National CD Reviews

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Amy LaVere             
Stranger Me
Archer Records
Street: 07.19
Amy LaVere =A Teenage Kristin Hersh Vacationing in the Bayou
Sometimes when I’m told someone else thinks I’ll enjoy someone, it often doesn’t work out that way. I had been told that Americana/folk chanteuse Amy LaVere had a “sexy” voice, and so I approached it as I do most things in this situation: with a little apprehension and skepticism. Turns out the joke was one on me, as not only does LaVere posses a very cool voice, but is a pretty accomplished songwriter as well. The 11 tracks that comprise this, her third album, showcase both of those strengths well. Opener “Damn Love Song” is simply fantastic, as she tells off a former lover with a sarcastic “Don’t it say/Don’t it say it all” and a great two-step drumbeat signifies marching orders. Born out of a break-up and other real-life grief, it definitely sets a tone. Producer Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire) builds a nice mixture of musicians around LaVere’s upright bass-playing, such as Rick Steff on keys, David Cousar on guitars and former flame Paul Taylor on drums, and a horn and string section. “Red Banks” and “Great Divide” continue the post break-up motif—actually, all the songs do to some degree—but there is also great beauty found in the bluesy “Often Happens,” “Tricky Heart,” and the ironic “Lucky Boy.” Her cover of Captain Beefheart’s “Candle Mambo” featuring a theremin is odd, and yet fits well into the song cycle, while closing track “Come On” highlights LaVere’s unique, husky voice’s beauty. –Dean O Hillis

Complete Control
Side One Dummy
Street: 09.27
Anti-Flag = The Clash + Billy Bragg + Street Dogs + Propagandhi + Saves the Day + Buzzcocks + Against Me!
I love Anti-Flag—always have, always will. That said, Complete Control Sessions is half Clash-tribute, half recording their songs with a minor folky, Billy Bragg style—which is fine, there’s just nothing “new.” Don’t be frightened: They still employ distortion-fueled guitars with thick power chords. The Flag have merely converted the ethos of songs “The Economy Is Suffering,” “Turncoat” and “This Is The End” to be more conducive to en masse sing-alongs at shows with a more Bragg-like vocal intonation and warbling (in a good way). Anti-Flag began moving in this direction with The Bright Lights of America, and have just intensified this approach. The release includes three Clash covers (“Should I Stay Or Should I Go” twice, “Guns Of Brixton” and “White Riot”) and a cover of “I Fought The Law,” which is basically another Clash cover. Fans will cherish this release, and Anti-Flag haters? Indie sux, hardline sux, emo sux and you suck. –Alexander Ortega

The Body
Corleone Records
Street: 01.01
The Body = Thou + Corrupted + 5ive
Interestingly, this compilation was only recently handed to me after being released in January 2011, and I hadn’t heard of it until it was in my hands. Shows how up-to-date I am, apparently. Not that I’m complaining—I missed the boat on The Body initially, so any chance to have my ears pummeled by them is welcome. Anthology is exactly that: an anthology of tracks from various demos, splits, and tour CDRs that, until earlier this year, were rather difficult to come by. It’s easy to see how the duo came to write and record 2010’s amazing All the Waters of the Earth Turn to Blood after listening to these early tracks—droning guitar and drums mixed with the reverb up to 11 stack beautifully over lunatic asylum, self-torture driven vocals, and create the kind of atmosphere that is only conducive to two things: introspection or mutilation. Definitely worthy of a space on your shelf. –Gavin Hoffman

Bonnie “Prince” Billy
Wolfroy Goes To Town
Drag City
Street: 10.04
Bonnie “Prince” Billy = Silver Jews + Jose Gonzales
Will Oldham rarely strays from his usual path on an LP and this one is no different. He remains his somber, fragile, folksy self. The biggest addition to this album comes with the appearance of a female vocalist (Angel Olsen), and although I am not one for female voices, she is great. The back and forth between the two is really entrancing, as are her choral backing vocals. The highpoints of the album are the darker, more desolate-sounding songs (“New Whaling,” “We Are Unhappy”) upon which Oldham’s lyrics often dance the line between sardonic Christian and snarky atheist. Will Oldham has done a great job of maintaining his signature sound without becoming boring; this album certainly has its place amongst the rest of the Bonnie “Prince” Billy canon. –Cody Hudson

Boots Electric
Honkey Kong
Street: 09.20
Dangerbird Records
Boots Electric = Empire of the Sun + Jet + The Bravery
Paperboy? The original Atari? Duck Hunt? All of these notions come running back once you start listening to Boots Electric. The debut solo album from Jesse “The Devil” Hughes, Honkey Kong is almost homage to the video-game era––so much that it even sounds like one. After previously releasing three albums of garage-punk metal, his alter-ego is finally being brought to light. The unique, electro-nerdy sound is something that could be featured in Napoleon Dynamite, but somehow, it still works. Guitar riffs, keyboard-heavy dance beats and dynamic growling noises make for a noteworthy listen. The single, “I Love You all the Thyme,” is an upbeat, love-mix tape jam. It sounds like it could have been, or will be, put into next week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy, in the best possible way. “Oh Girl” and “You’ll be Sorry” are the classic, tragic, love-lost anthems that every pseudo-pop album needs. He switches the sappy, pop bit up a little with “Swallowed by the Night”––a twang, country-influenced piece––and “Boots Electric Theme,” which features lyrics like “I’m not your boyfriend, I’m just a lollipop.” The album has some vibrant variety, which is always nice to see when unveiling a solo artist. It is a solid first effort at being a pop songwriter. Overall, Honkey Kong is a fun listen, and this is the kind of guy you want at your house party. –Kylie Cox

Built Like Alaska
In Troubled Times
Future Farmer Recordings
Street: 11.08
Built Like Alaska = The Weakerthans + The Circulatory System + solo Ben Gibbard
I really don’t know what to make of this album. The lyrics are well thought out and the melodies are cute, but I feel like I’ve heard it before. The album starts out with a slow, hazy track, “The Union Song,” rolling easily into the next, “Antique Love,” which is less desolate. The rest of the album has more of a pop feel, while keeping with the fuzziness of the first song, but I keep finding myself getting bored and wanting to listen to something else. Most of the songs just kinda sound the same, which can be a good thing in some cases, but certainly not this one. Built Like Alaska sounds like a smoothie of a bunch of better bands. The whole album is really, really sleepy. I just drank an energy drink and feel like I’m ready for bed. They have some interesting layering in a few songs, but nothing that is making me say, “Wow!” Maybe you’d dig it if you’re just starting out on your indie rock journey, so it might warrant a listen, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. –Kyla G.

Buraka Som Sistema
Street: 11.01
Buraka Som Sistema = Major Lazer + M.I.A + Sandro Silva
Buraka Som Sistema finally return with Komba, their much-anticipated sophomore album, and inescapable bounce, stank-face-inducing and a festival in my soul is what Komba is to me. Being from Ghana, Africa myself, the influences from the mother country were abundantly obvious on the album. With tracks like “Tira O Pe” and “(We Stay) Up All Night,” Buraka Som Sistema had me praying to the gods of bass for blessing them with such drum patterns that seem to just keep my ass in the air. The name of the album, “Komba,” is an Angolan religious ritual that is very big in Africa: It’s a celebration of someone’s life after they have passed, in which you honor the deceased by indulging in their favorite foods, drinks and music, whilst also acknowledging their journey in life by telling stories of them. It’s a huge party, pretty much, which, being of Ghanian descent, I have had the pleasure of experiencing numerous times. The album holds the spirit of Komba, with its spiritually stimulating lyrics, upbeat synths and celebratory drums. My favorite track, “Hypnotized,” made my chest jerk, my booty pop and my arms do unknown gang signs; ’twas a joyous five minutes! Komba is a fucking party that just won’t stop, not even when it’s over, since like me, you’ll just have it on repeat forever. This is a MUST fucking buy! −Mama Beatz

Charnel House
Sygil Records
Street: 09.27
Charnel House = Bone Awl + Gallhammer + Gnaw Their Tongues
Whoa. No doubt about it, this is one of the better releases I’ve heard in a long time, and from a band I’d never previously heard of, at that. Hailing from Bloomington, Illinois, Charnel House combines the best elements of primitive black metal with seriously ugly noise/drone and off-key (yet strangely hypnotic and mesmerizing) vocals and don’t apologize for being non-traditional. There are barely any drum fills on the entire record, and the guitars only sneak forward to serve as low-tuned, gut-crushing accents, which only helps to consider the entire album as a single piece as opposed to six separate songs. After several listens, it’s a bit difficult to discern where one song ends and another begins because the instrumentation and attack don’t let up, but, in Charnel House’s case, that’s actually a good thing. This is a release best enjoyed in solitude, and Charnel House is a band that is sure to further expand the already great divide between what is “tr00” and what is not. –Gavin Hoffman

Chilly Gonzales
The Unspeakable
Arts & Crafts
Street: 06.07
Chilly Gonzales = Boys Noize + John Williams + Feist
A simple way to refer to Chilly Gonzales’ The Unspeakable would be to call it an “orchestral rap” album. Yes, you read that right. Gonzales’ brother, Christophe Beck, arranged the orchestral pieces found on the album and Gonzales himself does the rapping. Gonzo uses a healthy amount of sarcasm in his lyrics to bring about his melancholic themes and unprofessional tone, which are often contrasted by an epic staccato string arrangement or an earnest French horn melody. “Party In My Mind” is one of my favorite tracks off the album. It features an exceptionally catchy bongo and string arrangement, again contrasting with Gonzo’s rhymes about getting stoned, wearing slippers and watching South Park. The album ends with “Shut Up and Play the Piano,” with Gonzales playing a slow and lamenting piano arrangement while rapping about his musical and creative identity crisis (I imagine it to be like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), and his talents as a producer and pianist. The Unspeakable seems to reveal more about Jason Beck (Gonzales’ real name) than any of his other albums, but the listener is left wondering if Beck’s monologues are sincere or shrouded in sarcasm. –Chris Proctor

Temporary Residence
Street: 11.15
Coliseum = Black Cross + Drive Like Jehu + Cursed
For every stinking Motö/Discharge comparison garnered, Louisville’s favorite beard punx have always nurtured an angular post rock obsession that’s laid hissing beneath their “big amps/big riffs” cacophony for years. On their newest eight-song offering, producer legend J. Robbins (Jawbox) manages to draw a distinct wiriness from Coliseum’s gravelly barrage, aerating the dense salvo into a digestible and compartmentalized pastiche of thundering drums, whining guitars and ardent growling. The band sheds their traditional galloping steamroller aesthetic for something resonant, contemplative and forcefully evocative. Powerful songwriting and an experimental fascination with stilted tempos and serrated sonic reverb (first cultivated on House with a Curse) coaxes a ragged soul from the band, rendering Parasites their most challenging and memorable work to date. –Dylan Chadwick

Comet Gain
Howl of the Lonely Crowd
What’s Your Rupture?
Street: 10.04
Comet Gain = the Cribs + Dexys Midnight Runners + BBC Radio
This is the most British record I’ve ever heard—clear, straightforward and universal. It also displays a certain breed of English pop that appeals to all sorts of music fans while still remaining incredibly bouncy. Where most modern pop music skirts the line between children’s music and frivolity, this indie UK stuff is forgivably catchy. I’ve heard a handful of Comet Gain songs over the years, and this record throws out some missives that rank right up there with the best. Several of the dozen or so tracks on this disc show that these guys have all but mastered pop music composition. The tracks build and explode into radio-friendly, euphoric anthems. The first cut, “Clang of the Concrete Swans,” embodies this description completely. Other songs sound a little less polished, but they are still light years ahead of whatever the hell American radio is passing off as pop music these days. Their sixth album in their almost two-decade career, Howl of the Lonely Crowd will treat you to classy, timeless Brit pop, and will remind you of a time when popular music actually had something to say. –James Bennett

Boe Digits 2
Boe Digits
Street: 09.27
Cromie = Cosmin TRG + Girl Unit + Julio Bashmore
L.A.-based Cromie appears on the future garage scene with two massive tracks that call to mind old-school Chicago house, featuring commanding bass lines and simple layers of drum synths draped on top, creating a sound that is both in-your-face dancey and calm enough to chill out to after a long day at work or play. The first track, “How I Know,” is a collaboration with SLC-based JRapp (former SLUG writer and one-half of Nickel & Dime), and firmly establishes these guys as producers to watch. The R&B vocal is perfectly sampled, and as a result, the track has a soulful feel, like it’s been whiskey-aged. “What To Do” is a late-night groove track with slow, syncopated beats and a well-crafted maze of notes, synths and effects whirling around in circles, lulling you into a stupor while building up to a heavy bass line for that last break of the night. Grab it on Beatport or iTunes for a couple of bucks. –Jessie Wood

Crooked Fingers
Breaks in the Armor
Merge Records
Street: 10.11
Crooked Fingers = The Swell Season – Snow Patrol
Breaks in the Armor is Eric Bachmann’s (Archers of Loaf) sixth full-length as Crooked Fingers. Returning from an English-teaching stint in Taipei, Bachmann doesn’t seem to have escaped the ghosts that animate the acoustic pop-rock of Breaks in the Armor. The tunes are as immediately touching as they are catchy, and the sweet counterpoint of Liz Durrett’s backing vocals balance excellently Bachmann’s jilted croak. Breaks in the Armor is a pleasantly rare record that grabs you with its immediacy and rewards repeated listens. –Nate Housley

Cubic Zirconia
Follow Your Heart
Fool’s Gold
Street: 09.20
Cubic Zirconia = Peaches + The Whitest Boy Alive + Holy Ghost! + Simian Mobile Disco
Cubic Zirconia places their sound in the made-up genre of ethnic disco, a rather fitting title for this wildly eclectic selection of sounds, beats, and melodies. However, this album draws its influences from such a wide variety of genres that it can’t accurately be categorized. The unadultered creativity of these three musicians should be celebrated, as they have created a work of art that is truly original. I noticed that if there is something in the track that doesn’t agree with me (the vocals are a bit heavy-handed at times), soon enough, another layer or instrument or melody is added into the mix, drawing me back into the song. The title track is the standout track on the album, with a sugar-sweet mashup of minimal techno and disco genres, almost as if Plastikman teamed up with Cut Copy to create a groove you could dance to all night long. If you want a look at the genre-defying directions that pop electronic music is headed in, buy this album. –Jessie Wood

Carbon-Based Anatomy
Season of Mist
Street: 11.15
Cynic = Gordian Knot + Death + Exivious
Florida’s Cynic are a flat-out progressive band; this EP may not even be a whisper of what’s to come on the band’s next full-length. It is a departure from the band’s more metallic leanings, but Carbon-Based Anatomy succeeds in leaps and bounds in being a cohesive, highly listenable movement of music separated into six tracks playing out in roughly 23 minutes of time. The first and last tracks serve as openers and closers and set the tone of an almost strange, alien spacey/airy sound that is the core of the musical direction. The reunited full-length release Traced in Air did have some snarled vocals; this EP contains no extreme elements—what it does contain is a rich package of layered and textured sounds that are unique to Cynic. Some of the same themes from Traced in Air remain, but this as an independent release of material—there are songs that will stick in memory like a warm release of dopamine, but the entire EP is worth it for fans or just somebody looking for something different. The cover art from the now-passed Robert Venosa (who did the cover art for the band’s debut and second full-length) is also something to truly behold in its invitation to imagine, and the fact that it’s the visual artist’s final piece for Cynic. –Bryer Wharton

David Lynch
Crazy Clown Time
[PIAS] America
Street: 11.08
David Lynch = (Ennio Morricone + Moby) x Nick Cave
Yes, that David Lynch. While the legendary filmmaker is best known for bizarre cinemagraphic mindfucks, he’s also lauded for his use of music in his films, so it doesn’t come as a shock that he’s released an album of his own (with the help of engineer Big Dean Hurley). The CD opens with the very catchy, nightmarish “Pinky’s Dream” featuring Karen O (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) before descending into electronic weirdness on tracks like the almost-poppy “Stone’s Gone Up” and the meditative “She Rise Up.” While longtime collaborator Angelo Badalamenti (Booth and the Bad Angel) doesn’t appear on the CD, his fingerprints are all over Lynch’s dark, slithery songs, especially on “So Glad.” Neither man can sing a lick, and it doesn’t matter one bit on this slice of noir Americana. If you’re a fan and have a strong stomach, hop online and check out the gruesome video for the stripped-down “Good Day Today.”  –Madelyn Boudreaux

Street: 08.30
Digitaldubs = Dennis Brown + Aswad
Digitaldubs started in 2001 as the first Rio de Janeiro sound system specializing in reggae, dub and dancehall with a Brazilian twist. The groups fourth album, #1, is perfectly titled, being that it is their first release outside of Brazil. The album is balanced nicely with both instrumentals and collaborations from heavy hitters like Ranking Joe and Earl Sixteen. The instrumental “Transe Amazonico (Abrindo Os Caminhos)” jumpstarts with a confident dub swagger riding into the dawn of “Fyah Bun Dem” with Ranking Joe bringing his rapid-fire delivery over bass-driven roots riddims. Earl Sixteen lends his sultry vocals on “Pirates Game” while “Your Love Is Overdub” is topped with a dusting of samba paired with the vocals of reggae pioneer Brinsley Forde of Aswad. The album cover sums things up perfectly by breaking up the group’s name into three simple words; dig, ital, dubs. –Courtney Blair

Dominique Young Unique
Stupid Pretty Mixtape
Street: 09.23
Dominique Young Unique = Nicki Minaj + Ratatat + Lil Mama
I’m a sucker for anything hip hop, and definitely anything that has a girl who can spit rap. That being said, I am sold on 19-year-old Dominique Young Unique. Dare I be so bold as to say she has a mouth on her like Nicki Minaj. She goes hard, and I can respect any woman who does that. Her rhymes could keep right up with Kanye West. With only one previous mixtape under her belt, she has already partnered up with N.E.R.D, Big Boi and Gucci Mane. For Stupid Pretty Mixtape, she teamed up with producer David Alexander. With all those big names, she must have something that sets her apart from her peers, and she does. The unique selling point for her is the electro-backbeat she’s got going along with her spitfire raps. She keeps a lot of the record classically hood, with songs like “Gangster Whips,” and “Rock With U.” She will give you some life advice about getting money, maintaining bootylicious status and keeping her boys in line. If you’re looking for more of a dance-esque, Chris Brown flow, there is “Life of a Party,” where she humbly reminds us she’s “that bad bitch you wanna get with.” She’s not the classiest, but she’s without question the one you want to party with. Whether you’re in the mood to dance, or posted up in the club, Dominique Young Unique might just be your new anthem. –Kylie Cox

Dum Dum Girls
Only in Dreams
Sub Pop Records
Street: 09.27
Dum Dum Girls = No Joy + Best Coast + The Raveonettes + The Shangri Las
The second-full length from LA’s Dum Dum Girls finds the band with a less muddled and noisy sound than what was on their first album.  Where vocal tracks and instruments sometimes felt claustrophobic on last year’s I Will Be, Only in Dreams leaves enough space between the various elements to allow Dee Dee’s songwriting to stand out. Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes helped produce the album, and although his influence isn’t immediately noticeable, after a few spins, the timeless quality of his work begins to seep through. Although Dum Dum Girls haven’t abandoned their fuzzy pop altogether, this more polished version is, without question, also more memorable. Only in Dreams starts with the upbeat, surf rock-influenced “Always Looking” before diving into the whimsical “Bedroom Eyes” and bouncing into “Just a Creep,” which resonates with the feeling of a spaghetti western. “Coming Down” creeps into the territory of ballad, but its inclusion doesn’t make this album lose its teeth. Initially, the sonic rollercoaster was a bit jarring, but after a few spins, I fell in love with this album. Only in Dreams is as beautiful as it is tough, and as infectious as your first romance. –Jeanette D. Moses

Edie Sedgwick
Love Gets Lovelier Every Day
Edie Sedgwick = Gogol Bordello
The name Edie Sedgwick is most commonly recognized as Andy Warhol’s most famous muse, who overdosed and died in 1971. The band, Edie Sedgwick, however, has taken it upon themselves to write music that captures the same essence as the original Edie, which is to say, that the band started by solely writing about celebrities. With three records under their belt, they have decided to branch out and write songs about whatever they damn well please, instead of just celeb gossip. The band is comprised of El Guapo bassist Justin Moyer and ex-Panoply Academy Glee Club drummer Ryan Hicks. Critically, I can say a few things. The music is maddeningly repetitive, it’s not interesting to listen to, and it lacks depth. On “Natural Born Killers,” they sing “I don’t wanna go out with you/Cuz I don’t wanna walk about with you.” Has there ever been a more forced rhyme? I feel like my little brother could have recorded this song on Garageband. “Shine a Light” gives me just a taste of a good melody and semi-intelligible lyrics, but overall, the album is making my ears bleed. Almost every track is a mixture of speaking, rudimentary beats and random, misplaced accents. If you’re into record levels of distortion, mind-dulling lyrics and elementary rhythms, you’ll like it—but it’s not my cup of tea. Edie Sedgwick was beautiful, and this is tarnishing her reputation. –Kylie Cox

Inevitable Decay
Street: 09.20
Entrench = Sodom + Death Angel (early) + Nuclear Assault + Destruction (early)
Don your denim patch-plastered jacket, bust out your bullet belt and revel in what may be the least talked-about but best damn thrash record your ears will be bombarded with on Entrench’s debut album, Inevitable Decay. After six years of demos, this Swedish trio of mad thrashers are here to beat your ass the way thrash metal should. The problem with many of the modern thrash acts pushing out retro material these days, aside from regurgitated riffs and lack of the real thrash angst, is their modern production. Entrench not only nail the classic production of albums from the ’83 to ’85 era, they ooze old-school attitude like a pus-ridden sore on a hardworking thrash guitar player’s finger. Stylistically, the band does a good job of crossing over the core of their sound, which is early European thrash with some doses of American rawness. It isn’t just riffs you’re going to remember from Inevitable Decay; the tracks stand hard and fast with new classics. “Debt of Sorrow” is filled with mosh-pit fervor and a core swirling, dizzyingly fast thrash riff with a throat-scraper of a vocal delivery, and “Crossing the River,” starts with speedy punches and rounds into some brutal thrash-groove breakdowns. All this is plenty to get the old school and new school to wet their skintight black jeans. –Bryer Wharton

Subject to Change plus First Demo
Street: 09.26
Faith = Artificial Peace + Ceremony + Urban Waste
Besides being part of the seminal Dischord scene (and a sharing a bloodline with ’core luminary Ian MacKaye), Faith’s real impact lay in the melodic hardcore (don’t punch me if I say “emo-core”) that rose from its ashes, namely Embrace and One Last Wish. Still, short lived and posthumous, Subject to Change isn’t without its own charm. Alec MacKaye’s brittle and impassioned yowling (new-jack Ceremony fans take note), the tinny resonance of twin guitars and the crisp production-(re)mastering combo of Don Zientara and TJ Lipple expose cuts like “Limitations” and “Subject to Change” as exuberant, scrappy quasi-tuneful hardcore classics in their own right. Though the lion’s share of these tracks ended up re-recorded on the (arguably) more) iconic split LP with Void (including some demo tracks tacked on the end), a heartfelt revisiting of an embryonic cult album is a welcome gesture in any scene. –Dylan Chadwick

Sound Era
Street: 06.28
Flechette = Fugazi + Mineral + Drive Like Jehu
Upon first listen of Flechette’s self-titled debut EP, you’d think that you were transported back in time 17 years to when some post-hardcore bands were slowly evolving into what eventually would be called emo. Not the shit-commercial version of what emo is today or what it became around 2000, but the awesome, sincere version of the genre, when music was still heavy progressive but had clear, more emotional vocals and lyrics. Flechette catches this old-school vibe perfectly while also adding a few more modern elements and heavier time structures. Imagine stealing a vile of chromosomes from each member of Jawbox, Sunny Day Real Estate, and Quicksand, then sneaking into a lab and doing some amateur genetic engineering, and you would have yourself a band named Flechette. –Jon Robertson

Frank Alpine
Street: 10.25
Frank Alpine = Ladytron x (Soft Cell + Visage)
The droning, noisy minimalism of this album isn’t the only thing that makes it seem like a leftover of heady, early 1980s no-wave experimentalism. Taking a name from a character in Bernard Malamud’s 1957 novel The Assistant and opening with a track called “No Exit” that is clearly about the iconic existentialist play are gambits I’d expect from overeducated New Romantics wearing too much makeup. Alpine’s alter ego, Rich Moreno (New Collapse, The Boy Scouts of Annihilation) channels The Normal on “Heart is Grey” (complete with sly British spelling), recalls a creepier version of the Hawaiian Pups on “Night Sky” and “Dark Places” and finally goes all depressed-yet-hyper à la the Buzzcocks on “My Feelings.” This album is a must for any serious post-punk or old new-waver looking for something new and challenging, yet oddly recognizable. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Girl In A Coma
Exits & All the Rest
Street: 11.01
Blackheart Records
Girl In A Coma = Cold War Kids + Joan Jett + The Black Keys
I was sold on this album as soon as I heard the lyrics, “Do you ever start to wonder what it’s like to be alone?” Call me emotional. It’s not too surprising that I was convinced so quickly, though. These women are no rookies to the music game. Girls In A Coma have already toured with Morrissey, played SXSW multiple times, and are debuting their fourth album, which has lots of things to be proud of. Alternating between the soft melodies of Nina Diaz, the rhythmic guitar lines, and the thoughtfully dissonant harmonies, I couldn’t find anything to complain about. When Nina breathes softly into the mic, you feel like you could reach out and touch her. There is also a subtle, yet noteworthy, element of pure girl power when she screams, “How long until I know you don’t care for us?” on the first track, “Adjust,” but for some reason, it doesn’t come off as abrasive¬—it comes off as real. Her odd, grunting noises and glottal attacks are vaguely reminiscent of the queen of indie-girl rock, Regina Spektor—a compliment if there ever was one. Overall, Exits & All the Rest does just what every person needs. It will take you from the beginning of your teenage, lusty romance, carry you through the breakup and lead you all the way to stabbing them right in the heart. –Kylie Cox

Sargent House
Street: 08.30
Hella = Melt Banana + Zach Hill
The fact that guitarist Spencer Seim’s contributions on Tripper are worth mentioning speaks volumes about him. I say that as a person who has witnessed the Olympic-level drumming genius that is Zach Hill some time ago at Urban Lounge. Hill might be the fastest, most articulate drummer on earth, and his father must have had Red Bull in his sperm. Seim makes each track feel like a journey, when it could easily feel like a traffic jam with so much noise. On “Long Hair,” his melodically riveting riffing complements Hill’s explosive drumming perfectly. “Kid Life Crisis” switches things up for a minute, with a low bit rate intro, before blasting into their what-the-Hella kind of chaos––and yes, Hella turns “chaos” into a complimentary adjective. Tripper is the perfect album to throw on when you’re trying to annoy your pious dick of a roommate while he’s studying. Or, you can just throw your headphones in. Either way, it’s really, really good. –Andrew Roy

The Jesus Lizard
Music Video Distributors
Street: 08.23
The Jesus Lizard = Scratch Acid + Cows + Butthole Surfers
Menacing noise rock brutality defined The Jesus Lizard as they defied genres throughout the ‘90s. Though they sat comfortably beneath the commercial radar, the group spawned numerous copycats, a turgid reputation and a whole lotta moaning when they bowed into obscurity a few years later. In their usual backward tradition, aging hasn’t stunted them, but given them an amphetamine charge, and their first performance in over a decade (captured at Nashville’s Exit/In) proves the band’s longevity and nihilistic potency. Fistfuls of Touch and Go material, sonic violence, sweat, blood, missing teeth and David Yow’s wiry commentary (mostly about dead celebrities and the $120K paycheck he gets afterwards) shows the band back and relevant, revisiting their destructive prime and still blazing past their young-buck contemporaries with a sardonic psyche-jazz weirdness betraying their age. Visually and musically, its immediacy and palpable rage proves essential for fans past and present. –Dylan Chadwick

John Doe
Yep Roc
Street: 08.30
John Doe = Bruce Springsteen + Joe Ely + Richard Hell
John Doe is one of those musical luminaries responsible for bridging the gap between punk rock, early rock n’ roll and roots music. His band X gave some credence to punk rock, and ever since he went solo in 1990, he’s given new breath and perspective to country, folk and blues while keeping his edge and simultaneously, fully delving into this new territory. Keeper is a fine example of just how great Doe is at building an entire record of roots music while still keeping things highly original. The country rocker “Walking out the Door” would be right at home in any honky tonk, and has a slight air of Johnny Cash to it. The saxophone-soaked “Never Enough” is an upbeat number that has enough life in it to wake the dead. It’s hard to say what we’ll get in the future from a guy like John Doe, but I do know that whatever it is, I’ll be glad to get more of it. –James Orme

Jonathan Keevil
Bellflower OST
Oscilloscope Records
Street: 09.06
Jonathan Keevil = Bon Iver/Brian Eno
The A Side of this record is a collection of folk ballads meant to sound as if Keevil is holing up in a bunker with nothing but his husky voice and a cheap mic. The inspiration behind the songs’ melancholy is unnamed, and presumably the film, Bellflower, provides the additional context; either way, they’re great dressing if a traumatic event is provided elsewhere. The film is about two friends who spend their time constructing weapons for an impending apocalypse, only to have a girl come between them. From the mood of the soundtrack, especially the wallflower ambient synths of Side B, the tone of the movie is more somber than the homemade weapons would imply. As with most soundtracks, this one needs some context to be fully affecting. –Nate Housley

Katy B
On a Mission
Columbia Records
Street: 09.13
Katy B = (Alicia Keys + Adele) x Rusko
You probably haven’t heard of Katy B before, but since she’s a 22-year-old graduate of BRIT School with a degree in popular music from Goldsmiths, University of London, you can be sure that you will. Her debut album, On A Mission, is a showcase displaying her unbelievably enchanting voice, beautifully framed with dubstep and garage music. “Lights On” (featuring Ms. Dynamite), “Easy Please Me” and “Katy On A Mission” are particularly captivating. You can pick up the album on iTunes, but be sure to check out her music videos on YouTube, cause it doesn’t look like her tour is leaving the UK anytime soon. –Johnny Logan

Shimmy Shimmy Dang!
Street: 09.06
Ladybirds = The Cramps + Imelda May + Ruth Brown
The Ladybirds play an electrifying mix of R&B, rockabilly, and pop, all with a garage attitude and feel. There’s a lot of potential here; the band is incredibly versatile, but retains a signature sound no matter which genre they switch to. The songwriting feels a little unfocused at times, but the hooks and melodies are there. Vocals are good, but with this type of band, so much relies on the vocals being outstanding, which I believe they could be; they just aren’t through this entire record. Please don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed Shimmy Shimmy Dang! quite a bit. If the right producer, or if the band themselves pushed just a little further I think the band really show us something, but I’m happy with this for now. –James Orme

Library Voices
Summer of Lust
Dine Alone Records
Street: 10.18
Library Voices = New Pornographers x Architecture in Helsinki
While Library Voices put a few strident twee signifiers up front—cutesy song titles (“Que Sera Sarah”), the grade-school nostalgia of their name, the boy-girl album cover—the music is more grown up than they let on. It’s fun, to be sure, but they temper the energy with genuine hooks that give their infantilism a sardonic slant. Single “Generation Handclap,” upbeat and catchy like the rest of the record, is a standout with its especially urgent chorus. I could have done without the book-on-tape style “Intro” and “Outro” tracks, though. –Nate Housley

Little Red
Midnight Remember
True Panther
Street: 10.25
Little Red = Phoenix + Washed Out + The Beach Boys
They say that location makes all the difference, and in the case of Little Red, I think that holds true. These Melbourne, Australia, natives recorded their most recent album, Midnight Remember, on the central coast of Australia, and they couldn’t have created a better sound. After three years of experimentation, one EP, and one full-length album, the band teamed up with producer Scott Horscroft (The Temper Trap), to form Midnight Remember. The soft, dreamy voices of Dominic Byrne and Adrian Beltrame will bring you back to the nostalgic days of summer, when you were carefree, kicking back with a Natty Ice at the beach. Every track has something different to offer, but a few stand out among the crowd. “Slow Motion” captures the titled sentiment perfectly, with the combination of lyrics about “everyone moving so fast,” and the leisurely, major chord progressions and percussive piano in the background. If you’re looking for something a little bit more along the dance lines, there is “Rock It,” with a killer bass line and a chorus you can chant along with. The album is fresh, it has an interestingly unique sound, and it’s enjoyable to listen to. If you like fun and games, this is the album for you. –Kylie Cox

Lonely Kamel
Dust Devil
Napalm Records
Street: 10.25
Lonely Kamel = Lüger + Fu Manchu + Masters of Reality
Dust Devil represents a logical next step in Lonely Kamel’s journey from Kyuss-worshiping stoner doom to a tighter, cleaner, blues-inspired psychedelic rock. Their songs are still pretty metal-inspired and heavy, but are much more in the spirit of stoner rock’s fascination with long highways and deals with the devil. Thomas Brenna’s voice is unique and powerful, and backed up with bright, catchy tunes, from the fast and gritty “The Prophet” to the slow, smooth riffs of “Whorehouse Groove.” This album might not be breaking any new ground, but it’s a great companion for long drives along desert roads. –Henry Glasheen

CFO Recordings
Street: 08.23
Lostribe = Grieves + Looptroop Rockers + Prefuse 73
Let me tell you about the state of hip hop these days: It’s excellent, but—with one big fat “but” (you know, the type Sir Mix-A-Lot loves)—there’s so much new stuff that the market gets diluted. With that said, let me tell you how awesome it is to hear a record like Sophie from this California duo. Agustus ThElefant is a solid MC and he elegantly shares track space with guest stars like Talib Kweli, Casual and N8 the GR8. My real favorite here, though, is the production by JustLuv. More digitally informed and synth-heavy than a lot of current producers, his beats are still sample-driven and vary enough over the course of the album to never get monotonous. Particular favorites include “No Other Word,” featuring a vocal hook by Maryann Hunter that’s sweetly addictive; “Live Like A Rebel,” with amazing glitch-inspired backbeats; and “Come Down,” with some really hot verses. Like hip hop, but need something new? This is it. –Rio Connelly

Mandolin Orange
Haste Make/Hard
Hearted Stranger
Street: 11.08
Mandolin Orange = The Head and the Heart + She & Him + Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s
As I drove down I-15, I found myself humming along to the catchy melodies and nice harmonies that Mandolin Orange’s Haste Make/Hard Hearted Stranger offer on this two-disc release. Both albums are pretty musically sound, what with the crooning voice of Andrew Marlin and the instrumental handlings of Emily Frantz. They each feature some excellent piano refrains and violin solos. The third track on Haste Make, “Lines on the Floor,” is my personal favorite because of the dissonant melodies and the cadence at the end of each chorus. It’s almost enough to make me fall for the album in its entirety. Unfortunately, overall, both Haste Make and Hard Hearted Stranger truly lack expressive depth. There is no solid point of differentiation between Mandolin Orange and any other amiable, folky band out there. The intimate, calming tone of the band’s sound is also nice, but ultimately lacks the intensity that fans need in order to keep going back to it after every victory and every battle. In order for an album to really stick, it has to provide something meaningful, and while this album comes close, it doesn’t quite pull through in the end. It’s pleasant, but pleasant won’t cut it. –Kylie Cox

Marshall Holland             
Don’t Jettison the Memories/Statistically I Should Say EP
Street: 11.16.10/07.22.11
Marshall Holland = The Shins’ Little Bro Fronting The Beau Brummels
Unsigned Bay Area artist Marshall Holland’s sound is pleasant and boyishly charming, as are his lyrics. Over the course of years since his 2004 debut, Don’t Jettison The Memories (self-re-released in 2010) and this year’s Statistically I Should Say EP, he has developed into a more polished (and more succinctly mature) performer. Being a one-man band in every sense of the term—performing all instruments and vocals—all of his songs share a common charm of catchy melodies and clear vocals. His self-made rhythm section, especially his drumming, is quite remarkable. The sole cover (songwriter Michael Brooks’ “Must Be Love”) fits nicely, too. About halfway through Jettison, the listener realizes they’ve heard a kaleidoscopic variety of styles, mostly from ‘60s influences like experimental Beatles and The Byrds, but Holland’s lyrics and voice are very much of today’s world and more akin to Elvis Costello. If there is a happy optimism missing from today’s more cynical singer/songwriter canons, it is in fine abundance here, as in the chirpy/chimey “Damage Control” and “Passenger Side.” Although perhaps a bit more mellow, the seven songs that comprise the Statistically EP display a fine maturity but a wit that is still intact. “Am I missing/intuition/I’ve got the upper hand/so just stop your bitchin’” he sings on the sprightly “Your Ego’s Too Big For Your Head,” while the EP’s title is culled from the equally catchy “Waste Away Your Heart.” But perhaps two of the best tracks here are the mid-tempo ballad, “Jennifer,” and the world-wise “Meet Me by the Blue Balloon.” Marshall Holland’s music is available from all the standard download sites, and on physical CDs from Amazon. –Dean O Hillis

Memory Driven
I Hate
Street: 09.01
Memory Driven = Alice in Chains + Godflesh
Memory Driven are not a typical doom-sludge prog-metal band. They are like a mid-90s doom prog-metal band. The music is insanely heavy and slow, but their chord progressions and vocals give off a serious grunge vibe. While the music has a bit of a dated vibe, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. To hear this kind of vocal clarity and a different take on tone and chords within doom metal is actually quite refreshing. Dennis Cornelius’ is voice eerily similar to Sully Erna, but imagine if Erna wasn’t a five-foot-nothing creep and didn’t have a bunch of boring lyrics. So basically, Cornelius is a 10 times better version of Godsmack’s singer with a tiny hint of Mike Patton. Overall, the nine tracks on this album are solid, even though the tempos can become a bit dull and repetitious. But the musicianship throughout is top-notch, with the guitars and drums pulling out something new and unique for each song. –Jon Robertson

Mike Patton
Music from the Film and Inspired by the Book “The Solitude Of Prime Numbers”
Street: 11.01
Mike Patton = Michael Andrews + Danny Elfman + Phillip Glass
“Multi-faceted” proves to be a resoundingly appropriate term when describing Mike Patton’s musical output: a career that genre-hops more than a temperamental middle-schooler. So when the dude announces that his next project will be a “sonic departure” from the last, it’s hard to take too much notice. Still, compiling an album inspired by a 2008 Italian novel (and 2010 film) about two heartbroken individuals seemed compelling enough, and the results add yet another dimension to Patton’s storied legacy. Eschewing the crazed exuberance and schizophrenic bombast of previous efforts, the album plays heavily on undertones, icy minimalism and single note passages occasional teasing themselves out into symphonic grandeur (check “Radius of Convergence”). Plinking pianos, trembling strings and an ethereal synth varnish (and the delightful quirk of having all tracks numbered sequentially with the first 16 prime numbers), it’s certainly not Mr. Bungle … but a wholly satisfying audio-cinema experience nonetheless. –Dylan Chadwick

Noxious Foxes
Broth IRA Records
Street: 05.05
Noxious Foxes = Hella + At the Drive-In
Math noise pop? Chaotic ambience? Or, to quote their website, instrumental loop-based riffs/beats? I don’t know exactly how to classify Légs, but I do know that if I was looking for someone to score my new video game about a psychotic hipster zooming through space to destroy asteroids before they hit the Urban Outfitters on Mars, I’d call Noxious Foxes. Tracks like “Wherever Hugo, Guido” and “Doth Shalt Noth” could so easily become annoying, with their seizure-ish drums and manic guitars. But, instead, everything works because Noxious Foxes remember rule #1 for instrumental music: keep things interesting. Richard Levengood’s airtight beats work in perfect symbiosis with Justin Talbott’s layered guitar work. Sometimes it sounds like there are 10 tracks playing different things all at once, but somehow, they work together like 10 different people singing different songs in perfect harmony. Légs is a win. –Andrew Roy

Ghost Town
Polyvinyl Records
Street: 11.08
Owen = Moonlit Sailor + Little Glitches + David Bazan
Mike Kinsella makes my heart melt, and this album is a strong testament as to why. A pioneer in the weird, alien music sound of Chicago, he started making music with his brother at the age of 12 in Cap’n Jazz, moved on to Joan of Arc a few years later, and American Football around the same time. In 2001, he branched out from alien sounds and started Owen, a solo project in which he loops guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and sings. This album is fucking beautiful. It’s more along the lines of his newer stuff, like At Home with Owen and New Leaves, but with more layers and more haunting than ever. Fitting, I suppose, for an album titled Ghost Town. The drums are harder than previous albums, as he was playing Cap’n Jazz’s reunion tour at the same time he was recording this album, and the guitar has the right amount of hazy uncertainty. Starting out with “Too Many Moons,” I’m immediately hooked. Lyrically, Ghost Town feels like the end of a poignant chapter in his life—appropriately, as rumors are saying that this might be his last Owen album. This is the best kind of sleepy music. –Kyla G.

Pearl Jam
Twenty Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Release: 09.20
Twenty = Pearl Jam + bootlegs + marketing – quality
For a band that once triumphed anti-commercialism, Pearl Jam couldn’t have shit out a bigger publicity album than Twenty. This two-disc live compilation serves as the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe documentary of the same name, marking the band’s two-decade existence. As far as compilations go, it’s your standard array of hits, rare songs, favorite gigs and new-ish material they’d like to promote while hoping you go buy old albums. It can’t even be classified as a “greatest hits” album, as most of the chart-toppers have inexplicably been left off. (But who really needed to hear “Jeremy” for the millionth time?) When you remove the blatant marketing and shitty packaging, it’s just a multi-year live album, which we already got earlier this year with Live On Ten Legs. If you’re anything shy of a hardcore super-collecting Pearl Jam fan, you can live without this album, and rightfully should. –Spencer Ingham

Peter Wolf Crier             
Garden of Arms
Street: 09.06
Peter Wolf Crier = The War of 1812 Lite
The Minneapolis-based duo of Peter Pisano and Brian Moen like to serve up their indie music with distortion. And while, by itself, simply making noise certainly shouldn’t be a reason to call something a song, both men possess an understated talent for songwriting. While at times, Pisano’s grating falsetto threatens to overtake some of the material, overall, he does have a pleasant voice. Opener “Right Away” is representative of his vocal style, part Kermit the Frog and part Robert Smith. “Beach” is a bit more buoyant than its predecessor, but the funeral-like organ of “Having It Out” is just plain awful. Much better both musically and vocally is “Krishnamurti,” and even if I can’t decipher Pisano’s lyrics on it, “Settling It Off” is actually excellent. With Garageband, it doesn’t necessarily take a full band to make a full band sound anymore, but credit to Moen for helping to flesh out the songs so they sound like they could be performed by a whole band. The duo excels at peppier tracks—like “Hard Heart” and “Loud Enough To Know”—but the cloying vocals and instrumentation of “Never Meant To Love You” and especially “Wheel” really drag things down, and maybe now that they are over their sophomore slump, their next material won’t be so predictably boring as the majority of this album—droning, miserable-sounding filler tracks. (Kilby Court: 10.28) –Dean O Hillis

Riverboat Gamblers
Paper + Plastick
Street: 07.12
Riverboat Gamblers = (Valient Thorr + Street Brats + The Strokes + One Man Army + (Dropkick Murphys - Celtic/Irish)) x (Ramones + Dead Boys)
Riverboat Gamblers are slapping us with a four-song EP that hearkens back to the more rock n’ roll material found in their earlier releases … somewhat confusingly. “Parasite Friends” fleshes out the cathartic dynamics and sense of a “good song” that we’ve come to expect from Riverboat Gamblers (more like Underneath the Owl), which nonetheless impels us to bounce around in a fresh, bare-boned way. I appreciate that in closer “Anything But You,” the Gamblers pound out a D-beatdown, but singer Mike Wiebe doesn’t deliver the necessary aggression for a hardcore song, and the vocal track seems washed out, rendering the track unmemorable. “The Ol’ Smash And Grab” and “Maggie Lea” walk along rockin’ riff-lines, but keep it fairly minimalist without the customary bridge switch-offs RBG usually play, which lends the release an almost garage-esque character. This EP settles nicely after a couple listens, but I wouldn’t recommend it for RBG beginners. –Alexander Ortega

Russian Circles
Sargent House
Street: 10.25
Russian Circles = Pelican + Red Sparowes + And So I Watch You From Afar
I hold any band that features a former member of Botch to a very high standard—Russian Circles meet that standard and then some. This instrumental trio sets themselves apart from the crescendo-chasing lemmings with a style of post-rock that focuses more on driving energy than empty space. Opening track “309” manages to be vicious, but not in an overtly aggressive way: Dave Turncrantz hits those drums fucking hard, and Brian Cook’s bass tone at the end of the song is just plain ugly. “Mladek” opens with a guitar riff from Mike Sullivan that initially seems pretty enough to fit on an Explosions in the Sky album, but when Turncrantz and Cook jump in, the song becomes a certified ass-kicker. The first four minutes of “Schipol” offers a bit of a respite, but there’s still some gnarly stuff going on underneath the delicate guitarwork. “Praise Be Man” closes the album out in a spectacularly fuzzy manner and the use of vocals (a rarity in Russian Circles’ music) is a pleasant surprise. This may be the best Russian Circles album yet, and that’s really saying something. –Ricky Vigil

Skinny Puppy
Street: 10.25
HanDover = Bites/Remission + Last Rights + Mythmaker
Just when you think you know exactly what to expect from Skinny Puppy, they throw you a curveball. And not just one that hangs for a few feet and drops—you completely miss it, and it blows through the backstop. HanDover, the Pups’ latest release, is a sonic pit bull that refuses to allow itself to be chained to a tree in your backyard. Sure, there are a couple of “danceable” tracks on the album (“Cullorblind,” “Village”), but by-and-large, this is a challenging listen, and the reward will differ radically depending upon perspective. This is the sound of a band that is attempting to further itself rather than reinvent itself, and, unlike most past Puppy offerings, there isn’t one single jolting moment during the album where the listener will finally “get it.” The entire album is, in effect, that moment. This is the noisiest record Skinny Puppy has released since 1992’s Last Rights, but it doesn’t have the same claustrophobic effect. Instead, it leaves much more room to breathe, but don’t turn your back on it—it will still grab you by the throat and cut off said breath without warning. –Gavin Hoffman

Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Tape Club
Polyvinyl Records
Street: 10.18
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin = Fruit Bats + early Yo La Tengo + grownup Morning Benders + if The Strokes were acoustic
Okay, 26 tracks is a lot, even considering Tape Club was narrowed from 100 of Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s previously unreleased and/or hard-to-find tracks. Despite the length, there is something endearing about these dudes and their Shins-esqe acoustic guitar and harmonic folk voices that remind me of the songs pubescent high school musicians write for their puppy-love girlfriends. I can’t say I was thoroughly engaged for the entirety of Tape Club, with its sound being more sweet and easy than striking. ‘’Lower The Gas Prices, Howard Johnson’’ implements an intriguing drum beat, with lyrics that made me crinkle my nose up in an ‘’aw shucks’’ manner.  ‘’Bigger Than Yr Yard’’ remained in my head for a few hours after listening—perhaps the pop sound and addition of girl backup singer was enough to make it stick. I dub Tape Club an above-average, well-put-together acoustic album. Although not something I would play on repeat, it’s worth at least one good listen if you can spare 26 tracks-worth of your time. (Urban: 12.01) –Kia McGinnis            

Ride With Death
Hell’s Headbangers
Street: 11.22
Speedwolf = Inepsy + Razor + Agent Steel
If your favorite NWOBHM bands were forcibly coerced into an apocalyptic biker rally to the center of oblivion, Ride With Death—all fleeting punk blasts of barely decipherable gravel-gurgling, clattering drums and razor-wire riffin’ all cobbled together like some sordid leather-jacketed, bullet-belted orgy from a Lemmy Kilmister coloring book—would be playing. It’s well-trodden (motörbiked?) territory for sure, but copped with such grease, grit and nihilistic precision and driven by such steady and undulating messiness (“I am the Demon?” Woah!), you’ll forgive ’em for abusing that corny “wolf” moniker. Imagine Zeke, playing Metallica’s “Hit the Lights” (No Life ‘Til Leather version) over and over, except their instruments are melting and they’re high on trucker speed, and a mushroom cloud just choked out the nuclear desert sky and your skin’s bubbling right off the bone cuz Rob Halford tossed your corpse into a pile of burning Metal Massacre LPs. Imagine that. –Dylan Chadwick

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Mirror Traffic
Matador Records
Street: 08.23
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks = Pavement + Sonic Youth + King Missile
My first exposure to Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks was back in 2003 when they opened up for Radiohead. Obviously, I was way more stoked for Radiohead that night than the singer dude from Pavement and his new band. Now as the years have passed and I have gotten more and more into the Jicks, I really regret not paying more attention to their set that night. The band has become a lot better since back then, and with each new album, the band’s music has become more cohesive. Their latest, Mirror Traffic, is no exception. The music on Mirror Traffic doesn’t differ a whole lot, musically, from previous Jicks or Pavement. But Malkmus’ lyrics are a bit sassier and more sarcastic than on previous releases and the addition of Beck as producer adds a lot more texture and tone to the songs, which definitely helps keep my attention through the entire album. The highlight of the album has to be track five, “Jumblegloss.” The guitar work on that jam is goddamn exceptional. –Jon Robertson

Sundress EP
Street: 08.16
Sundress = early Radiohead + Spacehog + Foals
Classic car-inspired, stainless steel frame time machine moment! Let’s go back to when Radiohead weren’t the best, yet craziest band in the whole entire world—back when they were still almost The Cure wannabes with a deeper love for distorted guitar. Turns out someone cloned them, powered up the flux capacitor and brought them to modern central Texas. WTF? Who would do such a thing? Who cares? The result, now called Sundress, is actually pretty excellent. Vocals by Ryan McAdams are spot-on for Thom Yorke’s eerie croon, and the rest combine to form spaced-out crescendos similar to the slower end of OK Computer or Foals’ Total Life Forever, without the math. Nevertheless, this is basically The Bends all over again, but like that’s a bad thing. The most exciting part is, this band is young, so I can’t wait to see what happens if they continue to evolve like the real Radiohead did. –Rio Connelly

This is Hell
Black Mass
Rise Records
Street: 10.11
This is Hell = Terror + Anthrax + M.O.D.
Heavy metal and hardcore have mixed with varying degrees of success over the years. Some strike gold, like D.R.I. and Integrity, while others are utterly forgettable, like the current wave of deathcore bands. On This is Hell’s latest effort, the crossover thrash influences are front and center and meld easily with their established New York sound. It should be no surprise how thoroughly heavy metal is integrated into the album, though—This is Hell has hinted at it for years (they have opened sets with the opening riff of Anthrax’s “Among the Living,” after all). Touches of Megadeth and Anthrax can be found throughout and complement vocalist Travis Reilly’s unique vocal style well. Reilly is one of the few vocalists in hardcore who is easily discerned from other acts, which is part of the draw of This is Hell. However, the sung vocals of the album, which aren’t necessarily clean, are a mixed bag, but work in most instances. Altogether, this release sits as well on the shelf next to Terror as it does Suicidal Tendencies, and should please hardcore fans and metal fans alike. –Peter Fryer

Tori Amos
Night of Hunters
Deutsche Grammophon
Release: 09.20
Night Of Hunters = Tori Amos + Broadway musical + a backing orchestra.
It’s been years since Tori Amos did anything risky with her music. Her last three albums were almost play-by-numbers catered to easy-listening fans and watered down for consumption. Suffice it to say, the “cornflake girl” has been soggy to longtime fans. But Night of Hunters might just be the next chapter in Amos’ career that she sorely needed. On this album, Amos crafts songs from classic compositions, making almost every track a solo piano piece with occasional orchestral support. To be blunt, this is not radio friendly and that should be applauded. The songs are as experimental as her Boys For Pele days, without the baggage of being cut down to three minutes. Night of Hunters sounds more like a haunting musical soundtrack than anything pop-oriented, and Amos deserves credit for at least taking the chance. If this album doesn’t finally earn her the elusive Grammy this year, nothing will. –Spencer Ingam

Ghostly International
Street: 11.22
Tycho = Yeah Yeah Yeahs + DJ Cam
The San Francisco native Tycho has been MIA from the scene for quite a while, focusing more on his design work and blog under the pseudonym ISO50. Fortunately for me, he took time off to focus on his new album Dive, which has left me with stars in my eyes and a yearning to explore the unseen world. From beginning to end, the album felt almost like a dream to me, taking me into a world of pure bliss. Impeccable production and the album’s fluidity speaks volumes of Tycho’s skill. It’s poetry to the ears, even though there isn’t a single lyric featured on any of the tracks, except for an ad lib on the title track. My favorite track, “Coastal Brake,” made me feel as if I was surfing in an ocean blue with the sun rising as I caught that first wave. Beautiful synths, captivating riffs and catchy drums kept me until the last song played out. This is the kinda album you can relax to after a long stressful day, or if you need something pretty in your ear while you trip. Definitely worth the legal download. –Mama Beatz

Audio Veve Part 1
Street: 07.12
Unity = Talib Kweli + Lifesavas + Boom Bap Project
While I love hip hop, it’s hard not to get tired of a record with almost no new notes. Rhyming is great, but if you keep re-hashing that same old stuff, you gotta be next-level good with it. What I’m saying is that Unity is a good MC, but not a great MC, and without that extra, his album comes off as totally forgettable. Songs like “Gangsta,” with its click-track beat and funeral-like organs, are par for the course: plenty of authentic hip-hop style, but nothing unique enough to grab me. Lines like “We keep it gangsta” and “My block is hot” come off sounding cliché, not hard. The production leaves a lot to be desired here, too—with all that’s available to the modern producer in terms of tools, simple boom-bap seems a little played out. There is talent here, and I’d gladly listen to this MC over some hotter beats ... if he toned down the fake style and tried to spit something real. –Rio Connelly

Various Artists
Mad Decent Compilation Vol. 1
Mad Decent
Street: 10.04
Diplo’s handpicked compilation of artists on the Mad Decent label is a fun look at the boundless creativity of electronic dance music producers. Every Mad Decent compilation is stunningly diverse across countries, cultures, moods, tempos, arrangements, genres, instruments and vocals used, coming about as close to a comprehensive sample of mainstream EDM today as humanly possible. There are a few misses, sure, but this album truly has something for everyone. Diplo’s insanity is infectious, and he knows how to always leave the audience screaming for more bizarre and crazy shit. The compilation starts off at a sprint with Diplo’s “Horsey,” a wild and crazy two-step electro song that sounds suspiciously like the James Bond theme. There are a few choice downtempo dubstep songs, notably “Shoulda Listened,” by Derek Allen. A progressive, simplistic fidget house track by the unstoppable Boy 8-Bit, the reggaeton/electro-styled “Pero Que Lo Que Mujer” by Munchi, a deep house and trance track by Dillon Francis and a beautiful, slow, piano-based melancholy track (“White Sun”) exemplify just how diverse—and significant—this record label is. –Jessie Wood

The Vladimirs
The Late Hours
Hells Headbangers
Street: 11.22
The Vladimirs = (45 Grave + DieMonsterDie) x Danzig
Veteran horror-punk head-bangers The Vladimirs deliver another hard-rocking screamer just in time for the best (and darkest) Halloween parties. While comparisons to The Misfits are inevitable, the songs are closer to Samhain, with guitar solos and manic shrieks that are more dirty longhair, less spiky mohawk. Tracks like “Last Song for the Lost” and “Blind Love” recall The Damned, while the brilliantly titled “Zombie Eyed Youth” is straight-ahead metallic meltdown. And unlike most punks, they can sustain a song for longer than two minutes; the title track is a 16-minute-long ballad. While bearing the common flaw of the genre—there’s not enough difference between most tracks to make anything truly stand out—the final result is a ton of gore-dripping graveyard fun. –Madelyn Boudreaux

VNV Nation
Street: 10.25
VNV Nation = Alphaville x (Covenant + Apoptygma Berzerk)
Ronan Harris and Mark Jackson are back with another stirring, triumphant album and another reminder that they are not afraid! An artsy, dieselpunk tribute to the 1930s and the world of tomorrow, it departs from earlier releases with the meditative instrumental track “Goodbye 20th Century” and “On Air,” a lovely piano ballad shot through with noise and static, as if tuned in from an antique broadcast. They pick things up with the relentless neofuturist beats one expects from VNV—it takes real effort to sit still through soaring tracks like “Space & Time,”  “Gratitude” and “Photon.” They don’t forget the obligatory hurt-yet-optimistic ballad with “Nova.” Especially check out the hardest track, “Control,” which is sure to get rivetheads and ravers moving when VNV Nation plays Club Sound on November 25. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Sessions 1981-83
Dischord Records
Street: 10.25
Void = Minor Threat + SOA + (early) Black Flag
If ever there was a punk rock equivalent of black metal’s “kvlt” tag, Columbia, Maryland’s Void would fall into that category without debate. An extraordinarily messy and haphazard band, Void is, in hindsight, arguably better in my mind than Minor Threat ever was, although nowhere near as influential, for obvious reasons. Their legendary split with Faith is something that I’ve never been without at least a cassette or CD-R copy of, for as far back as I can remember, and hearing the Sessions release has only rekindled my love for this band. Compiling Void’s Hit and Run session from November 1981 with the first Inner Ear demo, outtakes and two live tracks, this sucker reminds me why I got into punk rock in the first place. It’s noisy, sarcastic, juvenile, mean, and totally disjointed … What the hell else has punk rock ever needed to be? –Gavin Hoffman

We Were Promised Jetpacks
In the Pit of the Stomach
Fat Cat Records
Street: 10.04
We Were Promised Jetpacks = Frightened Rabbit + The Strokes + Able Baker Fox
Starting out the newest album from We Were Promised Jetpacks is this super-catchy, stomp-around-the-living-room song, “Circles and Squares.” These guys sound like a harder, cooler Hot Hot Heat at times, without the corny lyrics and hyper-pop, with the bonus of a sexy accent. The energy doesn’t let up until around the middle of the album, at “Hard to Remember,” but it’s so heavy it hardly even seems slow. There’s a part about halfway through the song that makes my face melt. I’ve heard We Were Promised Jetpacks before, but nothing like this. “Sore Thumb” holds my hand as I sit here in some kind of stupor, soaking this newfound sound in. I feel like I just discovered This Will Destroy You and Sigur Rós in the same sitting when I listen to this song. “Boy In The Backseat” doesn’t even excuse itself for a second, giving me that feeling I get when I find something I didn’t even know I was missing. In the Pit of the Stomach starts out so unassuming while still shredding eardrums, and just keeps getting better. The last song on the album starts out kind of weird and weak, but three and a half minutes out, and they’re right back. This is an awesome album. Listen to it. –Kyla G.

Make Up
Cobaltworks Music
Street: 09.06
Wiretree = The Yardbirds + REM + Coldplay
Make Up is Wiretree’s third album, and the experience they’ve gained working to get here certainly shows. Stripping down the production (a clear differentiation from their previous work) has left a nice, distinct presentation of Wiretree’s musical intentions. The songwriting and vocals are nicely executed, the melodies are well-instrumented, and all in all, everything is very neatly arranged and packaged. With influence going back to the likes of The La’s, Wiretree takes a cue from some of the most relatable, catchy tunes of the ‘60s and beyond. There’s nothing not to like about these guys—they’re doing their thing and it’s totally diggable. Give them a shot, I say. –Ischa B.

Wolves in the Throne Room
Celestial Lineage
Southern Lord
Street: 09.13
Wolves in the Throne Room = Xasthur + Nachtmystium + Deafheaven
I honestly can’t say that, at least in recent memory, there has been a band as polarizing within musical circles as Olympia, Washington’s Wolves in the Throne Room. Completely written off by the more “kvlt” and “tr00” black metal aficionados and thoroughly embraced by shoegazers, WITTR take the very essence of what once was known as black metal and combine it with their own personal tastes and lifestyles, for better or for worse, and Celestial Lineage is an album that demands attention, be it positive or negative. From a completely objective standpoint, this is an excellent listen—combining the straightforward brutality of early Norwegian black metal with droning, somewhat transcendental guitar riffing. Before black metal became trendy and Euronymous rolled over in his grave, this would probably have been a favorite of the black metal underground. Now that black metal has somewhat lost its spark and has become a watered-down caricature of its once demonic self, this record will garner rave reviews from worshippers of My Bloody Valentine. –Gavin Hoffman

The Workhouse
The Coldroom Sessions
Hungry Audio
Street: 09.26
The Workhouse = Explosions in the Sky + Abe Vigoda
This band can’t decide whether it is lo-fi Explosions in the Sky or a lo-fi The National, but maybe that is what they are going for. The first two and a half tracks of this album all sound like shitty covers of each other. When the vocals popped in for the first time halfway through track three, I got a bit excited. I was quickly let down by the lead singer’s Cold Cave, Abe Vigoda ripoff voice, delivering lyrics that equate to an eighth-grade love poem. After that, they jump right back into the instrumental shoegaze again, until the album’s highlight, “The Whistler.” “The Whistler” sounds like what I imagine The National would have sounded like as a high school band and it is actually kind of cool. The band isn’t terrible, but they fail to produce anything of real substance. The Coldroom Sessions is like an entire album of filler songs. –Cody Hudson

Xeno & Oaklander
Sets & Lights
Street: 10.11
Wierd Records
Xeno & Oaklander = Human League + Thievery Corporation + Crystal Castles
The best thing about Sets & Lights is its predictability. It starts off like a blast from the 80s, and sticks to it the whole way through. Everything about it, from the crooning voice of sweet Sean McBride to the electronic melodies, brings Ferris Bueller and The Breakfast Club screaming to the forefront of my mind. The album has its moments. There is a nice balance between male and female voices as the two band members switch off the lead, and also a clear, tenaciously layered texture to the track list. It has all the bells and whistles of a great album—smooth synthesizers, a satiny, male voice and a pulsating drumbeat—but it doesn’t seem to pull through in the “originality” category. The voices, the melodies, and the energy are all good, but not good enough to convince me to listen to it twice. It basically pans out to being just another mediocre, forgettable CD. The 80s electro-band went out of style with scrunchies and Flock of Seagulls, and this band is an excellent reminder of why. This is the kind of CD you listen to once in the dark, most likely alone, and then forget about. –Kylie Cox

Zola Jesus
Sacred Bones Records
Street: 10.04
Zola Jesus = Kate Bush + Siouxsie Sioux + Cabaret Voltaire
With artists like Austra, Glasser, and Fever Ray, it’s obvious: Goth is back. It’s time for people to obsess over Nika Roza Danilova’s dark alter-ego, Zola Jesus. At only 22 years old, the opera-trained singer has managed to overwhelm me with emotion on her third and poppiest full-length, Conatus. The one-minute “Swords” opens with glitches and industrious noise, leading into the pounding chill of “Avalanche.” The first glimpse of her vocal range appears on “Vessel,” which rides aside mechanical synths. It is, of course, her big voice that’s so captivating and heart-crushingly powerful. “Blisters, on my hands” Danilova bellows out on “Hikikomori” over Kate Bush-like string arrangements. “Seekir” and “Shivers” echo behind layers of danceable electro-goth beats. Conatus is an anthem and it will tug at your soul, every note and lyric of Zola Jesus is the work of one—the 4’9”, 90-pound Nika Roza Danilova. –Courtney Blair