National CD Reviews

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Active Child                 
You Are All I See
Vagrant Records
Street: 08.23.11
Active Child = (Jimmy Somerville + Yanni) use Enya as a surrogate
2011 has already produced a big novelty sound (I’m speaking to you, Adele!) and so reading about the raves LA-based musician Patrick James Grossi is garnishing with this, his full-length debut under his Active Child moniker, was worth checking out. Turns out, just like Adele, someone else has done it before and—I’m sorry to say—done it better. I’m referencing the Scottish Jimmy Somerville, of course, whose falsetto fronted a legendary band called Bronski Beat before joining classically trained Richard Coles to create The Communards. This brought a missing (and sumptuous) angle to what was already an idiosyncratic sound. Try as he might, Grossi’s New Age-y music—his novelty instrument of choice is the harp!—sounds like Yanni getting it on with Enya. There are a few standouts here, like lead single “Playing House,” which features How To Dress Well, and the title track, but mainly this is a pale imitation being touted as “unique.” –Dean O Hillis

Alert New London
Youth
Self-Released
Street: 11.16.11
Alert New London = a premature Bloc Party + mewithoutYou
It’s not easy to show off within the confines of traditionally structured rock songs, but the five-piece Ohioan ambient rock band Alert New London pulls it off very well, with a wide array of guitar effects and harmonic hooks in Youth. However, what they put forth in guitar pedals and production effects, they lack in lyrical variation. If I received this album from a lover, I would take it as a drunkenly melodramatic breakup gesture. Mostly, all of the songs’ lyrics are composed in a cynical second-person narrative (mainly directed to a lover) and are far from heartwarming, especially when all of the songs are laid out with a moderately slow tempo. Alert New London embedded a lot of care into the instrumentals on this album, but that’s not enough to cure the mild depression produced by the lyrics. –Gregory Gerulat

Banner Pilot
Heart Beats Pacific
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.25.11
Banner Pilot = The Menzingers + Spanish Gamble
Nothing makes me more excited these days than good pop-punk. My theory is that if you’re going to make shitty music, you may as well do it the best you fucking can. That, and I’m not really ashamed of liking pop-punk anymore. I mean, this isn’t Good Charlotte, it’s solid rock n’ roll, with pop overtones. Banner Pilot is a perfect balance between the two. They sound a little bit like Red City Radio, but with a singer that is a lot nastier. The album starts out with a super catchy song, “Alchemy,” that begs me to listen to more. “Red Line” is so hooky and fun, and still manages to kick a significant amount of ass. These guys are great musicians, and the singer grew on me after a few listens. He’s not bad, I just generally prefer heavier vocals. The entire album doesn’t have one flaw on it, though. It’s everything I want in a pop-punk band. They were just on tour with a bunch of cool bands, so they must be doing something right, right? –Kyla G.

Black Hole of Calcutta
Self-Titled
Sacred Plague
Street: 09.20.11
BHOC = Stormcrow + Tragedy + Bloody Phoenix
This is NorCal ’core that’s fast, black and political, and manages to sit safely outside the Motӧ/Discharge Krusts-with-iPhone-and-Rickenbackers kontingent. They have a pretty dense sound that skips between crusty hardcore, thrash and back to grind over and over again. They’re competent musically, so the longhairs can feel good and evil about spinning it, too. The album has crusty breakdowns and giant riffs (“Hey War”) and a beefy production that’s present enough to give the music some power without sanitizing it … and as abrasively ugly as this album is sonically, visually, the packaging is beautiful, silk-screened artwork on a grainy cardboard sleeve. The album looks great and sounds real nasty. Ooomph. A.C.A.B. Up the punx and bang the head that does not bang. Soundin’ like His Hero is Gone certainly ain’t a crime in my leather-bound book. –Dylan Chadwick

Blitzen Trapper
American Goldwing
Sub Pop
Street: 09.13.11
Blitzen Trapper = Eagles + Bob Dylan + Lynyrd Skynyrd
American Goldwing is Blitzen Trapper’s most intimate release to date, as lead singer-guitarist Eric Earley puts his heart on his sleeve musically and thematically in this beacon of pure American rock n’ roll. Earley often uses the word “nostalgia” when talking about the album, referring to his childhood and the gritty country rock sound of that era. Parallels throughout the album tie together a physical and emotional journey of a protagonist, possibly even Earley himself. The album hits the ground running with “Might Find It Cheap,” featuring heavy-hitting guitar riffs, traditional rock-style drumming and an epic chorus. The title track has a catchy melody, sweet harmonies and lyrics about riding a 1980 Honda Goldwing over long stretches of empty American highway. The album closes with slow and somber “Stranger In a Strange Land,” signifying the end of the protagonist’s journey: “When I’m gone, you’ll know me by the friends I leave behind.” –Chris Proctor

Born Without Bones
Say Hello
Animal Style Records
Street: 05.17.11
Born Without Bones = Allister + Harvey Danger
You’ve read correctly, this band is symmetrical to the likes of Allister and Harvey Danger, making Born Without Bones one of the seldom few acts to bravely poke its head out of the pop-punk cave at a completely inappropriate time. Say Hello was originally the brainchild of frontman and composer Scott Ayotte, who wrote the songs as a high-school student last decade, but lacked the bodies to perform them. Ayotte finally fleshed out his ideas by hiring his friends as his studio musicians last summer. The album’s namesake track, “Say Hello,” is a predictable anthemic opener, with Bad Religion-influenced vocal harmonizing. Other tracks offer you a garden variety of obsolete pop-punk similarities, such as My Chemical Romance in “Falling Asleep,” or All-American Rejects in “Em.” However valiant their efforts may be, Born Without Bones are nearly a decade too late with this release. –Gregory Gerulat

Bridge And Tunnel
Rebuilding Year
No Idea Records
Street: 09.20.11
Bridge And Tunnel = Counterfit + Thursday + Biffy Clyro
I wouldn’t call this kind of post-hardcore melodic—but that doesn’t mean there’s no tune. This band’s sophomore release is all about two effected guitars, stops, and dynamic changes, to the point that they almost sound like Minus The Bear with vocals from some screamo act. The musicians are great, the choruses are often shoutable and the riffing is solid—the only real problem is that it all runs together. The cadence and delivery of the shouted vocals never really varies, so certain lines don’t stick out more than others. Similarly, there are times when you hear an awesome guitar hook and then wait with anticipation for it to be repeated, with no luck. This band is good, and there’s a lot of talent, but I felt this release just needed a little bit more. They’d probably kick ass live, though. –Rio Connelly

Caveman
Coco Beware
Magic Man!
Street: 09.13.11
Caveman = Local Natives + King Krule
This album is incredibly decent. It is calm and sort of drones on in a way that will soothe but never excite you. This band is to Local Natives what Panda Bear is to Animal Collective (only in terms of sound; they share no members). I could see myself listening to this while reading—not that that is a bad thing. All of the melodies are infectious, but never build up to anything. I imagine the entire band was seated in rocking chairs while recording this album. Blandness aside, this is a really good debut, and I can’t wait to see more from this band. I sincerely hope that the next release is more exciting, but in the meantime, this album might be a good soundtrack for the impending snowstorm. –Cody Hudson

The Cure
Bestival Live 2011
[PIAS] America
Street: 12.06.11
Bestival Live = Entreat + Show + 4:13 Dream
Recorded in September 2011 while headlining the Isle of Wight-based, Bestival, there are definitely highlights to this live release (“Push, “Grinding Halt,” “One Hundred Years”), but this is something for either an extremely casual fan or a Cure completist. The band is apparently donating all profits from the 32-song, two CD set to the Isle of Wight Youth Trust, which is admirable, but not a good enough reason to drop hard-earned money for this set. Initially, the sound seemed a bit on the thin side, but it’s always awesome to hear frontman Robert Smith completely fuck the lyrics to his own songs up (as well as listen to his almost indecipherable between-song banter) but I just can’t see enough right about this release to warrant it being a necessity. Final thought: Have we, as a society, become so politically correct that The Cure has been forced (or decided) to change the lyrics and title of the classic “Killing an Arab” to “Killing Another?” Weak. –Gavin Hoffman

Dan P and the Bricks
Watch Where You Walk
Asian Man
Street: 11.08.11
Dan P and the Bricks = The Maytals + The Specials + Less Than Jake
Thank-nonexistent-God that there are still people producing good ska these days.  It seemed for a minute there that the entire genre was going to die out yet again.  Dan P. and the other nine members of this Santa Cruz band shatter that worry with a robust horns section, classic two-step rhythms and plenty of upbeat humor. They started out mostly playing for charity events and causes, and still tour for that purpose today.  The instrumentation is the best thing about this record—10 members really let you do a lot.  Half of those are horns backed by a solid rhythm section of bass, drums, organ and two guitars.  The rhythm never veers very far from two-step, but somehow, I don’t care.  These guys are at their best when they’re fast, as on the titular “Watch Where You Walk” and on “Connecting Four.”  Other favorites include “Heartbeat Survival” and “Footdown.”  Hopefully, this small resurgence of ska continues! –Rio Connelly

The Decemberists
Long Live the King
Capitol Records
Street: 11.01.11
Long Live the King = B-sides/unreleased tracks from The King is Dead
After the masterpiece that is The King is Dead that was released earlier this year, I had no doubt that the follow-up EP, Long Live the King, would be, at the very least, an excellent listen, and it definitely doesn’t disappoint. Comprised of leftovers, home demos, and a Grateful Dead (!) cover(“Row Jimmy,” recorded during the tracking for the aforementioned full-length), it’s easy to see why these tracks didn’t make the cut for the album, or were used as B-sides. That’s not to say the songs aren’t good—they are excellent—but they simply didn’t fit with the rest of the album. The pedal steel/acoustic guitar-swagger that is so prevalent in many Decemberists tracks is in full swing on the Tarkio-sounding “Foregone,” and the home-tracked “I4U & U4ME” is one of the most upbeat and catchy tunes the band has ever released, though it was solely recorded by Colin Meloy, the band’s primary songwriter and frontman. This isn’t merely a collection meant for Decemberists completists—it stands on its own as another remarkable notch in the band’s belt, and should, by all means be appreciated for what it represents—an excellent band making excellent music. –Gavin Hoffman

Dessa
Castor, The Twin
Doomtree
Street: 10.04.11
Dessa = Saul Williams + Alicia Keys + Regina Spektor
Many will know Dessa from her membership in Minnesota’s Doomtree hip hop collective. She’s been featured on much of the group’s work, and has several solo releases under her belt as well. Despite this release being almost entirely composed of re-workings of previously released songs, this may be her most ambitious accomplishment yet. Castor is actually only a hip hop record by association—gone is the expert, often bombastic production from labelmates Paper Tiger, Lazerbeak, P.O.S. and cohorts, and in its place is a three-piece jazz ensemble. Slower, more thoughtful songs, like “Into The Spin” and “The Chaconne” gain from a lusher, more organic musical treatment, while the more upbeat hip hop songs get broken down to their bare rhythms. “Dixon’s Girl” becomes all brushed drums and upright bass, “Alibi” transforms into electric guitar and rimshots, and even “Kites” goes to xylophone and heavy strings. The instrumentation varies, but the quality does not. This is a beautiful album, full of swells and dives, and it even includes a ridiculously promising preview song called “The Beekeeper” from her upcoming 2012 full-length. –Rio Connelly

The Devil’s Blood
The Thousandfold
Epicentre
Metal Blade
Street: 01.17
The Devil’s Blood = Anima Morte + Coven + Blood Ceremony
The intro track to this album, “Unending Singularity,” sounds legitimately like music for a horror film, properly introducing The Devil’s Blood and their dark breed of ‘70s psychedelia and progressive rock. The whine of electric guitars go off like an air raid siren, then “On the Wings of Gloria” converts the siren to a triumphal riff, underlying a fierce vocal performance from Farida Lemouchi. Her voice evokes an uncommon power, reminiscent of Jinx Dawson of Coven, but with a deeper, soulful feel. “The Madness of Serpents” features some truly epic vocal arrangements, while “She” and “Fire Burning” showcase the band’s solid rock fundamentals. Walking a thin line between progressive jamming and articulate jazz riffs, The Thousandfold Epicentre has lived up to the great potential shown with Come, Reap and The Time of No Time Evermore. –Henry Glasheen

DJ Shadow
The Less You Know, The Better
Roc-A-Fella
Street: 10.04.11
DJ Shadow = Blockhead + RJD2 + Massive Attack
The newest release from trip-hop pioneer DJ Shadow plays like a “Best Of …” record of new material—its sound is like a few slices from all across his career. Having basically invented one genre and being legendary in several others, the diversity on this album is a blessing rather than the result of a short attention span. “I’ve Been Trying” is a Pink Floyd-inspired bit of soul while “Stay The Course” features Talib Kweli and Posdnuos and couldn’t be more straightforward hip hop. “Going Nowhere” and “Give Me Back The Nights” pay homage to Shadow’s love of found-sound records and as such, can be a little less listenable, while “Border Crossing” and “I Gotta Rokk” are heavy, distorted thumpers that make me think of El-P’s last record. The best parts of the album are when the artist turns his considerable talent to collaboration, as on “Warning Call,” with Tom Vek and “Scale It Back,” featuring Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano. –Rio Connelly

Eddy Current Suppression Ring
So Many Things
Goner
Street: 11.22.11
Eddy Current Suppression Ring = The Drones + Tyvek
This collection of singles and rarities provides an interesting look into the progression of a band. The title track, “So Many Things,” is one of the first songs ECSR ever recorded, and tends to seem a bit like a crazed homeless rant, but the band is tight. As the band progresses, singer Brendan Suppression begins to master his rants and become the most interesting part of the band. The songs are simple, and the riffs are catchy. The only problem with the simplicity is that, at times, it crosses the border from familiar to redundant. Along with the large amount of original songs, this collection contains a couple of covers: “Boy, I Dance Good” by The Pagans, and the poorly sung yet decidedly more interesting cover of The Go-Gos’ “We Got the Beat.” This collection is fun, but I am not sure I would be compelled to purchase another ECSR album. –Cody Hudson

Errors
Have Some Faith In Magic
Rock Action Records
Street: 01.31
Errors = Neon Indian + Battles + 65daysofstatic
Remember a time where you combined two or more radically different foods together to eat due to lack of groceries or drunken laziness and thought afterwards, “Wait, that was pretty good?” Musicians from Glasgow are doing that shit constantly with their genres (Primal Scream and The Jesus and Mary Chain, anyone?). Scottish four-piece Errors keep this tradition alive with their third LP, Have Some Faith in Magic, which showcases an interesting medley of chillwave, post-rock, and synthpop.  The first track, “Tusk,” hooks well by melodically pairing beefy, distorted guitar with shrill synthesizer chords. Latter tracks drop you into softer and navel-gazing soundscapes, such as “The Knock,” which feature obscure, deep vocals akin to an electronically processed Gregorian chant.  The only area in which this record is lacking is a broader variation in instrumental effects. Nevertheless, I’m curious to hear this band’s future works and the abnormal ingredients they involve. –Gregory Gerulat

Evidence
Cats & Dogs
Rhymesayers
Street: 09.27.11
Evidence = Atmosphere + Brother Ali
Evidence’s second solo release and first release on Rhymesayers proves that this veteran still knows exactly what he’s doing when writing a hip hop album. Evidence has built close relationships with prominent individuals like DJ Premier, Slug, Aesop Rock and The Alchemist, all of whom collaborate with Evidence on this album. As for subject matter, Evidence spends a lot of time reflecting on his life and the relationships that have lasted and failed over time. Musically, the album feels like it’s coming straight out of 1994. DJ Premier produced the track, “You,” featuring familiar scratch fillers, samples and a simple bass drum and snare beat. The album ends with “The Epilogue,” a heavy, thumping beat that rounds out another well-crafted album from this hip hop master. –Chris Proctor

Flosstradamus
Jubilation
Fool’s Gold
Street: 11.29.11
Flosstradamus = Soulja Boy + Diplo
Juke is back, and all thanks to Flosstradamus’s electrifying new EP, Jubilation, I’ve never danced so hard alone in front of my mirror before, but it was impossible not to with tracks like the incredibly popular juke banger “Luuk Out Gurl,” featuring the talented Kid Sister. “Luuk Out Gurl” made me sweat in places I never knew existed; it was the best accidental workout ever! My favorite track, the provocative “From the Back,” featuring labelmate Danny Brown, made me do things that if my mirror were a person, it would have needed to take me to dinner first. Enticing with its come-hither lyrics and magnetic drums, Jubilation is juke delight. A definite must-buy for anyone who likes to drop it low or lose weight, since you’re sure to do both where Flosstradamus’s Jubilation is concerned. –Mama Beatz

Francis Harris
Leland
Scissor and Thread
Street: 02.07.12
Francis Harris = (Richie Hawtin + Claude VonStroke) ÷ (Bonobo + Tycho)
Francis Harris is best known under the pseudonym Adultnapper, but his new album, Leland, was such a diversion from his previous style that he decided to release it under his real name. Many of the songs off Leland have the same calm-but-upbeat house rhythms as Adultnapper, but the album as a whole does not strive to be just a dance album. Harris incorporates natural sound effects, jazzy trumpet layers, cello and piano to create a single piece of music which dances across lines between genres, creating a bouncy yet expressive, fun yet emotional, strikingly unique sound. Denmark singer Gry lends her eerie, charming voice to three songs, calling to mind the vocals from Sigur Rós or certain Emancipator songs. This album displays the increasing trend in dance genres to incorporate styles from music all over the world, so it becomes not just dance music; it calls you into its world and takes you on a journey. –Jessie Wood

Ghosthouse
Self-Titled
Ear Candy Chicago
Street: 10.31.11
Ghosthouse = Human League + Cut Copy + Van Halen
After gaining fame from their ability to twist artist’s existing tracks, such as “When the Night Falls,” by Chromeo, the critically acclaimed duo, Ghosthouse, brings us a dance album of their own. But this ain’t just any dance album; it’s got some serious soul to it. Blending 70s soul with 80s synth, Ghosthouse brings you an album unlike any other. After seven years of working with one another, the album showcases their eclectic personalities as well as their high-energy beats, passionate vocals, and evolved musicianship. And of course, there are a few standout tracks on the album. First is “Flat Line,” whose opening sequence sounds almost exactly like “Jump” by Van Halen, and that’s OK any day by me. For the more promiscuous listener, Ghosthouse provides “Private Dancer,” which very well could be the perfect soundtrack to a first date … Lastly, there is “Makeup Sexxx” (triple “x” and all), which sounds exactly how you are imagining it does, and is why you should definitely listen to it. Overall, this is definitely a collection I will keep in rotation, especially in the dance mix. –Kylie Cox

Grimes
Visions
Arbutus Records
Street: 01.31
Grimes = Cocteau Twins + Nite Jewel
Canada exports the best things in life: maple syrup, hockey, hot broads and good music. Enter Claire Boucher and her project, Grimes. This mysterious virtuoso has produced an album thoroughly packed with such genre-bending techniques that it thoroughly satisfies a person like me, who is looking for that next audio tidbit of deliciousness. It’s on tracks like “Genesis” (featuring ’80s-era chime percussions and Asian-influenced flute, all underneath Boucher’s transcendent and airy vocals) that make me swoon hard. This LP has enough synth and poly-chromatic vox layering to fit in any electronic music fan’s library, yet it has enough solid drums to fill the hardest percussion fiend’s bassiest living room corners. I’m not one to tell you what to do, but go get this one, or I won’t speak to you again. –JP

The Habit
Lincoln has Won
Reel to Reel Records
Street: 05.03.11
The Habit = Saw Wheel + The Rural Alberta Advantage + The Be Good Tanyas
As I wait for the long trip with the friendly UTA and fellow passengers, I set my iPod to The Habit. A little bit dirty, a little bit pretty, and a lot of folk makes this band a toe-tapping, shuffling good time—for the most part. “War Is Done,” the first and title track, is a song celebrating the end of the Civil War. With its electric and acoustic guitars plus harmonica, these guys can rock traditional folk music. “Not Brooklyn” is my favorite song on the album, with a straightforward bassline and thumping drums. Siobhan Glennon’s voice really shines in this tune. The first four or five songs are totally solid, but the album gets weaker towards the middle. I get what they’re going for: gritty, fun Americana, but I just can’t get into it overall. Maybe with time, their sound will mesh better, but for now, I’ll put it back on the shelf. –Kyla G.

Juviley
Our Choices Rhyme
Self-Released
Street: 11.11.11
Juviley = a smidgeon of early Magnetic Fields + Saturday Looks Good To Me
Typically, if you were to talk about an Israeli-American musician from New York, most people would interrupt you to either sing praises or throw diatribes about Gene Simmons. Juviley (a.k.a. Or Zubalsky) creates something that strays far away from the fence of heavy metal. In Our Choices Rhyme, Zubalsky gently layers baritone vocals and cheerful synth that are abstract yet emotionally attractive, making this album reminiscent of an underdog moment in the soundtrack of a John Hughes film. With the album firmly anchored in the twee-pop category, the songs tend to sound too similar to each other. However, one quirk about this album is it will also be released in the format of a computer game (which can be downloaded from www.juviley.com), where players can download individual album tracks after beating each level, making it a win/win for indie-pop fans who are also gamers. –Gregory Gerulat

Kepi Ghoulie
I Bleed Rock N Roll
Asian Man
Street: 11.22.11                                                                                                                                       
Kepi Ghoulie = A fine-tuned mishmash of exactly what keeps America decent
Since California pop-punkers The Groovie Ghoulies dissolved in 2007, Kepi, the group’s prolific, former frontman, has been keeping himself busy with his own folk punk/punk rock solo project. I Bleed Rock N Roll is an unexpected departure from his previous sound into the world of straight, uncut rock n’ roll.  The album opens with “Rock N Roll Shark,” a song in which Mr. Ghoulie compares himself to the sharp-toothed killers of the sea, who, it is rumored, have to keep swimming to stay alive. If he doesn’t keep consuming vast amounts of rock n’ roll, he explains, he will surely die. “Part Time Romeo” and “The Fever” are catchy standouts, and in addition to his 12 original numbers, Kepi tosses a delightful Johnny Thunders cover into the mix. The heartfelt way in which Kepi bares his rock n’ roll stigmata is akin to listening to the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only rock ‘n roll (But I Like it)” on repeat. He’s right, you know. What the world needs now is rock n’ roll. –Nate Perkins

Keys N Krates
Blackout EP
2Plustwo
Street: 11.07.11
Keys N Krates = RJD2 + Mr. Scruff + a little Diplo, a little Cut Chemist
I can’t imagine a hugely vibrant hip hop scene in Toronto, so it was probably helpful for the fellows in Keys N Krates, because it really forced them to approach things differently. Comprised of a turntable, keys and drums, these guys started getting attention with their live remixes and energetic live shows. Listening to them, I can’t imagine their music as an easy feat, but they pull it off with grace and confidence. Blackout is their debut of original work, and it is a serious contender of talent and ingenuity. This is not merely a DJ mashup, it’s a production, each part carefully crafted. It proves that hip-hoppers like to dance and rave down on occasion. The street style really comes through, even as the music’s stretching a crazy Donna Summer riff, flipping a nod to Max Romeo, and spicing it up with snare hits and gravelly bass that the kids really love these days. It’s all over the place, but it’s awesome and exciting, and if this is a debut, I can’t wait to see what they do next. –Mary Houdini

Kid Sister
Kiss & Tell
Fool’s Gold
Street: 11.29.11
Kid Sister = Amanda Blank + Willow Smith + Missy Elliot
Within the first two seconds of listening to Kiss & Tell, I was hooked. Finally, Kid Sister is back, and with a vengeance. With what I like to call a classic “Fuck you, I’ll do what I want” attitude, Kid Sister’s new EP took me to a corner and made me its bitch. Fun, sexy and engaging lyrics make the album a new victim of the repeat option on my iPad. With tracks like “Mickey,” produced by the ever-talented boys of Nadastrom, Kid Sister’s Kiss & Tell is the comeback EP I was hoping for. With help from rapper Riff Raff, “Hide and Seek” is my favorite track on the album; its seductive beat and playful lyrics made me dance with a pimp lean. With producers like Sinden behind Kiss & Tell, it’s definitely a party album no one should live without. −Mama Beatz

Larkin Grimm             
Soul Retrieval
Bad Bitch Records
Street: 02.2012
Larkin Grimm = ‘70s Joni Mitchell toking on a doobie
Props to Grimm for parting ways with her indie label Young God Records and her “mutually abusive” relationship with them, and releasing this, her fourth album, all by herself. While marriage and motherhood seem to have diluted her experimental folk sound considerably, lyrically, she’s angry—at times, frighteningly so. Her very restrained vocals make the lyrics of “Living in a Pool of Milk” seem like a lullaby, until you realize she’s gently sung “Well, fuck that child,” thrice. This is in reference to her own “inner” variety, but still, it’s a bit of a shock. If only the rest of the album’s tracks had that fire. Written and self-produced, I was intrigued to learn that Tony Visconti had a hand in the production (and some instrumentation), but it really isn’t evident where. Sadly, the music is mostly the minstrel-in-the-forest variety, which greatly reduces her restrained vocals and those killer knives-for-teeth lyrics. –Dean O Hillis

Laura Gibson
La Grande
Barsuk Records
Street: 01.24
Laura Gibson = Laura Marling + Laura Veirs
I may or may not have a girl-crush on Ms. Gibson, and the most fitting description I can think of for her is: lovely. I often bereave having missed her in-store show at Slowtrain a few years back. Luckily, I can slip under the spell of this new beauty of an album, which features small cameos from band members of The Dodos and The Decemberists. Her voice is haunting and the tiniest bit scratchy—perfect for listening to in snowy weather. La Grande is stunning and shadowy, and as Gibson herself said, ‘‘I wholeheartedly believe it is the best work I’ve ever done.’’ The track, ‘‘Skin, Warming Skin,’’ stands out as particularly alluring, with a whimsical, almost-faraway sound. This album glows with grace and richness, from the first track to the last. Gibson implements a range of instruments, from bass to pump organ to marching drum. Watch the music video for ‘‘Milk-Heavy, Pollen-Eyed’’ on Vimeo if you can, and admire her as she plays walking along the street. –Kia McGinnis

Magnetix
Drogue Électrique
Slovenly
Street: 10.11.11
Magnetix = The Drags + The Cramps + Davie Allen
This boy/girl Bordeaux French duo continue to make their version of sludgy-garage punkrock with the release of Drogue Électrique. These 10 sleazy songs are raw, greasy and guaranteed to wake you up. The title track is one of two sung in French, starting the album with bent distortions and crunchy melodies. “I Drink (But My Guitar Doesn’t)” is a cocktail of rabid and raunchy fuzz accompanied by rolling drums, while the trash-surf instrumental, “LR6,” reveals a few clap-along moments. Also, check out the pulsating guitar on “Rest of My Life.” Any fan of fuzzed-out, raucous, dirty rock will enjoy Drogue Électrique. –Courtney Blair

Majestic Downfall
The Blood Dance
Chaos Records
Street: 01.10
Majestic Downfall = Anathema (early) + Forgotten Tomb + Paradise Lost (early)
There isn’t much doom/death genre re-interpretation with Mexico’s Majestic Downfall’s The Blood Dance, but don’t let that dissuade your ear holes of the musical merits of this record. Large influences from early European doom acts appear in the album’s seven tracks of pure, dismal obliteration. The transitioning from beyond-melancholy pacing, embraced with interesting and multi-layered guitar leads and solos, takes the doom portions of The Blood Dance into glorious gloom, punched straight to the gut. “Dimensions Plague,” does a great job at showcasing the elements of this entire album; its dirgey razor-blade-to-skin-ridden intro sets up your sadness, then anger and rage bursts like an engorged heart through a fragile ribcage, closing out with interesting, sorrowful, piled-on-top beautifully layered melodic guitar leads and solos with echoing screams. The Blood Dance plays out as an exercise in lost hope and acceptance. With melodies on top of rage, mingled with depression, the songs stand alone as hefty morsels, or taken as a whole—go ahead, it’s only an hour out of your miserable life. –Bryer Wharton

Marvelous Darlings
Single Life
Deranged
Street: 11.15.11
Marvelous Darlings = Ted Leo & The Pharmacists + Exploding Hearts + Steve Adamyk Band
With the recent news that Canadian hardcore heroes Fucked Up will be going on a lengthy hiatus (but seriously, who the fuck knows what’s really going on with them), the band’s multitude of side projects have become much more interesting to fans looking for a Fucked Up fix. Marvelous Darlings features guitarist Ben Cook (aka Young Governor), and Single Life compiles a number of out-of-print 7”s and a few demo tracks. This is dirty power pop that would feel at home on a Dirtnap Records compilation. The vocals remind me a lot of Ted Leo, but with less elasticity—listen to “Teenage Targets” for proof. Other standouts include “I Don’t Wanna Go to the Party” and “Careerist,” which are fast and bouncy and fun, but overall this collection is just short of the mark. Single Life isn’t something that most listeners will go to over and over again, but it is a nice enough collection whenever you’re in the mood for some power pop. Now, let’s see some more shit from Career Suicide. –Ricky Vigil

Matthew Herbert
One Pig
Accidental
Street: 10.17.11
Matthew Herbert = John Cage x (Kate Bush + John Moran)
This album forces a confrontation with any thoughtful carnivore’s trepidation: the short, cruel lives of meat animals. It is recorded over the titular pig’s life—and as it is butchered, prepared by celebrity chefs, and eaten, a soundscape is built from the pig’s life and music is made using its body parts, including a hide drum and a pig’s blood-and-reed instrument. The old saying is that we use everything but the oink; on this album, even that is used to a chilling and surprisingly-engaging effect. The tracks are experimental aural pastiches, marrying the expected loops of the grunting porker with surprisingly lovely staccato noises crafted by bones sawed, knives sharpened and flesh fried. The last and only vocal track, “May 2011,” is unexpectedly sad in the aftermath of what has gone before. A discomforting experiment, and not something to be entered into lightly, this is the kind of album every consumer of the many products that use swine—from beer to cigarettes to toothpaste—should engage. –Madelyn Boudreaux

MC Lars
Lars Attacks!
Horris Records
Street: 09.06.11
MC Lars = Weird Al’s “Angry White Boy Polka” Rap + Bowling For Soup/Bo Burnham’s comedy
I should have known what I was in for when Gavin Sheehan heartily giggled as he chucked this CD across the room at me. Let’s just say there was no shortage of laughter whilst listening to this self-described “post-punk laptop rap” artist’s latest release. This dude supposedly has a Stanford education in English, but with lyrics such as, “I holler at her on Facebook/She’s all up on my wall and shiz,” I’m more than a little dubious. The album features simple, somewhat catchy beats that follow a predictable pattern, with a thick layer of pop-culture lyrics. There are glimpses of what I can only assume is the “post-punk,” in which Lars gets his warthog-esque scream on, such as in the song “Judas Priest.” I’m not sure what he had to do in order to get Sage Francis to feature in the track “Art of Darkness,” but it must have been dirty. While I may not be scoopin’ what he’s poopin’, Lars offers an entertaining perspective: that of a kid from the suburbs just trying to gain some indie-rap street cred who probably can’t get laid. Pulls on your heartstrings, doesn’t it? –Kia McGinnis

Mickey Moonlight
…And The Time Axis
Manipulation Corporation
Ed Banger Records
Street: 12.06.11
Mickey Moonlight = Adele + Bob Marley + Com Truise
The words “trippy,” “eccentric” and “soothing” came to mind when listening to the new Mickey Moonlight LP. “Intergalactic ambient nu-bohemian folk music” is the best way to describe it, as I can’t seem to place Mickey Moonlight’s LP anywhere else. With tracks like “Close to Everything” and “Diamonds in the Mind of Talula,” this album is a dramatic but tasteful introduction to this new producer from the UK. My favorite track on the album, “A Big Ship Passing,” is a two-minute documentary on really big ships passing naturally slow through the water. With creepy, airy samples and synths that make you feel like you’re on the Titanic, the track was aesthetically pleasing to my ear and has become my new alarm clock. With the help of musicians like George Lewis Jr. from Twin Shadow, or Tahita Bulmer from New Young Pony Club, Mickey Moonlight and The Time Axis Manipulation Corporation isn’t just a mouthful, it’s a musical diffusion centerpiece. –Mama Beatz

Mist Giant
Human Tree EP
Velvet Blue Music
Street: 09.20.11
Mist Giant = Tristeza + Animal Collective
San Francisco’s Mist Giant offer up a three-song debut EP that introduces their distinctive take on post-rock. When describing archetypal post-rock, “somber,” “morose,” or “moody” feel fitting, but “lackadaisical” doesn’t immediately come to mind. Mist Giant explore this new territory, employing atmospherics and grooves reminiscent of trip-hop. The three songs here clock in at 16 minutes and feel a bit skimpy—almost more like a single—but I guess we’ll have to wait for their full-length for more. –Nate Housley

Mixtapes
Hope is for People
Animal Style Records
Street: 05.03.11
Mixtapes = We The Kings + Relient K
The cover of this record has pink donuts and a cartoon-style field. Confusing. It’s also confusing to me why a pop-punk band would bother releasing a mediocre five-song album. Each track sounds exactly like the one before it. Hope is for People seems like something I might have enjoyed in junior high school—it’s got that angsty, juvenile feel. Maybe I’m turned off because the band members are middle-aged and chubby. Or perhaps I am turned off because I would expect more from a band that shares a label with Thrice and After The Fall. Alas, Mixtapes did not tickle my fancy. I can’t say that they outright suck, but there is nothing in this album to make me want to keep listening. If pop melodies and slightly punk-sounding vocals are your thang, give it a shot—otherwise, I would say it’s not worth your time. –Kia McGinnis

Morkobot
Morbo
Supernatural Cat
Street: 10.24.11
Morkobot = Primus + Blackhole – vocals
Morbo is so close to being awesome. So close. The idea of a stripped-down three-piece consisting of drums and two grungy basses is enough to make me think, “Really? Huh I’ll give that a listen.” The album opener, “Ultramorth,” begins with a start/stop, sliding bass riff that required me to significantly increase the volume, then start the track again to make sure I fully enjoyed what was happening. If the entire album was as fresh and poundingly rhythmic as “Ultramorth,” then this would be an 8 out of 10. Straightforward tracks like “Orkotomb” and “Oktomorb” demonstrate that Mokobot doesn’t quite realize the ‘something’ that is important for every instrumental band to understand: The listener needs something captivating to make up for the lack of vocals. In fact, as much as I hate to say it, Morbo needs vocals. –Andrew Roy

Newagehillbilly/Red Red Ruby
Split
MT6 Records
Street: 12.11.11
Newagehillbilly = Waylon Jennings + Merzbow + Atari video game theme songs
Red Red Ruby = (early) Death In June + Jimmy Rodgers + Scott H. Biram
Unlike the We Dream Alone in the Womb cassette, which I thoroughly enjoyed, this Red Red Ruby release—a split with Newagehillbilly—is not only much cleaner-sounding, but much less interesting. In fact, it borders on obnoxious at times. Newagehillbilly seems like an outfit that can’t decide whether it wants to be Johnny Cash, Merzbow, or “Within You, Without You” – George Harrison’s masterful contribution to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band—and, while the Red Red Ruby tracks are stylistically the same as the aforementioned cassette release (“ghost folk”), they don’t have the same feel to them as said release, which I attribute to them being on a format geared more toward clarity and quality. This release is simply disjointed and altogether without purpose, which is a major letdown after what was my introduction to Red Red Ruby. –Gavin Hoffman

Nightlights
So It Goes
Eulogy Recordings
Street: 07.05.11
Nightlights = Hot Water Music + Elway
Pound for pound, So It Goes slams out a gruff-voiced, emotive release—it retains aggressive yet consonant instrumentation, which Nightlights execute well. But, to be honest, I’m growing somewhat weary of the Gainesville sound. I don’t find it irksome, in that it’s one of “the cool things to do,” but that this punk sub-genre can quickly get mired in blueprinted songwriting. Each track sounds great, but, as an album, SIG washes out the integrity of each individual song; the band could have used a drum machine, as most of its songs use a mid-tempo rock beat. The album has its class stars, though, but only as Nightlights pick up the pace toward the end of the album. “Laces Out, Dan!” breathes upbeat life into the album, and “Watch Out for That First Step, It’s a Doozey!” boasts a catchy sing-along chorus that complements Nightlights’ heightened speed and splashy guitar parts. I’d pick and choose from iTunes with this one. –Alexander Ortega

pacificUV
WEEKENDS
Mazarine Records
Street: 01.31
pacificUV = Slowdive + Lali Puna + flashes of Magnetic Fields
While most of us look forward to the weekend to escape the throes of work and school, pacificUV are looking to escape the weekend itself. With their latest release, WEEKENDS, pacificUV successfully fuse space-rock textures with addicting electropop overlays and woeful lyrics to reflect the pain of being aimless after suffering the fallout of a relationship. Vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Clay Jordan induces a hangover-like haze via foggy vocals and gentle synth harmonies on tracks like “High” and “Going Home.”   Other songs require no effort to get lost in, such as the lovesick ballad, “Baby Blue,” which craftily wields a slow dream-pop melody with spacey shoegaze fuzz. The electronic loops from this album are strikingly similar to those of Morr Music artists like Lali Puna, but Lali Puna has never given me the urge to drunk-dial my exes from inside of an astronaut suit. –Gregory Gerulat

Pact
The Dragon Lineage
of Satan
Moribund
Street: 01.31
Pact = Bathory + Inquisition + Blasphemy + Mayhem
Christ! Well, Christ has no place here—leave it to the Moribund Cult to unearth this trio of musicians and dealers of hate, pain and the occult in their debut album. The Dragon Lineage of Satan is beyond dismal; it’s a ritual to call the dead to action and a firm reminder that humanity is imploding on itself. Pact does not diminish or abandon the elder blackened gods, but in a year touted with apocalyptic fantasies and real fear-building, Pact have a place, and it’s scary shit. Dissonance is an understatement for this debut offering. Break this record down into the tones it emanates from whatever auditory device you use to play hate … I mean, music … and that device will weep a tangible form of hatred, but only for a mere moment before it’s over, leaving your psyche to piece it all together. Pact offer a battle cry for those that have not forgotten what black metal is supposed to be—it is a beast not to consume, but to be consumed by. –Bryer Wharton 

Prevenge/Dig It Up
Split
Pavones Records
Street: 05.31.11
Prevenge = Off With Their Heads + None More Black + Dead Boys
Dig It Up = The Bronx + early Gallows
This split is a fun dose of straight-up punk that maintains the notion that good music doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated to get your aural senses pumping. Prevenge digs a more introspective groove with their two jams on this 7”. “Buried Alive” catalogues the twentysomething torpor that has clutched our generation; the two scratchy vocalists anthemically finish each other’s sentences atop three-chord alternations in a song that ends in the dismal result of our parents burying us alive. Prevenge take a look at backward movement in the dis-love song, “Wicked Mess,” with a more melodic vocal approach that deconstructs the process of waiting on unattended answering machines. Dig It Up, on the other hand, take things more pluckily, as their big-bad-wolf-girl-stalkin’ tune, “Move My Way,” suggests—the erratic guitar lines hurl the song along menacingly. Though it may be just another party song, “Cops on Horses” exhibits dirty rock n’ roll musicianship that’ll get you bouncing ’round the room. –Alexander Ortega

Pterodactyl
Spills Out
Street: 11.15.11
Brah
Pterodactyl = Yeasayer + DD/MM/YYYY
Hailing from the indie capital of the world, Brooklyn, New York, Pterodactyl brings us their third album, Spills Out. Gaining more and more attention over the past several years, they have played with bands such as Oneida, These Are Powers and Parts & Labor. Spills Out was largely an experimental and collaborative effort. It used many guest artists, such as Dan Friel (Parts and Labor) and Zach Lehrhoff (Ex Models). It also highlighted the use of many instruments, such as Wurlitzers, megaphones, and ukuleles. In that process, however, it lost quite a bit of musical value. Many of the tracks, including “Hold Still” and “Thorn,” sound more convoluted than inspired, in addition to many of the tracks sounding quite redundant. This album sounds kind of like something you would hear in a local venue, on a night when subpar local bands are performing. A little bit sloppy, a little bit loud, and a lot of overkill. Overall and kind of a mess, and there’s no excuse for that on a third album. –Kylie Cox

Real Estate
Days
Domino Recording Co.
Street: 10.18.11
Real Estate = Guster + Deerhunter + Woods
I feel it is important to point out that this album has induced an effect on me that I can safely say no other album in all of pop history has ever been able to create, and that is the extrinsic desire to hop into a station wagon and drive aimlessly through a suburb. Real Estate’s sophomoric release, Days, is a solid album best suited for a car stereo. Martin Courtney meshes his cloudy and soothing vocals with sunny, garage-surf guitar riffs to help tell us anecdotes of the neighborhood that he and the band grew up in as shown in “Green Aisles” and “Three Blocks.” Even though there is a prevalent and warm pop vibe on the album, there is also a tinge of melancholy in every song, specifically “It’s Real” and the bittersweet “Wonder Years,” helping those of us who suffer from summer nostalgia be a little more grateful for the upcoming winter. –Gregory Gerulat

Red Red Ruby
We Dream Alone in the Womb (cassette)
MT6 Records
Street: 12.11.11
Red Red Ruby = (early) Death In June + Jimmy Rodgers + Scott H. Biram
For some reason, I was intrigued by the label’s description of Red Red Ruby as “ghost folk.” Truth be told, it’s a pretty accurate descriptor. Artist Matthew Riley, who has, until recently, been releasing music under his name, paints an interesting picture with We Dream Alone in the Womb. A dense mixture of acoustic guitar, synth, and lo-fi recording can easily make the listener feel like they’re stranded somewhere in the old West, alone at dusk in an unused pasture, feeling the final effects of the peyote they were slipped at the square dance the previous evening. The songs blend seamlessly into one another, and without a lyric sheet (or the time to sit down and really attempt to decipher the lyrics), what Riley is saying is, for the most part, a mystery. This could easily be written off as boring singer/songwriter indie crap for the ironic-’stache crowd, but to the astute listener, it’s much more than that. Not unlike good black metal, this is a release best enjoyed in the dark (or at least semi-dark), and in isolation. –Gavin Hoffman

Fionn Regan
100 Acres of Sycamore
Heavenly
Street: 08.08.11
Fionn Regan = Andrew Bird + Fleet Foxes
This sylvan album title gives us a good sense of where this album is headed, and sure enough, Irish songwriter Fionn Regan offers up a rustic set of tunes well suited for your next weekend outing to your Welsh cottage. Regan has depth as a songwriter and a great voice, but the beautiful string arrangements on this album stole the show for me, particularly on “The Horses are Asleep.” If you’re looking for something soothing to curl up to with hot cocoa this winter, give 100 Acres of Sycamore a spin. –Nate Housley

Run Dan Run
Normal
Hearts and Plugs
Street: 01.10
Run Dan Run = Sufjan Stevens + Broken Social Scene
Starting off as just a side project between friends, Run Dan Run has really come a long way. Their sophomore release, Normal, shows a darker and musically richer band– one that is maturing. This won’t be the last we see of them. Normal has elements of how sometimes Broken Social Scene sounds literally broken, but Run Dan Run doesn’t put it together quite as eloquently as BSS does. A few highlights from the album include “Lovesick Animal,” which has some soothing, gentle vocals, accompanied by an upbeat guitar melody. In contrast, there is “Gestures & Patterns,” which is written in the ever-melancholy minor mode, and paired with just enough sadness in the vocals to make you want stay in your bed until the winter is over. Overall, this is a decent spin, but nothing to write home about. This is the kind of record you’ll choose one song from to put on a mix to prove your knowledge of obscure music, but not an album you’ll play over and over again. –Kylie Cox

Seeker Lover Keeper
Self-titld
Spunk Records
Street: 01.17
Seeker Lover Keeper = Joanna Newsom –Van Dyke Parks + Feist
Seeker Lover Keeper is a supergroup of three accomplished Australian songwriters—Sarah Blasko, Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann (Seltmann is co-songwriter of “1234,” made famous by Feist). The three voices complement each other organically, and the three sound like a true band, probably a result of their sharing of songwriting and singing duties. The album flows from one breezy, winsome song to the next, though by the end, the songs start to dip unfortunately into coffee-shop open-mic territory. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to be charmed by this album. –Nate Housley

The Slackers
The Radio
Whatevski
Street: 01.17
The Slackers = Skandalous All-Stars + King Khan + Sam & Dave
Slackers organist/vocalist Vic Ruggiero has dubbed the Brooklyn band’s mixture of ska, soul, garage rock and reggae as “Jamaican Rock N Roll,” and that description has never been more apt than on their latest effort. Fresh off their 20th anniversary, The Radio consists of 11 cover songs, ranging from The Misfits to Madonna, and from Elton John to the Rolling Stones. The band has always been heavily indebted to the late ‘60s and early ‘70s music of both America and Jamaica, and their versions of old pop songs are particularly psychedelic and soulful—check out “Reach Out” (originally by The Four Tops) and “Game of Love” (Wayne Fontana). The album’s best track, however, is “Ganbare,” a cover of the Japanese punk group Blue Hearts, complete with Japanese vocals. The album’s production is also a nice touch, featuring a slightly dirty sound that lends to the feeling that you’re actually listening to radio tunes from several decades ago. The true key to The Slackers’ success has always been their ability to diversify their sound, and The Radio is a testament to that—just skip the cover of “Like a Virgin.” (In The Venue: 02.16) –Ricky Vigil

Sleeping Bag
Self-titled
Joyful Noise Recordings
Street: 08.09.11
Sleeping Bag = Sonic Youth + indie Beck
Looking for frills? Look elsewhere. Looking for big solos? Look elsewhere. Looking for envelope-pushing, genre-progressing tunage? Look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for something great (and it is great) to throw on while you clean your living room, or while you drive through rural New Jersey with Zach Braff, then Sleeping Bag is your band. In fact, it’s too bad that Sleeping Bag wasn’t released before the Garden State soundtrack was organized, since that would have been a good opportunity for the band. As is true with many albums, the first track is the best on the album. You could convince me that “Slime” is a Blondie cover sung by Beck’s brother. The quirky, slightly repetitive “Beside” would get Rivers Cuomo tapping his feet. Based on the pop-smarts demonstrated on “Slime,” I’m confident that Sleeping Bag’s next release will be better than Sleeping Bag. But, it’s still a worthy addition to the indie canon. –Andrew Roy

Spank Rock
Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a F—ing Liar
Bad Blood
Street: 09.27.11
Spank Rock = Boys Noize + N.E.R.D. + The YMD
It’s been five years since Spank Rock’s super-hyped last release, and you might have forgotten about the band in the interim period. From the first track, “Ta Da,” they make it clear they want you to know they’re back. Produced by Boys Noize this time around, the album leans toward the grimy digital beats that made the last record unique for its time, and the lyrics are just as filthy. On “Race Riot,” MC Spank Rock sings, “She gets my dick to turn racist,” and that is only one among many references to his junk. While this could be perceived as vulgar, that’s kind of the point. This record isn’t about pretense or even art—these songs are meant for a crowded, sweaty dance floor. Ten bucks says you hear some DJ spinning this in the club in the next year, and then can’t get it out of your head. Favorites include “Car Song,” featuring excellent vocals from Santigold and “Energy,” the first single. Spank Rock is just cool, and like the man raps on “Nasty”: “Without cool, I guess we’d just be jerks.” –Rio Connelly

Suedehead
In Motion/(so)Frantic/The Constant EPs
International Soul Rebel Society
Street: 01.2011, 04.2011, 07.2011
Suedehead = Elvis Costello + The Jam + Motown
Rather than review each of these three EPs separately, I’m finding it easier to treat them as one entity. They were all recorded and released within seven months of each other, and all three showcase the sound of a band that simply wants to have a good time. Mixing elements of late 70s British mod music, mid-era Motown, and first-wave ska, Suedehead makes no bones about being a band that strives to be a soundtrack for singing along and swinging your sweetie around on the dance floor. The artwork (and the band name, obviously) for all three EPs pay homage to Morrissey/The Smiths, but don’t let that fool you for a second—Suedehead’s tunes are upbeat and downright happy-sounding … somewhat uncharted territory for yours truly. They might not be getting regular play on this grumpy prick’s turntable, but that’s not at all a shot at the band—simply a shot at myself. If you like to sing, dance, and thoroughly enjoy your music, Suedehead is an excellent choice. –Gavin Hoffman

Sunshine SS
Teen Choices
Sacred Plague Records
Street: 09.20.11
Sunshine SS = Circle Jerks + AgreSSion + The Germs
North Carolina’s Sunshine SS offer up their second 7” of snotty punk rock at its very best … or worst, depending upon one’s point of view. Self-described “Fucked-up SS bolt punk played by grown-ups,” this nifty little slab is a quick, jarring punch of mid-tempo punk rock that should appeal to the punk rocker in all of us. These guys aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel—or even trying to re-market it, for that matter. They simply play punk rock the way it’s meant to be played, and with an attitude that a great deal of current punk bands are sorely lacking. While nowhere near as gnarly as (highly recommended) labelmates Enabler or Ambassador Gun, Sunshine SS is definitely worth your punk dollar. Give it a spin, punk. –Gavin Hoffman

Supercommuter
Products of Science
Self-released
Street: 08.16.11
Supercommuter = Super Smash Bros. + Missy Elliott + Starfucker
This band is seriously cool. They compose beats on a classic Game Boy, and the majority of their profits go to Child’s Play, an organization that donates toys to kids in hospitals. Not to mention their music is a mix of hip-hop, digital and experimental sounds. That triple-threat is not easy to pull off, but Supercommuter does it with straight-up robot, video-game style. The rap pieces of the album, such as “Frozen,” are especially striking, as they are layered with bleepity bloopity and synth sounds. I’m not sure why these dudes haven’t been signed yet; probably something to do with record companies who would rather see dollar signs than donations. Nonetheless, I hope to hear more from these nerdbots. –Kia McGinnis

Thy Catafalque
Rengeteg
Season of Mist
Street: 01.10
Thy Catafalque = Samael + Unexpect + Primordial
Going into Rengeteg, I was completely blind—no expectations, no hopes to be dashed—only a set of 10 songs to either burst my brain or leave it without those brilliant little electrical impulses that make that hunk of goo in your head work. The album literally and sonically deconstructs itself from a noxious angry beast intent on grabbing your jugular and thrashing it to no end—because that same hand that ravished that soft spot between your head and your body, in some bizarre twist of fate or maybe in an apologetic fashion, starts to rub your back, which somehow ends with only a subtle warning, turning your thoughts into an abysmal rage. What the rage portion of Thy Catafalque offers is a trickery and honest bombastic take on established guitar tones, making them askew enough to sound familiar but also completely distant. Tamas Katai’s vocals run rampant exercising demons to serenading angels. As the music progresses, traditional folk elements get a dose of weird atmospheric and simultaneously genuinely pleasing electronic elements mixed with string compositions and other melodies to leave you trying to figure out what instruments are being used. Rengeteg is an assault and sensory feast that offers metallic morsels of so called “avant garde metal,” when it’s through with you, it feels more like you just got kicked in the nuts, but covered with sweet kisses to the face. –Bryer Wharton

Tim “Love” Lee
Fully Bearded: 15 Years of Tummy Touch in Dub
Tummy Touch Records
Street: 11.08.11
Fully Bearded= DFA + Chemical Brothers + Liquid Liquid + early Police
What happened here is that the A&R brains and founder of label Tummy Touch took some select songs spanning the label’s 15-year existence, and reworked the songs in a “dub” style.  Remixing all of these songs gives the album nice uniformity and consistency throughout, so it makes it easy for the album to have the feel of a long-player, and less of a label “sampler” (or mixtape, as I used to call them).  Lee does a smashing job of weaving all the tracks together very tastefully, making the collection intriguing and compelling overall.  He doesn’t change the integrity of the songs, and it’s not really overly dubby, either, which is nice.  As a whole, this compilation piques my curiosity about the individual bands contained here, compelling me to check out more of the musical endeavors on this obscure label.  This is an album that is worthwhile from beginning to end; a sampler with high-quality content. –Mary Houdini

Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun
Wild Fire
Street: 11.22.11
Greyday Records
Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun = Phantogram + Metric + Paramore
Two girls and two boys, out of Atlanta, trying to make it big. It doesn’t sound like a unique story, but trust me, Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun is worth looking into. After quitting their jobs to pursue music full time in August of 2009, they have had great success, booking 15 to 20 shows per month across the US, and growing quite a solid fanbase. After three EPs, Wild Fire comes as a breathe of fresh air for their fans, who helped fund the production of the LP through a Kickstarter campaign. It is sincere, raw, and quite beautiful. “We Were Wild” is the perfect song to play in a video montage of an epic breakup scene. Dreamy vocals, contrasting distorted guitar, and just a hint of angstful lyrics make for a great addition to any breakup mixtape. If the lyrics don’t get you, the synthesizers will, on “Single-Hearted.” Basically, if you are a girl, you will love this album. It’s kind of like Taylor Swift. Even if it’s not exactly your thing, you can appreciate it. Why? Because you’re a woman, and we stick together. –Kylie Cox

Ty Segall
Singles: 2007-2010
Goner
Street: 11.22.11
Ty Segall = Thee Oh Sees + The Epsilons
Ty Segall writes the best hooks in San Francisco, and he has since The Epsilons—this compilation is just evidence of that. Because of Segall’s love of 7” splits and singles, this album is full of interesting (and tough-to-find) material. Sprinkled with covers of Chain Gang, Thee Oh Sees, and The Gories, the entire release is engaging. Unless you are an avid record collector, you have probably missed most of this stuff, and you are doing yourself a huge disservice not checking this collection out. It is a much more exciting listen than Goodbye Bread. –Cody Hudson

The Wild
A Collection
Asian Man Records
Street: 10.11.11
The Wild = Dropkick Murphys + Bright Eyes
Folk-punk is a term I had never heard of before listening to this album, although one of my favorite bands, The Violent Femmes, pioneered the genre. It makes for a good fusion of sound and ideas. A Collection features songs that were not previously released and has an upbeat, poetic texture. There is much use of harmonica and kick drum involved in this music; it would be an excellent thing to listen to while road-tripping. Witt and Dianna weave vocals together and the mix of male/female folk/punk is quite pleasing to the ear. The last few songs are acoustic and do not disappoint—I especially dig ”Set Ourselves Free.” If you like punk, if you like folk, and especially if you like both, you should check out The Wild. –Kia McGinnis

Yelle
Safari Disco Club
Remixes
V2/Cooperative Music USA/Downtown Records
Street: 11.01.11
Yelle = Aqua + Cansei de Ser Sexy
If you’re looking for the CD to get you through the next inevitably sad six months, look no further. A remixed album of Yelle’s sophomore LP, this album will blow your mind. If this album were a person, it would be the most beautiful, foreign Barbie you have ever seen. Listening to this record is a surefire method, if nothing else, to brighten your day. Some of the best dance tracks are “Que Veux Tu (Madeon Remix),” and “Que Veux Tu (Kapt10 Kurt Dreamix).” They both are that little ray of sunshine that we all need, complete with pulsating beats, synthesizers, and a melody you’ll be singing for days. If you are feeling more transient, I recommend “Safari Disco Club (The Shoes Remix).” It has a slower tempo and a much more laidback vibe, while keeping with the soft, French, female voice theme.  Safari Disco Club Remixes is the kind of album that you’re semi-embarrassed to play, but you secretly hope never ends. Between the spoken French and the pulsing beats, I can’t think of a better mental getaway than the Safari Disco Club Remix of Yelle—and trust me, in this weather, you will need it. –Kylie Cox