yet there isn’t a full minute of Some Creatures where Nicholson stops playing. Accompanying Nicholson is a band comprised of very capable players. Vocalist and songwriter Janet Simpson puts forth a superb performance, especially on the toned-down tracks “Lovers, Don’t Leap,” and the title track. I just wish they had toned it down like that more often. –CG

Dex Romweber Duo
Is That You in Blue?
Street: 07.26
Dex Romweber Duo = The Cramps + Scott H. Biram + Heavy Trash
As a longtime fan of underground music, I am rarely put on my ass, so to speak, by a name I don’t know, but when the twangy roar of the Dex Romweber Duo hit my ears, that’s just where I found myself. I picked up the CD sleeve and immediately began digging into this Dex guy I’d never heard of. With Is That You in Blue? moving on to the Roy Orbison-from-hell ballad, “Nowhere,” rocking in the background, I read that Dex Romweber had pioneered the guitar and drums roots rock duo in the legendary Flat Jets Duo, which, let’s be honest, is where Jack White took the idea from. Dex with the new duo sounds better than ever and takes crazy turns, like the spooky-sounding lounge tune “Midnight Sun,” which is directly followed by the hillbilly rocker “Homicide.” Dark and pleasurable, this record is a trip through the cemetery in a big black Cadillac you’ll want to take again and again. –James Orme

I Love You, Dude
V2 Records
Street: 06.11
Digitalism = The Breakfast Club + Freezepop + Shiny Toy Guns
Digitalism took me away to a far away place where only tambourines, lasers and cool-dude vocals can save people. Trippy funk-a-delic synths and smooth vocals had me aching to do everything in slow motion. Digitalism used enthralling lyrics and gripping samples that kept my ears’ attention like never before. As an album, it’s a body of wonders—”epic” and “triumphant” are the only words I could use to describe what Digitalism as a duo produced. Holding a narrative of its own as an album, I Love You, Dude inspired me to make up movies to go along with each track. My favorite track on the album had to be “Reeperbahn”; I’m a sucker for aggressive, vulgar lyrics, and when you use lyrics like “Bitch, you know what I mean” over music like that, I’m hooked. This album would be great anytime, anywhere. Mama Beatz

Smalltown Supersound
Street: 06.11   
Disjokke = Yoga + Carter Burwell + Enya
Disjokke shows off his classical training with his latest album, Sagara. The subtle but overwhelming sounds rush over listeners like a wave of tranquility. I found myself provoked to lie down and close my eyes. The tracks feel like revelations and the Indonesian influence is obvious. The format and production are flawless and breathtaking. This album has a calming power to it. “Naïve” made me feel as if I was watching a ritual or ceremony of some kind, where the end result is life. Sagara is a piece of beautiful, loud art. Mama Beatz

Dos Y Dos
Clenched Wrench
Street: 07.12
Dos = Mike Watt + Kira Roessler + two bass guitars
Dos Y Dos is the fourth record (2 + 2, get it?!) from the double bass duo of Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE, Stooges) and Kira Roessler (Black Flag, Twisted Roots). It is a departure from much of their previous music experiences, but it still seems to encompass all of it. The band started as the two were playing punk rock separately and starting a romantic relationship together. Now, a quarter century later, the other bands and even their brief marriage have run their courses. What’s left is a whole lot of history filtered through rather sparse instrumentation. There are moments on this disc where the relationship really comes through. I’m not the biggest fan of Roessler’s voice, but vocals are few enough that the double bass work takes center stage. And even though it is a very low, deep-sounding record, it still manages to be graceful and even cheerful at times. A cover of an old Selena song (“No Me Queda Mas”) that couples the fragile bass with a sincere Spanish vocal is when things really mesh together. Don’t buy it expecting the Minutemen, but buy it expecting something unclassifiable. –James Bennett

A Rose for the Apocalypse
Street: 07.05
Draconian = Paradise Lost + Tristania + Theater of Tragedy (old) + Katatonia
Beauty and the beast (clean female vocals + harsh male vocals)-style gothic doom metal is a well-established style. I’d like to say I’ve never heard anything like what Sweden’s Draconian do, but there’re more bands than I could list in the equation that play similar styles. However, the strength in Draconian’s A Rose for the Apocalypse is not necessarily in its style, but in its songwriting. From track one to album end, it’s hard not to be compelled by the beautiful melodies crafted by the band’s six musicians. Finally, they provide a great reason to have two guitarists in a band—the depth of sound just from the two guitars is massive. Add the bass and drumming and male and female vocals, and the layers just keep getting piled on, transfixing listeners into blissfully beautiful metallic states. When I listen to a record, I either want it to stir up strong emotions or take me on a journey. I’m genuinely happy with just one or the other, but Draconian conquer both objectives. There’s enough here to inspire many thoughts and keep drawing listeners’ attention in before they have a chance to bored. This is by far the best gothic doom I’ve heard this year, aside from Ava Inferi’s latest offering. –Bryer Wharton

Ed Gein
Bad Luck
Black Market Activities
Street: 06.21
Ed Gein = The Dillinger Escape Plan (old) + Gaza
It’s been six years since Ed Gein has released an album, and the grind/punk/hardcore/noise scene has been waiting with bated breath. The last effort, Judas Goats & Dieseleaters, had Ed Gein on track for grind/noisecore/hardcore superstardom, with their relentless touring and building upon their name, then seemingly mysteriously dropping off every press and even fans’ radars for years. The band did not break up, it just took a break. Really, it didn’t harm them—years of complete absence can stir up great expectations and long-awaited returns. Ed Gein seemingly hasn’t skipped a beat in its sonic perversion of what would be considered melodies or “normal” time signatures in its songs—Bad Luck is all about the music and all about the anger of the band. It is purely grinding and face-poundingly deviant from the norm of what can be expected from straight grindcore. The album transitions from massive chaotic noise and angry outbursts to coldly calculated grooves and soap-box screamed/spoken lyric expressions. This album is only about 22 minutes, but it’s peppered with crazy rhythms that you could never set your wristwatch to, organic and punishing production values, and extremely heavy hardcore punk influence. All this culminates in Ed Gein’s most successful album to date and will completely win over old fans and bring droves of noise-crazed chaotic fiends to attention. –Bryer Wharton

El Obo
Oxford Basement Collection
Esperanza Plantation
Street: 05.05
El Obo= Colour Revolt + Iron and Wine + Andrew Belle
Many view band members’ solo projects as something to not be taken seriously. Colour Revolt’s Jesse Copenbarger challenges this idea with El Obo and its debut album, Oxford Basement Collection. It unfurls with delicate vocals and whispery harmonies, with the song “W8 Off My Mind.” The second song, “On the Eighth Day,” is equally ethereal. The distorted quality of the singing brings to mind Iron and Wine’s “Carousel.” Oxford Basement Collection showcases a variety of melodic instruments like piano, acoustic guitar, organ, harmonica and violin, which only adds to its dreamlike atmosphere.  While the album does produce oddly out-of-place songs like “Everyone of the Hungry,” one can’t deny the quality of all the other songs. Oxford Basement Collection is acoustic at its best, with a Mississippi twist and perfect for a summer day of cloud gazing. –Julianna Clay

Red Scare
Street: 05.10
Elway = Spanish Gamble + (RVIVR (Olympia, Wash.) - female vocals) + Against ME!
Elway encapsulate everything I soaked in during my only journey to Ft. Collins (home of whom I deemed the “sunshine punks”): a sense of driving punk music with a folk undercurrent. The intro track, “3/4 Eleanor,” segues into “Passing Days,” with a punchy, almost-dance beat and alternations between lead-guitar parts and chord-picking. You can almost smell the whiskey on their breaths in “Whispers in a Shot Glass” as they proclaim, “If I had a wagon, I’d go to Colorado!” Elway also pour out their dreary, existential struggles in “Spent So Long” and “San Mateo,” but sometimes let their songs lapse into sounding too similar; the wistful vocal moves and instrumentation (the majority of the guitar work either rings out or picks out chords) sometimes make the album sound like one long, sad song. That element notwithstanding, Delusions remains a catchy debut release whose melancholic tones blend well with ever-shifting song structures and rhythms. –Alexander Ortega

Empty Space Orchestra
Street: 05.10
Empty Space Orchestra = The Mars Volta + Russian Circles + Deftones
There’s something very Mannheim Steamroller meets Dream Theater about this Bend, Oregon, jazz-fusion band. The guitar leads are super wet and precise, the drumming competently technical and the song structures well thought out, but the lack of any discernible hooks left me uninterested throughout the majority of this blasé album. While the instrumentation of the album is solid, a number of tones and the overall mix seemed fairly amateurish, and the quality of the recording effectively disserves the band’s obvious talent. Empty Space Orchestra call themselves the loudest band around with a saxophone player, which I guess explains why the sax sits so low in the mix. However, although their philosophy of exploring the spaces in between notes didn’t come through, I will say they’re on the right track. I’d recommend this band to anyone who enjoys rocking jazz-fusion recitals at the U of U. –Mike Abu

All Guts, No Glory
Street: 07.05
Exhumed = Cannibal Corpse + Carcass + General Surgery + Dekapitator
What’s a roughly six-year hiatus from touring and recording going to do to the current incarnation of Exhumed? Damn, it’s never felt so good to be eviscerated—gutted—and just overall torn apart. Exhumed return with All Guts, No Glory and strike vengeance upon all the new variances of death metal and everything in between, and it’s beyond gratifying. Consider what Cannibal Corpse and a bastardized early-era Carcass might sound like hopped up on speed, LSD and PCP, among other mind-altering substances. This new offering is a giant middle finger to the notion that to be heavy as sin you need to downtune your E-chords ridiculously low. While sounding as fresh as a newly slain corpse, Exhumed also have the great tendency to sound completely rotten and old school. There’s some groovacious D-beat stuff going on, but the main thing you’re going to hear with All Guts, No Glory is grindcore with classic death-metal shredding and soloing courtesy of the man that basically is Exhumed—Matt Harvey. You’ll also hear insanity in the form of drumming from the well-rounded, extremely early member of the band returning to deliver severe punishment—Danny Walker. This is the best thing Exhumed have done in their career, and I welcome with bloody arms what’s to come next. –Bryer Wharton

Explosions In The Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Temporary Residence
Street: 04.26
Explosions In The Sky = Moonlit Sailor + Do Make Say Think + The Photographic
I’m not sure what else new I can say about Explosions In The Sky.  These guys have muscled their way to the top of the post-rock pyramid (or other suitably dramatic structure).  Take Care, Take Care, Take Care is more exhilaratingly typical fare for the genre.  Which is to say that it can leave you breathless after riding the high of build-ups that last six minutes and cacophonous, melodic releases that last another five.  Echoing oceans of guitar and perfect, thunderous, cymbal-heavy drumming combine at breakneck speed or in dreamy interludes.  The album clocks in at a little over 46 minutes, and is all of six songs, so it really becomes this epic soundtrack where each song develops from a relatively quiet emotional start to a beautiful climax courtesy of the quartet’s mastery of the mini-symphony. The single, “Trembling Hands,” is the disc’s shortest track and a little more straightforward than most, but as drum-heavy and complexly layered as the rest.  I can’t wait to see this band live. (Pioneer Park: 07.14) –Rio Connelly

Friendly Fires
Street: 05.24
Friendly Fires = Duran Duran + Wham + Cut Copy
Everyone could use a little more cheese in their diets, and Friendly Fires offers the finest sampling on their sophomore album Pala (named after the fictional island in Aldous Huxley’s final book). The St. Albans trio looks to the heavy hitters of the ’80s and ’90s like ’N Sync, Missy Elliot and Bobby Brown. Yes, you read that correctly: the trio has created their own brand of boy band. “Live Those Days Tonight” kicks off the album with a rush of deep, pounding beats, which give way to a sunny electro club anthem. If only one track from the album could receive the ’80s stamp of approval, it would have to be “Running,” complete with chiming bells and a sharp bass. “Hawaiian Air” is drenched in tribal drumming, while “Hurting” is a throwback to ’70s disco with a dash of modernity. Friendly Fires has aged this cheese to perfection! –Courtney Blair

Girl Talk
All Day
Illegal Art
Street: 09.15.10
Girl Talk = Ratatat Remixes + Danger Mouse + Deaf in the Family
I have a good friend who hates Girl Talk. He is full of complaints about the mashup genre in general and claims that when hearing these artists, he is just reminded of the original songs and would prefer those. “Fair enough,” you might think—I mean, Gregg Gillis is no Mix Master Mike when it comes to cuts, and no wunderkind as a producer like Danger Mouse or Kanye. But I have decided my friend is 100 percent wrong about Girl Talk. Gillis may be crafting what are essentially remixes of his favorite verses with a Top 40 radio palate full of the most recognizable hooks, but his talent is speaking to us in a kind of new vocabulary Sampling Radiohead, Black Sabbath, ELO, and Deep Purple, all with raps by Jay-Z, Skee-Lo, Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes and so many more, guarantees that everybody recognizes fragments of the music stream, but usually not every single one. It’s completely referential, but infectious. This is absolutely some of the best party music ever, period. All Day, like past releases, is meant to be listened to in its entirety, and is available for free download in that form or cut up into more digestible tracks at While you’re at it, check out this sweet infographic breaking down every single individual sample by track and time listings at So nerdy and yet so much fun. –Rio Connelly

Hail Mary Mallon
Are You Gonna Eat That?
Street: 06.07
Hail Mary Mallon = Aesop Rock + Rob Sonic + Big Wiz
The best part about an Aesop Rock project is that you can tell one a million miles away, yet they all sound different. Hail Mary Mallon is made up of Aesop, along with Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. It’s the heavy bass and smooth lines that really give this album a great listenability. On one hand, just like all Aesop Rock projects, it sounds polished and perfect; on the other, it’s almost thrown together. “Breakdance Beach” is the real hot jawn on this one, telling the story of a mythical beach town where everyone gets along and the culture is at large—it’s nice to dream and to do so over a punch, thump-happy beat.  The use of sounds in this album is downright impressive—from dial tones to car horns, it gets used. In all honesty, if you have gone this long without hearing an Aesop project, get on it. –Jemie Sprankle

Have Nots
Paper + Plastick
Street: 05.03
Have Nots = Suicide Machines + One Man Army + Bouncing Souls
God help me, punk rock still can get to me. These Boston boys have tons of energy, a solid sound, and catchy songs that definitely call to mind the best mid 90s stuff, while still sounding fresh to the ears. Elements like the Clash-style dual vocal interplay give Proud an entertaining dynamic. In tone and style, the band comes across as youthful, but they do manage to sneak in topics like our current economic crisis, the treatment the soldiers undergo, and personal growth and maturity. Have Nots should have an interesting road ahead. While they’ve had success as a band, it’s going to be difficult for them to avoid being pigeonholed as just another punk band. Plenty of kids out there need a band like this to be their Operation Ivy. They’ve got what it takes to stand out; they’ve just got to push themselves a little more. –James Orme

New Brigade
Dais Records
Street: 06.21
Iceage = Joy Division + DNA + 2011
In the first couple listens to New Brigade, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander back to 7th grade, when the best part of school talent shows were the kids making fast-paced, drum-heavy punk rock and finding the way, the truth and the light of some of the best music on earth. The album starts with a 50-second noise track and settles effortlessly into “White Rune” with jagged, distorted guitars and a lot of tom. After a good seven seconds of feedback, the title track starts off with true punk form. There is no denying that these kids listen to and love Joy Division, but instead of sulking around about it, they made a ferocious album with a raw energy only high school kids could pull off.  Songs like “Broken Bone” and “Count Me In” stay in the classic punk structure, and barely slow it down on the last track, “You’re Blessed,” which sounds almost exactly like The Clash, albeit angrier, and heavier. The whole album is only 24 minutes, so if you’ve ever liked punk at all, listen to this. It might be the best half hour of your day. –Kyla G.

Jackie-O Motherfucker
Earth Sound System
Fire Records
Street: 05.03
Jackie-O Motherfucker = Rolling Stones – Mick Jagger – Keith Richards
Challenging your audience is one thing—giving them absolutely no reason to listen to your record is another. While Jackie-O Motherfucker comes very close to the latter on Earth Sound System, they actually do manage to make something interesting by taking the inherent repetition of the blues and extending it to something trance-inducing on “Dedication.” However, the random drums of indistinguishable companion pieces “Raga Joining” and “Raga Separating” sound like a lethargic vertebrate playing with a sampler for 17 minutes. Sometimes challenging proves itself over time to simply be ahead of the curve. This is not the case with Earth Sound System. –Nate Housley

James Curd
DFA Radio Mix #14
DFA Records
Street: 04.11
James Curd = Rick James + the cool Lion King/Tarzan-ish Phil Collins + Jack Beats
In a time where DJ mixes have taken the place of the traditional CD, DJs like James Curd are celebrated and appreciated when they supply mixes like his DFA Radiomix #14. James Curd is the epitome of smooth. With sexy vocals and funky bass lines, his DFA mix is virtually irresistible. Sitting alone in my room with his beautiful selection of tracks and impeccable transitions bursting in my ear, I felt as if I was at a 70s disco party. Warm colors and good vibes seemed to flow over me as I listened to the mix. If consistency was a person, it would be James Curd’s best friend. If fluidity was a person, James Curd would probably be fucking it. The tracks tell a story of love lost, gained and found again. Now I’ve never met James Curd, but when Poolside’s “Do You Believe” came on, I found myself whispering, “I believe we have what it takes and that love is true.” Also featured in the mix was the Neighbour’s “What I Say.” The rest of the tracks were unfamiliar to me, but it didn’t stop them from winning me over. This mix could be played in your car, at a party or just when hanging alone in your room. Mama Beatz

James Pants
Stones Throw
Street: 05.03
James Pants = M83 + Caribou + Starfucker
There’s something really familiar about this shoegaze-y shimmer of an album, but that’s a pretty awesome thing. Think Chromeo, but inspired by the whole other side of 80s music—the dark, emotional, trenchcoat-wearing part. Add Caribou’s flare for pop sensibility and some hip hop-inspired production, and the disc plays really well on a dreamy afternoon. There’s some darkly Latin flare to “Clouds Over the Pacific,” almost a little Shiny Toy Guns to “Strange Girl,” and a definite Flaming Lips-freak quality to “These Girls” and “A Little Bit Closer.” This producer clearly has a lot of fun, and my only complaints on the disk are when his whims take him a little too far, losing some of the guest vocals and some of the other prettier parts. Overall, this is very solid, though, and particular favorites include blissed-out “Incantation” and funky “Every Night.” –Rio Connelly

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine
Enhanced Methods of Questioning
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 05.31
JBATGSM = Lard – Al Jourgensen + Bedtime… era Dead Kennedys + Last Scream of the Missing Neighbors
Jello Biafra has the most distinctive voice in punk and his “evangelical-with-a-bullhorn” vocals have yielded some of the most caustic records of the genre. Boasting an explosive rhythm section (á la Faith no More’s Billy Gould), gargantuan riffs (“Invasion of the Mind Snatchers”) and that familiar barn animal wailing, JBATGSM continues heavy on Biafra’s time-tested method of juxtaposing the sacred with the absurd beneath a deafening sonic wall. Still, it’s notably streamlined, ditching most of the space-rock weirdness of yore, and opting for a more focused attack (though the CD version features an 18-minute extended Deviants cover which sounds like a Monster Magnet B-side). It’s a ferocious five-song EP that’s tight, devoid of filler, and politically outraged—but it’s slightly stale and resembles just another by-the-numbers Biafra project. Maybe it’s a testament to the dude’s longevity. Or maybe it just means we really haven’t made any political progress since the Reagan Era. –Dylan Chadwick

Joe Lally
Why Should I Get Used to It
Street: 04.26
Joe Lally = Fugazi – everyone else from Fugazi + a couple of Italians
Well, it’s not Fugazi. That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just means that if you’re looking into getting this one because it will cure your need for new Fugazi music, well, be forewarned. That being said, it is a little like Fugazi. Lally was always the guy that no one paid any attention to, focusing their mind on either Ian MacKaye or Guy Picciotto. As a result, his delicate voice was rarely noticed and his chops as a bassist were often overshadowed. Up until this point, his solo work has been mostly unremarkable. But this, his third solo effort, is actually pretty good. He’s part of a trio that sounds well rehearsed, yet somehow still sound like they’re improvising the whole thing. There are moments when this is very similar to Fugazi, and there are even parts when the album gives off more of a Pixies vibe. It is Lally’s best solo record to date. Now, if we could just get him to come back from Rome and get Fugazi back together … . –James Bennett

The Eyes of the Fly
Asthmatic Kitty Records
Joyful Noise Recordings
Street: 04.26
Jookabox = Animal Collective + The Fall + Au
Critics often cite Ween when trying to describe the sound of this Indianapolis band, but I think that has more to do with the eclectic arrangement of the album rather than the style of music Jookabox actually plays. There are definitely a wide variety of influences imbedded in this album; for instance, the title track, “The Eyes of the Fly,” features vocals that strike me as a vague combination of !!! and Fiddler on the Roof—a provocative and peculiar mix. The songs consistently feature cool beats, interesting samples, and an impressive amount of raw energy that screams total commitment. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish how many people are singing at one time, but I find that adds more to the album than it detracts, pushing the dynamic envelope. Not all the songs are hits on the album, but “The Eyes of the Fly” is definitely worth hearing. –Mike Abu

Junior Battles
Idle Ages
Paper + Plastick
Street: 06.28
Junior Battles = Wannabe MXPX + Fall Out Boy + early Blink182
Paper + Plastick record label has added a new band to its list. Junior Battles released their debut album, Idle Ages, this summer. The one question on many a mind is—why? Why promote a band that is a weak imitation of the 90s pop–punk bands that we all grew up with and know and love? The album’s single and opener, “Seventeen,” where the band sings about how they wish they were 17, is tediously nostalgic. Idle Ages is from start to finish unoriginal and uninspiring. Every song sounds like a song that has been done before and done better. With each track, the listener is left hoping that the next one will stir them to something other than apathy and disappointment, but sadly, this never occurs, and the album drones on in unmemorable mediocrity. The only band that can get away with singing about teenage angst in their mid-twenties is Blink182. Idle seems to be the right word to describe the effort and amount of time that went into making this album. The one redeeming quality is that the vocals are on pitch. Way to go, boys. –Julianna Clay

Los Vigilantes
Street: 05.17
Los Vigilantes = Wau y Los Arrrghs! + The Oblivians + Los Saicos
Somehow, these snotty garage cretins managed to disentangle themselves from the sinister tendrils of San Juan, Puerto Rico’s monstrous reggaetón oppressors to release this mind-knifing, cerveza-gulping masterpiece. Los Vigilantes’ guitarist Jorge Mundo played lead on the last Davila 666 record, and it’s obvious that our heroes take some serious cues from the Davilas on this LP full of songs about girls and guilt. Growing up in Puerto Rico, a steamy place influenced partially by the US and partially by the rest of Latin America, seems to have made Los Vigilantes cling to their own, strangely unique cultural and musical identity influenced by heavy hitters from both worlds. They draw as much inspiration from the classic Latin American garage sound of Colombia’s Los Yetis or Chile’s Los Jockers (“Me Imagino”) as they do from West Coast frat and spooky surf kings like The Sonics or, more recently, The Ghastly Ones (“A Ella”). Occasionally, the driving, melodious punk anthems descend into weird, Leary-esque wanderings of hallucinogenic madness á la The Psychedelic Schafferson Jetplane (“Eres Tu”). Get ready to shake your culo, punx, because these hijueputas get my vote for the best release of 2011. –Nate Perkins

Matt Pond PA
Spring Fools
Altitude Records
Street: 04.26
Matt Pond PA = Matt Pond PA
Matt Pond PA returns with the rest of the gang to create a rather awe-inspiring EP, Spring Fools. The band is joined by their former producer (responsible for Emblems and Several Arrows Later) and the finished product almost restores them to their former nostalgic glory. Although the lyrics are melancholy, the EP itself is very uplifting. “Love To Get Used” serves as the perfect opener. It draws you in with its message and fast pace. The rest of Spring Fools spins at a much lower pace, but is by no means any less enchanting. Ariel Abshire’s vocals in “Lovers Always Win” add a sweet complexity to the song. Spring Fool’s guitar work and Matt Pond’s vocals combine to create something that is truly worthy of the word “melodic.” What a fitting name for an album where every song is essentially an ode to spring and the human condition. As always, the sound comes off as effortless and organic. Although this album is only five songs long, those songs are memorable enough that you will find yourself pressing the repeat button and humming along at random. –Julianna Clay

Memory Tapes
Player Piano
Carpark Records
Street: 07.05
Memory Tapes = MGMT + Gold Panda
There is a selective tone that comes from a child’s toy piano not being equipped with strings or tuning pins so the notes clunk out in hollow melancholy with each key stroke. Much like this but with an added layer of power-pop bite, is Memory Tapes’ second album, aptly named Player Piano. Tracks like “Trance Sister” vibrate eclectic beats with the suicidal tendency of the lyrics creating full-bodied strokes that balloon into near-explosions of perfectly formulated musical chaos. “Humming” creates a pinprick of harmony that that softly bleeds instrumental circulation into the bursting drums of “Sunhits” with nimble care. The ghostly vocals and distant exhale of the guitar in “Fell thru Ice” indicate that mastermind Dayve Hawk has successfully reimagined the keyboard-laden dance music trope and given the listener a musical voyage that none can regret taking. –Liz Lucero

My Disco
Little Joy
Temporary Residence Ltd.
Street: 01.25
My Disco = shoegaze + … Trail of Dead + Minus the Bear
If John Fruciante and the Edge have taught me anything, it’s that a lot of times, less is more. Little Joy is a canvas on which Australia’s Ben Andrews, Liam Andrews, and Rohan Rebeiro layer their aural paint strokes without any pretense, but too much repetition. The album opener, “Closer,” shows that the band isn’t worried about trying to surprise their audience. Rather, they create a new expectation: a simple idea, a simple beat, a simple high, and a simple low. “Sunray” has a repeating, danceable drum pattern that never deviates. The guitar work is smart, going from a melodic head-nodding motif to a fuzz-ridden wave of noise, only to descend back to where it began. It’s clear that the album was recorded by Steve Albini, with its stripped-down feel. But in the end, the album lacks direction. Repetition and layering can work well, but not on every track. Our ears need something more than dynamic contrast. –Andrew Roy

Nigeria 70
Sweet Times: Afro-Funk, Highlife & Juju from 1970s Lagos
Street: 05.20
Nigeria 70 = Tunde King + Fela Kuti + Harry Belafonte
Whereas most African music I’ve heard from this era generally deals with serious writing styles and subject matter, this collection includes a number of super care free tracks that instantly differentiates itself from others. This departure is due to tracks from bands specializing in a mixture of highlife, which stresses jazzy horns and multiple guitars, and juju, a distinctly Nigerian style of popular music that combines funk, reggae, and Afrobeat. I was struck by a couple songs on the album, such as Moneyman and the Super 5 International’s “Life,” that seemed to have a strange Caribbean feel, albeit layered with traditional African drums and percussion. Tunde Mabadu’s “Viva Disco” sounds like The Bee Gees gone Afro funk, Soki Ohale Uzzi’s “Bisi’s Beat” is straight 70s R&B, and Eji Oyewole’s “Unity in Africa” expresses the passion of the Pan-African political movement of the time with driving ferocity. Overall, a groovy comp. –Mike Abu

Night Birds
Fresh Kills Vol. 1
Grave Mistake
Street: 04.15
Night Birds = JFA + The Adolescents + Agent Orange + Dirtnap Records
Having existed for three years, New Jersey’s Night Birds have already amassed a remarkable discography and the good folks at Grave Mistake have seen fit to compile both 7”s and the demo onto one handy little CD. How sweet of them! If you’ve not heard the band (shame on you!) they’re one of many post-Ergs! projects and play an exuberant mix of tunefully surf-able punk. Think Dick Dale and Rikk Agnew jamming cuts from “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.” Think morbid beach blanket bong-outs that you can’t get enough of. Think reverb-drenched riffing, “oozin’ ahh” vocal harmonies and brilliant lyrics running the gleeful gamut from grocery store killing sprees (“Thrilling Murder”), apocalyptic floods (“Killer Waves”) and gory schlock films (“Midnight Movies”). Atone for your sin of omission, snag the album and if it doesn’t become the ultimate summer party starter for you and your goofball friends, you probably need new ones. –Dylan Chadwick

Figure 8
Warner Brothers
Street: 04.22
Outasight = Dave Mathews + Asher Roth + Cobra Star Ship
In one way, this album worries me. Sounds a bit overproduced, like someone following a formula cracked out on coffee and parliaments created the beats in a cubical. On the other hand, it sounds like it was just a bit late for the Burno Mars and B.O.B bandwagon bus, so in that aspect, I feel like there is still some hope. That hope, however, is run over by said bus when you start to notice the DMB style undertones and then it hits you, boom, this shit sounds like a DMB hip hop album. “Figure 8” is the real wu-banger, with, “Never ends like a figure eight.” You know what else never ends? A fucking circle, and oddly, it seemed like this little five-track mixtape didn’t, either. For real, this shit sounds like overproduced white kid trying too hard to be Top 40 crap. –Jemie Sprankle

The Phoenix Foundation
Memphis Industries
Street: 01.24
The Phoenix Foundation = Fruit Bats + Harlem Shakes + Pedro The Lion
New Zealand has been keeping secrets from us. The Phoenix Foundation has lived and released amazingly bright progressive pop-rock albums for nearly a half decade without sharing any of it with us. Buffalo, the band’s fourth full-length release, has so much warmth, life and joy infused in it that it could have fit right in on Karen O’s Where The Wild Things Are soundtrack. Though on some tracks, like “Bitte Bitte,” the exuberance borders on hokeyness, their enthusiasm is simply too contagious to deny. Have this album handy for rainy days, then go dancing in the street. –CG

The Postelles
The Postelles
+1 Records
Street: 06.07
The Postelles = Spoon + Steel Train + The Kooks
This is what The Strokes might have sounded like were they not able to buy style and fame. (Over)-produced by Albert Hammond Jr., The Postelles’ eponymous debut is the kind of shit that record labels sell to high school girls as “rock n’ roll.” Every song has a catchy chorus, and ridiculously high production values. It is a very happy album, and never once loses its upbeat attitude. This watered-down, wannabe Spoon album is probably going to get heavy radio play, and your little sister is going to fucking love it. –Cody Hudson

Street: 05.29
Priestbird = Devendra Banhart + Led Zeppelin
Reforming from the ashes of prog-folk trio Tarantula AD, Priestbird changed their sound and their name, involving drummer Gregory Rogrove of Devendra Banhart’s band. Beachcombers meanders around a numinous space of freak folk—and a strange detour into fuzz rock on “Diamonds”–until the strongest track, album closer “Yellow Moon,” hits the nail on the head. It’s ethereal yet soulful and full of warmth. The band would do well to mimic the focus heard on that track rather than spend the eight other tracks without form or statement. –Nate Housley

Paper + Plastick
Street: 05.17
Protagonist = Saves the Day + Hot Water Music + Yellowcard
Deep inside, underneath your Special Duties T-shirt, Gorilla Biscuits hoodie or Venom back patch, is that pubescent soft spot that would burn until you masturbated to Brody Armstrong after Warped Tour. Protagonist reminds us of that area—in a good way. At first listen, States sounds like another Paper + Plastick melodic hardcore release that comes across as emo—the nasal vocals seem too melodic to really be “punk.” If you spin it a couple times, though, the EP may grow on you. Protagonist shines with their aggressive songs like “Destination Desolation,” whose gang vocals complement the song’s pounding guitar chugs. “Sirens” strides with a mean D-beat, despondent lyrics and a catchy breakdown/solo combo. The best approach to peeping this EP: Wait until your roommates leave and sample each track on iTunes to see which songs suit you … You can unearth your old Brody poster if you want, too. –Alexander Ortega

A Pattern Language
Uninhabitable Mansions
Street: 07.19
Pursesnatchers = Yo La Tengo
Brooklyn indie rockers Pursesnatchers have said that they are bracing themselves for comparisons to Yo La Tengo. That’s because their music is nearly identical, only with less fervor and confidence. Pursesnatchers is fronted by Doug Marvin (formerly of Dirty on Purpose) and his wife Annie Hart of Au Revoir Simone. It can be said that together, they are a pretty even blend of the shoegazey rock and synthy pop of those projects, but the end result is less natural than either. On most tracks, the rhythm section (comprised of Jared Barron and Harold Liu) produces danceable rock beats at near-frantic tempos and the whispered, timid vocal style of Marvin seems a little strange. On “Kissena Park,” which reminds me a bit of Beck’s “Broken Drum” in mood and texture, this works. Marvin’s vocals, which are a mix of Elliott Smith and Sparklehorse, just make more sense with melancholy, slower-tempoed songs. –CG

Raphael Saadiq
Stone Rollin’
Street: 03.25
Raphael Saadiq = Sharon Jones + Lenny Kravitz + John Legend
This is a perfect Sunday cleaning album: fast paced to cover all the groundwork like dusting and vacuuming, and slow paced and more intimate to get in all the hard-to-reach places. No matter what the pace, this instrumentally friendly album by Raphael Saadiq is welcome. From piano to violins, guitar and smooth bass lines, it’s all there, and when it all comes together, it sounds like a young male’s answer to Sharon Jones—less heartbreak and troubles, more love and optimism. Stone Rollin’ is just that: On “Go To Hell,” it sounds like you’re in the gospel church on Main Street in Buffalo, curing a holy hangover with the Blues Brothers, then on Zach Parish’s porch on a sunny Salt Lake evening on “Day Dreams.” “The Answer” marches you out nicely with a snare drum and smooth bass line to the album’s self-reflective track, with a glimpse into Saadiq’s childhood and upbringing. –Jemie Sprankle

Scarlet Season
The Taxidermist
Street: 05.02
Scarlet Season = Amanda Palmer x (Tori Amos + ½ Gwen Stefani)
Cinematic and a bit swirly at times, the songs on this debut album by Seattle-based artist Aileen Paron reveal, under their pretty preserved hides, a surprisingly meaty and dark pop construction and passionate bones that tell stories about the way of all things flesh. Charming piano, engaging synths and Paron’s voice lure you in with a sweetness like early Cocteau Twins or This Mortal Coil, then springs the trap and captures you in Paron’s suddenly steely jaws, telling you bedtime stories for the big sleep. On some tracks, like “Horse Fury” and “Rewind,” her voice is strong and quirky, like a touch of an alternate-universe Gwen Stefani, while on the title track, fury and loneliness crackle through like an uncredited guest haunting by Tori Amos. Scarlet Season plans a West Coast tour for fall 2011, and if she’s half as good live, it promises to be well worth the price of admission. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Go With Me
Hardly Art
Street: 05.30
Seapony = Wild Nothing + The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Lo-fi garage pop has taken root as of recently, and Seapony will probably be able to jump right on to that train. They aren’t as catchy as Smith and Westerns, and the lead singer’s voice isn’t as entrancing as Beach House, but it is still way good. It is slightly underwhelming, like the first Pains of Being Pure at Heart album, but it grows on you in a similar manner. The pleasant twee pop with a surf-rock twinge isn’t without its downfalls, which become more apparent as you listen to the lyrics. The instrumentals are simple, and apparently, someone thought it was a good idea that the lyrics follow the musical theme. It isn’t all bad, but a few of the lines are of limerick quality. –Cody Hudson

Ed Banger Records
Street: 05.31
SebastiAn = James Brown + Daft Punk + Led Zeppelin
With the release of SebastiAn’s debut album, Total, I was reminded once again why I trust Ed Banger Records with my ears. There are not enough ways, words, phrases or hand gestures that could describe the epic-ness that is Total. From beginning to end, I felt like he grabbed me by the hand and took me on a magical carpet ride of bassy epic proportions. It was if the album was a film from the ’60s, like “My Fair Lady” or “The King and I” with intermissions cloaked as interludes. It was a story of love, passion, desire and really, just life. The sounds, or rather, the synths he chooses almost hold a voice of their own and when mixed in with samples, it takes on a life of its own. On “Yes,” it feels as if SebastiAn’s led you to a private Caribbean island. I would like to say yes to “Yes” all summer or at least before it’s overplayed, because a track like this goes on repeat for at least a week. SebastiAn showcases his endless talents as a producer and musical connoisseur on this album. On the cover of SebastiAn’s album, Total, he’s shown kissing himself. I now understand why—if I was this good, I couldn’t help but touch myself, either. -Mama Beatz

Nuclear Blast
Street: 07.12
Sepultura = Sepultura (era 1991) + Slayer + Soulfly
Are you prepared to be shocked? Pretty much every album Sepultura has released post-Max Cavalera has been flat-out blatantly terrible; whatever fan of heavy music your tastes lie. From Against to A-Lex, each record suffered poor songwriting, not to mention a complete deviation from the thrash-metal styles that made Sepultura huge. Well, folks, if you spin Kairos, be prepared to be shocked—this record offers thrash back in full force; it actually would fill in the gap from Sepultura’s 1991 album, Arise, to its follow-up, Chaos A.D. The band’s sole remaining original member is bassist Paulo “Destructor,” and guitarist Andreas Kisser has been a part of Sepultura since 1987. I’m not sure what happened; maybe the band realized they couldn’t experiment further, or just had the strong desire to be thrash-styled again. Kairos offers fluid songwriting, not to mention terrific production. It’s a record that’s going to turn some metalheads back onto the band and definitely appease the newer fans in a way they haven’t been since they first discovered the mighty thrash riff. There’s quite a bit of messing about with guitar and bass tones, some of which resembles the guitar tone of Arise to Beneath the Remains, as well as Chaos A.D. This isn’t a full return to Sepultura’s glory, but it’s damn close, and it’s an album I can enjoy beyond its initial shock factor of fresh and exciting songs. –Bryer Wharton

Set Your Goals
Burning At Both Ends
Street: 06.27
Set Your Goals = New Found Glory + The Wonder Years + Four Year Strong
Even though they’re responsible for the mostly-horrible resurgence of early 2000s radio punk in and around the hardcore scene, it’s hard to hate Set Your Goals—at least, for some people. The band’s third full-length is less influenced by hardcore than their previous material, but it’s surprisingly un-shitty. Pseudo-breakdowns filled with chug n’ stomp guitars and gang vocals still pop up here and there, but for the most part, this is straightforward pop-punk. There are some cringeworthy moments (the chorus of “London Heathrow,” the spoken word interlude of “The Last American Virgin” and every single fucking second of “Product of the ’80s”), but nothing nearly as bad as the last album’s Paramore cameo. “Cure For Apathy,” “Happy New Year” and “Trenches” more than make up for the album’s weaker moments, and there is definitely much, much worse pop punk out there. Burning at Both Ends probably won’t win back any old SYG fans, but it is a fun summer album that deserves at least a few spins. –Ricky Vigil

Small Sur
Street: 06.28
Small Sur = Nick Drake + Bonnie “Prince” Billy + Mark Kozelek + Fleet Foxes
I really liked this on the first listen through, but then I got really kind of annoyed. I think that there should be a new genre created so that people can know exactly what this will sound like, like “Sensitive Beard Music.” Bob Keal, the frontman of this Baltimore-based outfit, has a large beard, but he also writes impeccable songs that conjure vast redwoods and breaking surf on the Pacific, which is, in part, why I am kind of annoyed by this. There is nothing new or great about this band, and they are not doing anything different. They are, however, staying within the bearded formula and will most likely be the beard band du jour. Which is just lovely. In their favor, they get some assistance from fellow Baltimoreans Jenn Wasner and Andy Stack of Wye Oak and Geoff Graham of Lower Dens. Now, listen to the song “Saint” on repeat. It’s a great record if you really like Sensitive Beard Music. –Mary Houdini

Sol Invictus
The Cruellest Month
Auerbach Tontrager/Prophecy
Street: 07.12
Sol Invictus = Current 93 + Death in June + In Gowan Ring
This offering of an epic journey (the first album in five years) is Sol Invictus’ 17th full-length studio offering, The Cruelest Month. Sol Invictus are described as one of the innovators of neo-folk or apocalyptic folk, but the band, helmed mostly by Tony Wakeford, is beyond pigeonholing and beyond stirring up the same emotional response within each listen for every person that gives it a try. The songs are mostly backed by the loudest sound in the mix: The mighty acoustic guitar/Wakeford’s grizzled voice (but also accompanied by flute, violin and bass guitar manipulations). They can either derange your mind, giving you the feeling to question everything and anything you think you believe in, or just flat out haunt your mind and draw out different moments of contemplative thoughts. There’s a gross myriad of types of instruments recorded, ultimately ending in an album where no one track sounds the same. The Cruellest Month is essential for anyone that strives to be challenged by the music they listen to in the instrumental and lyrical sense (intensely poetic and rife for interpretation). While at its core, TCM is a pessimistic, dark, sorrowful album. Once you peel back the initial layers, you’ll be mesmerized and compelled to listen, and listen more. –Bryer Wharton

Something Fierce
Don’t be So Cruel
Street: 04.12
Something Fierce = Stiff Little Fingers + Redd Kross + The Briefs
Dirtnap records can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned; however, the flood of stoned party-punks like Mean Jeans, though great and fun and all that, has become a bit tiresome. Houston’s Something Fierce is totally different, refreshing, and pleasing to listen to, with plenty of Combat Rock-era Clash worship, and driving bass work reminiscent of fellow Southwest desert dwellers Vegetable and other artsy cats. In fact, it sounds like anything that ’77-’79 UK punks would cook up if they were constantly in reggae clubs listening to Don Letts spin Desmond Dekker and Prince Buster records, but, you know, pretty understated. Don’t be So Cruel’s 12 tracks are melodic, danceable and political all at the same time; plus, the cover art has this weird Ralph Steadman feel to it. There are worse ways to spend 12 or 14 bucks. Long live Dirtnap! –Nate Perkins

State Song
Dear Hearts & Gentle People
Phratry Records
Street: 02.22
State Song = American Football + Benton Falls
I feel like I’ve stepped through a miniature time warp when I listen to this early-90s-angst-core-esque album. There is so much to be said for what Deep Elm Records did for the alternative scene during that time, and these guys are proof. A little bit Desert City Soundtrack, a little bit Sunny Day Real Estate, State Song know how to rock, and how to do it nicely. It’s hard to believe that they’re a three-piece with the amount of sound they’re producing, and the different ways of keeping the listener interested. The lyrics stay true to the post-hardcore theme: the turmoil of infidelity, longing, and love. The vocals are a little bit spacey, and with the combination of raw guitar, steady drums, and melancholic piano, this makes for a pretty damn good album. Dear Hearts & Gentle People has blatant SDRE influences, with hazy guitars and throaty vocals throughout. The more I listen to the album, the more I hear Sunny Day in their songs, but it all sounds really, really good. If I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think this album came out of the late 90s or early 2000s, and that’s what I like about it most. There’s something about the post-hardcore era that makes my insides smile, and this does that just as well. –Kyla G.

Tara Jane O’Neil & Nikaido Kazumi
Street: 05.24
K Records/Sweet Dreams Press
The ease of this collaboration really shines through on this album. The songs translate leisurely in a stunning, hypnotic and intuitive manner. The interweaving of instruments and vocal melodies and harmonies are as comfortable and organic as skin. Standout tracks include “Ruh Roh,” a song with a sleepy start picking up into a doo-wop harmonic feel, and “Melodica Hall,” single notes blending with the sparse personal offset of Kazumi’s child-like vocals. It feels like listening to a conversation. Really, though, this album is meant to be listened to from start to finish to understand the whole journey. Read the recent interview with TJO at, by yours truly. –Mary Houdini

Through The Sparks
Almanac (mmx)–Year of Beasts
Street: 06.21
Through The Sparks = The Arcade Fire + (Spoon – Britt Daniel’s voice) + (CAKE – John McCrea’s voice) + (Sparklehorse – sadness)
The year that has passed since the last TTS album has been an atypical one for them. Finding it impossible to release a full album and spend time on the road promoting it, they have instead released one single every month via their website. Almanac is a compilation of that year of songwriting and in many ways bears the marks of its creation. Each song presents a slightly different band, drawing on varied influences and relying on different levels of traditional playing and light-hearted, daring experimentation. If the album feels random and sporadic in sequence, it’s a forgivable offense. The juxtaposition of The Smiths-style alternative rock song “Spun Deadlong into the Wild Black Yonder” next to the goofy, off-kilter psych pop of “Enemies” makes both songs more enjoyable. Listen to every track on this one, or you might miss the best beast of the year. –CG

Thurston Moore
Demolished Thoughts
Matador Records
Street: 05.24
Thurston Moore = Neil Young + Lou Barlow
Every few years, Sonic Youth’s leading man, Thurston Moore, steps away momentarily to release a solo album showing off his softer side. Demolished Thoughts has Moore teaming up with the producing skills of Beck Hansen. Some have compared the results to Beck’s Sea Change, which isn’t a bad thing. You won’t find bold experimentation, blasts of noisescapes, or sublime hooks, but that’s OK. Instead, you’ll find songs that are universal, timeless, and full of beauty and reflection with lyrics that are deceptively complex and twisting. Every track on Demolished Thoughts unfolds naturally in perfect synchrony sending the listener down a scenic route with a wise man you greatly revere. (Pioneer Park: 08.04) –Courtney Blair

Timber Timbre
Creep on Creepin’ On
Arts & Crafts Productions
Street: 04.05
Timber Timbre = Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds + The Cramps + The Birthday Party + Bauhaus + Elvis Presley
Timber Timbre continue their eerie, slow-paced dirges in Creep on Creepin’ On. In comparison to their self-titled album, this release takes subtle influences from doo-wop rather than blues, and most of the songs with singing employ a 6/4 time signature with ironically chipper piano accompaniment; “Woman” and the title track use these elements to create images of love and 50s-style dances with a macabre twist. Songs like “Obelisk” and “Swamp Magic” contrarily levy instrumental discomfort for the listener with strangled violins and caustic percussion—walking outside while these play in your headphones creates paranoia and anticipation—you can almost feel them pinch your nerves. The majority of the album, however, falls into the vein of the track, “Black Water”: “All I need is some sunshine” are words that mark the album’s sense of convalescence from an acceptance of the gloomy and its subsequent charm. Definitely worth getting. –Alexander Ortega

Tyler The Creator
XL Recordings
Street 05.10
Tyler The Creator = GG Allin + Cage + Necro
The 19-year-old in me is pissed, as usual. Goblin is five years late for me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t still appreciate it. Anything that is this loved by some and so hated by many is doing it right in my eyes—think hip hop GG Allin with a trendy five panel. I want to tell you this album is radical and everyone should go pick it up, but that’s not completely the case. In all honesty, the album as a whole is slow-rolling and a bit long: Like a snuff film, this is not an easy sit-through. Songs like “Sandwiches” and “Analog” have lost some serious sparkle and energy in the recording process. However, if you are able to pioneer your way through the album, you can find some nuggets of metaphorical gold. The album is what it is: angry kid music. If you’re still on that “can’t tell me nothing/no fucks given” attitude, this is for you. –Jemie Sprankle

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Fat Possum Records
Street: 06.21
Unknown Mortal Orchestra = Brian Jonestown Massacre + early Beck
Album opener “Ffunny Ffrends” is deceptively simple, instantly hummable, and a great introduction to an album that revolves around a concept (guitar-based psych pop songs played over tape-deck breakbeats) without sounding gimmicky. The band’s quirks never overshadow the catchiness of it all, even though the soul influence combined with lo-fi guitar pop gives Unknown Mortal Orchestra a faint resemblance to joke-popsters Ween. Just when you’re ready to think the album’s readily digestible melodies sound a bit thin, repeat listens reveal layers that stick to your ribs. –Nate Housley

Cuckundoo Records
Street: 04.12
Vessels = Mogwai + Red Sparrowes
In 2011, you might think a band wouldn’t be able to pull off textbook post-rock without sounding hopelessly derivative and therefore, boring as hell. While the genre touchstones are there (extended starry-eyed instrumentals with optional vocals and slight metal flavor), Helioscope is inventive and highly listenable. Sadly, Vessels may not get their deserved props because post-rock remains relevant only for diehards and Friday Night Lights fans. This doesn’t mean that Helioscope isn’t an album full of solid rockers, even though none may hit the epic heights of the best Explosions in the Sky songs. –Nate Housley

Willie Wright
Telling The Truth
Numero Group
Street: 01.25
Willie Wright = Terry Callier + Bill Withers + Cat Stevens
What a shame that the buttery-smooth voice of Willie Wright has been lost for decades! Thank God the world has labels like Numero consistently rescuing albums from obscurity. Telling the Truth was originally released in 1977 on his own Hotel Records with only 1,000 copies for sale from the trunk of his car. The album begins with a slight breeze of rhythm on the Calypso-flavored “Nantucket Island,” followed shortly after with the family-themed “So Happy Now” featuring his daughter on backing vocals singing “Finally decided, we can’t be divided” over bouncy keys and a swanky strum. The album closes with the true highlights, the dusted Southern rock tune, “It’s Only Life, That’s All” followed up with a spiritual cover of Curtis Mayfield’s “Right on for the Darkness”.–Courtney Blair

All Access A Beastie Boys Megamix
Street: 05.11
Z-Trip = Stone Cold Steve Austin + DJ Craze
On this megamix, Z-Trip takes listeners on a Beastie Boy roundtrip, using the group’s entire catalog within 25 minutes. Z-Trip was honored with the privilege of making a mix for the Beastie Boys to help excite fans for their new album, “Hot Sauce Committee Part Two,” that was released May 3, 2011. Z-Trip has toured with the Beastie Boys before, so them choosing to have him re-mix it wasn’t too surprising. The mix is soulful but funky all the way through, and Z’s transitions are impeccable. Z also remixed every track featured in the mix, and each was done with incredible precision. When “Body Moving” came on, I was already lost in the beast-y-ness. Z-Trip himself is a Beastie fan, and it shows throughout the mix. He does exactly what he’s supposed to do: remind you of how absolutely amazing and epic the Beastie Boys are. This mix is something I could play in my car or at a party. The way that Z-Trip reintroduces us to the entire catalog of Beastie songs is innovative and fresh. Mama Beatz