National CD Reviews – January 2011

Acid Witch
Hells Headbangers
Street: 01.18
Acid Witch = Cathedral + Hooded Menace + Black Sabbath + Coffins
On the surface, just by judging the band name and album title, one might assume Acid Witch is just another doom/stoner band. What lies in wait on Stoned, Acid Witch’s second full-length album, is more than just a standard doom/stoner record, though. The tunes are just as much about atmosphere as they are substance, with the great ability to appeal to fans of multiple genres. It’s not crossover in any way, but it does bear influences from many styles, old-school death, classic doom and more. Stoned is a perfect combination of songwriting and atmosphere—the grizzled, downtuned grooves are plentiful, and so are the howling leads and guitar solos. The album, even in CD and digital formats, has the great quality of sounding like you’re spinning a dusty old LP. Add quite a few songs that utilize some keyboard and creepy elements—including the beginning/intro song which sounds highly inspired from Goblin’s work on the Suspiria film soundtrack—all glued together by a vocalist that sounds like he’s gurgling on thumbtacks, and you have an idea what lies in wait. Yes, there’s plenty of death/doom acts breaking the scene, but Acid Witch really don’t sound like any of them; this is an album I’ll be spinning regularly for an ultimately fun, downright heavy and deviously fun metal experience. –Bryer Wharton

Marrow of the Spirit
Profound Lore
Street: 11.23.10
Agalloch = Ulver + Alcest + Drudkh + Current 93
There is a definite reason why Marrow of the Spirit has made many metal critics’ year-end “top” lists—believe the hype, this is a grand and beautiful album. I implore you, though, to create your own feelings about the album rather than listen to what critics, myself included, say about the Pacific Northwest Agalloch’s latest offering. I’ve seen quite a few reviews mentioning that this is some sort of culmination or buildup of styles that Agalloch have utilized on prior records. I interviewed Agalloch frontman John Haughm around 2002, when the band’s landmark album The Mantle came out, and there was never any mention of tackling certain styles for certain albums. Marrow of the Spirit does involve influences and styles from the band’s three previous full-lengths as well as some of their EP releases. Ultimately, the album is just a progression in the constant evolution of one of the more forward-thinking metal bands. The lines of what a song structure is are blurred. The first half of Marrow of the Spirit is a bit more concise in its songwriting, taking listeners down a more direct musical path than the latter half of the album, where song structures bleed over one another and atmosphere reigns in at the very start of the lengthy and weighted track, “Black Lake Niðstång.” Marrow of the Spirit is a challenging listen with open-ended results. Agalloch don’t make you take any direct path as to how to feel or react—it’s all left to yourself and how you interpret things, and that’s always been the power of Agalloch’s music. –Bryer Wharton

Charles Bradley
No Time for Dreaming
Street: 01.25
Charles Bradley = the Dap-Kings + Menahan Street Band + the Budos Band
I’d be lying if I said I’d heard of this guy before I listened to this disc. Apparently, I’m not the only one to be completely in the lurch on this one. As it seems, Bradley has been quietly paying his dues for years, honing his craft as a top-shelf, journeyman soul singer. It just so happens that a return to classic-style soul music has started paying the bills again, so many more labels and musicians are able to offer up tracks to the listening public. This is the first vocal release for the fledgling Dunham label (a branch of Daptone Records), and it pairs Bradley’s smooth James Brown-inspired voice with the well-rehearsed Menahan Street Band. Lots of horns, a solid yet bouncy two-step groove and an underlying feel of sincerity makes this one of the best soul records I’ve heard in some time. It is a fantastic way to start 2011. Hopefully the year is as good to Bradley as he has been to us on this one. –James Bennett 

The Concretes
Friendly Fire Recordings
Street: 11.09.10
The Concretes = The Cardigans Doing Their Ace Of Base Impression
The Swedish pop scene has certainly produced its share of mega bands/artists—ABBA, Robyn, Ace Of Base, to name but three of the more popular ones—and The Concretes (returning after a three-year hiatus) appear to want to up their indie-pop ante and join those ranks a bit by making a “disco flavored” album. But WYWH (wish you were here, FYI)—being made by the same laidback Swedes who brought the world Say Something New and You Can’t Hurry Love—is about as disco as Lawrence Welk. Perhaps it is the extra beats that have caused this description to stick, but this actually suits the proceeding just fine, especially on the catchy “All Day” and the equally hooky “What We’ve Become.” Opener “Good Evening” has an understated beauty and builds from a simple few chords to its subtle chorus slowly. There are a few songs that suffer slightly from being a bit too slow too soon, but they are still pretty. Even with the missing “o’s” from its title, “Knck Knck” is very hummable, as is the fantastic title track. So while WYWH probably won’t give any of the above named artists/supergroups a run for their money, it is a pleasant addition to The Concrete’s discography. –Dean O Hillis

Field Days          
Guise Recordings
Street: 04.13.2010
Field Days = Paper Rival Unplugged
Patrick Damphier is one talented and busy musician.  The former Paper Rival’s guitarist (and studio drummer) is the man behind this pleasant self-produced release, recorded reel-to-reel between November 2009 and January of 2010.  Unlike his last band, he is also the Field Days’ (not to be confused by the defunct Canadian punk outfit Field Day) vocalist and his voice reminds me of a younger Lindsey Buckingham, especially in its delicate timbre.  Damphier is a great songwriter, as revealed in the album’s first single, “Going Back In Time,” with his rocking acoustic guitar and voice virtually creating the foot-tapping rhythm section by themselves.  Although entirely acoustic guitar-based, the album’s 11 tracks benefit from this stripped-down setting.
“A different mask for each occasion/He takes them off when they’re not there,” he sings the absolutely gorgeous “Save It For Ourselves,” before its heavenly chorus of “If they ever find a cure/what would it be worth/put it on the shelves.”  As will happen with promos, sometimes there is limited credits and information, but I know I hear some other voices on the album’s beautiful harmonies.  Online information about other musicians’ involvement is fairly scarce, but there is an absolutely fascinating YouTube clip of a limited-edition handmade CD packaging being made on the band’s MySpace page and in addition to this, there is also a limited-edition handmade vinyl version as well as the standard release and download available. –Dean O Hillis

Fujiya & Miyagi
Yep Roc
Street: 01.25
Fujiya & Miyagi = Clinic + Matthew Dear + Can
Brooding, menacing, and ice cold, this Brighton, UK trio’s kraut-inspired long-players roll by with hardly a tempo change or break in the dark clouds hanging over the 11 tracks. Ventriloquizzing is relentless: Each song is built around the rhythm section’s death grip on the laser-focused bass that follows in a syncopated lock step. The topics don’t help the overall dreariness of the album, either. Sexual and political paralysis, drug abuse, and first-world consumption match Ventriloquizzing’s overall pessimistic mood. The schizoid electronics, whispered vocals, percussive piano notes and funky bass lines on songs like “Minestrone” are a British gangster film rollup through a blighted Southern London neighborhood in a Cadillac with a glove box full of cocaine and a 9mm in your lap. Sure, these songs are driving, but the destination seems ominous. This won’t end well. –Ryan Hall

Gutter Water
Street: 11.22.2010
Gangrene = The Alchemist + Oh No + UGK
This is grimy and gully. Some shit that Oscar The Grouch would listen to while on a blunt ride. Freeway. Gangrene is some type raw for the snow kids out there. It will get you right no matter the occasion. “Not High Enough” is a perfect reminder, with its rumbling bass drum intro and twinkling piano sound. “Take Drugs” has a hilarious intro teamed with a beat that makes you want to smash it. One thing to note is that the team-up of Alchemist and Oh No works splendidly; on “All Bad,” you get a perfect example of this lyrical anomaly. “From Another Orbit” sounds like it has a violin in there and perfectly underlines the lyrics, keeping your attention focused finely. Nearly closing out the album, “Brass Knuckle Rap,” featuring Guilty Simpson, leaves you off like the jump-out session of a Compton street gang circa ’96. –Jemie Sprankle

Graf Orlock
Doombox EP
Vitriol Records
Street: 01.18
Graf Orlock = Ed Gein + Sick of it All
Well, it turns out that Graf Orlock has figured out a fresh, engaging way to approach an EP––get in, get out, and give us plenty of reasons to click repeat after the less-than-12-minute-cinema-grind explosion. Cinema grind? That’s Graf Orlock’s self-created niche. Each track includes random movie quotes from people like 2 Pac (Juice), Christian Bale (Harsh Times), and Christopher Walken (King of New York). But don’t jump to the conclusion that this is just a gimmick. All six tracks on Doombox are technical, varying, and, most importantly, brutal. This EP actually reminds me a lot of Ed Gein’s It’s A Shame that a Family Can be Torn Apart by Something as Simple as a Pack of Wild Dogs. Tracks like “Job Hunt” and “New Year’s Eve 1999” are a great mix of grind, thrash and straightforward hardcore. If Aron Ralston was into metal, he’d give Doombox one thumb up. –Andrew Roy

Early Volumes 1
Last Gang Labels
Street: 10.01.2010
Gunslinger = Infected Mushroom + Juno Reactor + Tiesto
Psychedelic Trance (or Psytrance), the modifier-heavy version of house that is nearly impossible to distinguish from the thousands of similar modifier-heavy versions of house, is the genre where LA beatmaker Gunslinger most often gets pigeonholed. His high BPM, repetitive rhythms and association with Infected Mushroom make a case for this; however, Gunslinger’s background playing in rock bands is clearly his most distinguishing feature. Instead of letting his psytrance beats play on ad nauseam, he channels them nicely into actual songs with verse-chorus arrangements. Early Volumes 1 features the stadium-packing hooks of an electronic Muse for the Ibeza crowd and enough hypertrance breaks for the hardcore techno fan. –Ryan Hall

Holy Sons
Survivalist Tales!
Partisan Records
Street: 12.10.10
Holy Sons = Bonnie “Prince” Billy + Grails + Lackthereof
While Holy Sons can be described as Emil Amos’s side project from prominent Portland psych-folk ensemble Grails and doom-metal duo Om, the fact is, Holy Sons predates them all. Amos’s ninth release finds the drummer exploring themes of urban decay and self-confrontation beneath atmospheric folk songs and sparse, electronic synthscapes. The open-ended song structure of Grails is present in the way each song flows into gorgeous instrumental segues that mark much of the album. Amos’s gravelly, world-hardened voice is reminiscent of Will Oldham’s ageless croon. While an insanely prolific drummer, Amos is in full control over a wide array of instruments and 70s AM radio melodies. While overtly somber, Holy Son’s multi-layered compositions and Amos’s excellent voice soften the blow and give the album a warm, almost glowing quality, like seeing city lights through a blanket of smog. –Ryan Hall

Iggy Pop and James Williamson
Kill City
Street: 10.19.2010
Pop & Williamson = the Stooges – the Ashton brothers + a drive to sound more like Bowie
This album was originally recorded and released in the late 1970s.  It was a demo that Iggy Pop shopped around to labels while trying to land a recording deal in the years following the breakup of the Stooges.  This has long been a favorite Iggy Pop-related record of mine, mostly because it sounds so much different from either the Stooges or Pop’s solo work.  It fills the artistic void in the transition from Raw Power (that also featured Williamson on guitar) and Pop’s later “Lust For Life” sound.  The real question is whether it needed to be remixed and rereleased on CD/LP.  Well, yes and no.  I liked the lo-fi sound of the original mix, but have to admit that this latest attempt from Williamson to tinker with the sound has its benefits.  Pop’s voice sounds more crisp.  The guitar levels are layered together much more cleanly and the saxophone parts actually sound like they belong in the mix this time.  In all, this is a great reissue and an important piece for figuring out the Iggy Pop oeuvre. –James Bennett

One Hundred Suns EP
Street: 11.16.2010
Jonquil = Here We Go Magic + Foals + A Certain Ratio
Jonquil is the latest in a rash of young men in their twenties trying to capitalize on the success of Vampire Weekend and Dirty Projector’s messy collision of Afrobeat percussion and Graceland-style first-world voyeurism. If Highlife’s Best Bliss represented the highest watermark for commitment to traditional musical forms this year, then One Hundred Suns lands somewhere in the soft paunch of Afrobeat-inspired post-punk. Songs like “It Never Rains” and “I Know I Don’t Know” reach their most derivative, but much of the album is difficult to fault. Jonquil is capable of writing sunny, punchy songs that are a little too smart for their own good.  While Jonquil strives for Merriweather Post Pavilion, they end up ripping off Here We Go Magic. But that isn’t the worst thing in the world. –Ryan Hall

Killing the Dream
Lucky Me
Street: 11.23.10
Deathwish Inc.
Killing the Dream = The Carrier + Shai Hulud + Defeater
Development tends to imply a creation of something original, but on Lucky Me, it feels like Killing the Dream is plotting in discovered territory. Album opener “Blame the Architects” destroys out of the gate, and decrescendos into a tasteful string arrangement interlude. If the album kept this passion and complementary withholding consistent, it would be a gem. Instead, it’s a mixed bag. If you only have an LP of 7 songs, it needs to be all killer and no filler. The vocals at the end of “Testimony” almost completely derail the album. Not because they’re clean vocals—that can be a great addition to an emotional hardcore band—it’s that they’re sung so poorly. Like, karaoke bad. The rest of the album isn’t sloppy, so this vocal turn is unfortunate. Lucky Me either seems like catharsis or build, but the two miss each other, albeit narrowly, on too many occasions to create much of an impact. Killing the Dream’s passion is top notch—the organization could use some help, though. –Peter Fryer

Make Do And Mend
End Measured Mile
Paper + Plastick
Street: 10.26
Make Do And Mend = Hot Water Music + Polar Bear Club + Fallen From the Sky
Punk rock sure moves in some weird ass cycles. I don’t see ska making a comeback anytime soon, but the re-emergence of New Found Glory power-pop-punk a few years ago left me bewildered. Thankfully, the re-emergence and re-formation of bands like Leatherface, Samiam, Small Brown Bike and especially Hot Water Music have made me super stoked for punk rock’s immediate future. Make Do And Mend have taken the spirit of those bands, and though they aren’t venturing too far from the style featured on HWM’s Epitaph albums, it’s refreshing to hear a band sound like this. End Measured Mile is loud in all the right places, restrained when it needs to be and full of the youthful energy that the old-timers who influenced MDAM will never be able to regain. Standouts include “Ghostal,” which features La Dispute vocalist Jordan Dreyer,” and is probably the ass-kickingest track on the album, "Transparent Seas," "Firewater" and album closer “Night’s the Only Time of Day.” Kudos to Paper + Plastick for another great signing, and check out Make Do and Mend’s split with Touche Amore for some more awesome post-hardcore-core. –Ricky Vigil

Rush (the Remixes)
Scion A/V
Street: 10.13.2010
What’s worse than having a soda company use hip bands to market to you?  Having a car company target “youthful buyers” by tapping into “remix culture.”  Upon reading the press release, I had no idea there was such a thing as “remix culture.”  Mobroder is the project of Naeem Hanks, a.k.a. Spank Rock with Blu Jemz and DJ Hoff.  Noxious marketing aside, these remixes are strong, if mostly similar in character—plenty of house beats with spare synths and cowbells.  The Shazam remix of “Love Duet,” featuring Amanda Blank is a standout, with Hanks’ smooth cadence gliding alongside an up-tempo beat and squiggly synths that would make namesake Giorgio Moroder proud.  If only I didn’t have to think about a car while listening to it … . –Nate Housley

Modern Skirts
Happy Goes Upstairs Music
Street: 01.18
Modern Skirts = Harlem Shakes + Matt & Kim
Sometimes, goofy is charming; other times, it is awkward and obnoxious … This release is much more of the latter than the former. The album was definitely written to be catchy and accessible, which it is. Some of the beats are a bit annoying, like the one in “DUI,” which features a sound clip of somebody yelling “excellent” right after an odd comical laugh, as a recurring part of the beat. When the album isn’t annoying the shit out of me, it almost borders on mediocrity. The annoying parts almost seem like an attempt at Of Montreal-esque eccentricity, and the less annoying parts are nothing notable. –Cody Hudson

Nihilistic Stench
Street: 01.25
Nadiwrath = Dodsferd + Darkthrone + Nattefrost
From the man that is behind the mighty and ugly Greek black metal force Dodsferd comes Nadiwrath, who give a giant middle finger to last year. I know it’s only January, but being first at something is good, and Nihilistic Stench is the first black metal album of the year to own. The sound here is not only what you’d expect for a three-piece black metal band, but it’s definitely expected from the extremely hateful Wrath (the man that is Dodsferd). Joining Wrath is Nadir (I get the inkling that’s where the band got it’s name). There is no bass guitar on this album and really, I love it, the guitar sounds like somebody plugged a Jack Lalanne Juicer directly into a nuclear power plant, filled it full of rocks, and let it loose. The guitar-playing has an uncanny ability, combined with the drums, at keeping the rhythm nice and violent while also creating memorable moments in songs, notably on “Two Face Shit Fuckers,” or “Another Pimping Whore.” Nihilist Stench does a fantastic job at taking a raw, pissed-off hardcore/punk/D-beat attitude and making it distinctly black and pissed-the-hell off. The band is the result of what would come out the other side of a black hole that D.R.I. got sucked through. And to cap the album off in a really odd way, further notioning that middle-finger factor, is “Memories Are Dead,” which actually brings a somber and melodic end to an album that is a shit-storm of anger. –Bryer Wharton

New Mexico
have you met my friend yet?
Street 11.20.10
New Mexico = The Soft Pack + Kings of Leon
Despite residing in San Diego, this trio presents dusty garage pop rock in a way that would have you believe they just might be kicking dirt off their spurs. Their self-produced seven-song EP have you met my friend? delivers heavy drums that escort violent lyrics down energetic guitar riffs. It formulates a dirty, arid compilation of bursting rock that hits its marks. On “Abused and Amused,” lead singer Robert Kent serenades listeners with lyrics, “Cut your teeth and slice your bones/That’s no way to bring her home,” that embed the catchy sound, creating a darker, bare tone and giving the track a punk edge. “Case Closed” bounces and kicks while Kent hugs his vowels, which emulates a strong comparison to Kings of Leon … If Kings of Leon were a better band. Altogether, it’s stark and dry, just like their band name suggests, and as far as their friend is concerned, I haven’t met him or her yet, but let’s make it happen. –Liz Lucero

We Were the States
Chicken Ranch Records
Street: 11.09.10
Rasa = The Kooks + Razorlight
On their second album, Nashville band Rasa aims for the arena-sized indie of the UK and hits it pretty dead-on. The earnestness of vocalist Justin Webb’s winningly nasal croon works well against the muscular rhythm section, but the band overreaches with the same by-the-numbers balladry that bogs down your average British rock band. “Paris Green” wants to be a sing-along in the way that the Kings of Leon now write sing-alongs. “Gold” is a highlight, mildly satirizing the ego and decadence of rock and roll (“You’re sweeter than cocaine”), even if it lacks the bite of the likes of Art Brut. It’s a serviceable album, if somewhat unoriginal and uneven. –Nate Housley

The Riot Before
Paper + Plastick
Street: 06.15
The Riot Before = Nothington + Smoke or Fire + The Gaslight Anthem
After being let down by new albums from a number of “we-liked-Against-Me!-but-now-we-like-Bruce-Springsteen” bands in the last few months, I was genuinely stoked to see this album in my promo stack. I bought this album on a whim way back in June because I’m a dork and thought the orange/white swirl vinyl looked cool, and I can honestly say that was one of the better decisions I made this year. The Riot Before take cues from the Springsteen-y punks, but don’t beat you over the head with their Boss-ness. To put it another way, they’ve decided to focus on actually writing good songs that tell stories without the fake attitude and forced sound that seems to have overtaken much of punk rock. This is an album about moving—progressing against the odds to find happiness and meaning. There are slices of blistering punk rock (“The Middle Distance,” “Uncharted Lands”) and slower more instrospective songs (“Answers for Change,” “Tinnitus”), but this album is nearly flawless from beginning to end. It might take a few listens to fully take hold, but Rebellion is definitely one of the best albums this year and another great addition to the Paper + Plastick catalogue. –Ricky Vigil

Triangular Daisies EP
Sin Dude Records   
Street: 10.19.2010
Rubblebucket = Potpourri But After The Scent Has Left
At first I thought Rubblebucket was a local band.  Theirs is an eight-person outfit that formed at an art show, and, like most bands comprised of unknown people, their sound is unfortunately infused with the tastes of all eight members.  This wouldn’t be so bad if they all had a coherent appreciation for similar sounds; instead—on this EP at least—their sound is all over the place.  Like their earlier abandoned longer name, Rubblebucket does not know what it wants to be.   The band does have a fondness for horns, and also for whistling but a little trumpet, tuba and saxophone go a long way and here it is over-used. Singer Kalmia Traver’s voice is definitely an acquired taste and actually sounds its most interesting on the EP’s sole live track, “L’Homme,” where the rest of the band also sounds freer and the horns aren’t quite as annoying as in studio-recorded form.  Their jazz fusion-lite take on The Beatle’s classic “Michelle” is interesting, if not marred by Traver’s rather flat vocal performance.  The most interesting thing about “Came Out Of A Lady” is that it was recorded in one day for the Masters From Their Day project, but its lyrics sound as though they were written in about 30 seconds and would have benefited greatly from some self-editing.  The bonus “Nightmoves” remix is more listenable, as most of the horns are removed just enough to not notice them.  The EP’s other remix, of a track called “Bikes,” from last year’s self-titled release, is even better, because all the horns and vocals are completely distorted beyond recognition and their sound is suddenly elevated to a computer generated-sounding backdrop. –Dean O Hillis

In War and Pieces
Street: 01.11
Sodom = Kreator + Destruction + Tankard
Starting your year with German thrash metal legends Sodom adds a nice New Year’s resolution—stop worshipping the so-called retro or neo-thrash bands. Sodom not only knows what they’re doing, they know thrash metal—they’ve been churning out the violent riffs since 1981. This new offering to thrash-hungry metal fans promises and delivers a speed-fuck of tunes. “Through Toxic Veins” sounds like it could have been recorded in 1984. Tracks like “Knarrenheinz” are mixed in with slower, more broadening heavy cuts like “The Art of Killing Poetry,” and “Soul Contraband.” The album doesn’t hold back the massive thrash-styled breakdowns, crushing drums and hell-howling guitar soloing. The album’s title track offers the best of all worlds. The production here for thrash metal or any other form of metal is near perfection. If you could let this album loose as a singular entity in your home, it would wind up looking like a pack of dogs just ran through searching for hidden sausages. Is this the best Sodom album ever released? No, but it beats the living snot out of the tight-pants-wearing denim-jacket-wearing idiots populating the scene that think they’re claiming the thrash metal throne. –Bryer Wharton

Surf City
Fire Records
Street: 11.30.2010
Surf City = Beach Fossils + Interpol
This kiwi quartet’s full-length album, Kudos, dials into the feeling I get when I see late-night ads for vacationing in New Zealand. Kudos is a warm and breezy mash-up of pop melodies, with plenty of ooh and aahhs, which teeter on the edge of a psychedelic trip of continuous reverb. Davin Stoddard’s lyrics and vocals are simple and laidback, often repeating a single word—tracks like “Autumn” trap you in a continuous lazy wave of repetition. Most tracks, like “CIA,” “See How the Sun” and title track “Kudos,” are about three to four minutes long and create slow, bouncy grooves that swell and crash. Final track, “Zombies,” bleeds and ebbs, creating a groovy-layered flow that takes its time, making me feel like all I need in life is to lie around at the beach all day. –Liz Lucero

T. Rex
The Slider
Fat Possum
Street: 10.25.2010
T.Rex = David Bowie + the Bay City Rollers + Eddie Cochran
Although Marc Bolan and T.Rex were ridiculously popular in the UK in the late 1960s, it wasn’t until 1972’s hit, “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” that they had a Top 10 hit in America.  This album was what immediately followed that US chart success.  It was reissued in October as part of a series of classic T. Rex reissues that may very well return the dandy Bolan to prominence.  It is a bit of an odd choice if Fat Possum is trying to recapture the magic of “T. Rextacy,” since the album didn’t spawn any hits in the US.  Still, it does capture Bolan at his glammiest, and brings the sound of the bass guitar up to a level where it can actually be heard (it is almost completely missing from the original release.  I would have loved a few bonus tracks from the old session, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.  This is a great reissue.  I only wish Marc Bolan were still around to hear how great it sounds.  –James Bennett  

Cape Dory
Fat Possum
Street: 01.18
Tennis = Beach House + The Beach Boys + sleeping on the beach
Think about what you plan to do for the next year or so, then imagine instead falling in love and getting married, then running away from the mountains to the Atlantic, where you buy a small sailboat and cruise up and down the coast for eight months, after which you start a band with your spouse and record songs about the experience (love, sun, sand, seafaring). I only suggest this because it’s exactly what the Denver duo that makes up two-thirds of Tennis did, and the world is better for it. Their sleepy, melanin-infused pop capsules brim with bliss and charm, making life on land seem comparatively lonely and cold. Tennis is a band that wistful lovers can really believe in. (Urban: 01.27) –Nathan C. Martin

Trademark Da Skydiver
Super Villain Issue 3: Reign Supreme
Street: 11.22.2010
Trademark Da Skydiver = Lil’ Wayne + Curren$y + Terry Kennedy
You would think I would be in love with this new era of weeded-out, brand-brainwashed, overly active social networking spammers. Don’t get it twisted, I don’t hate Trademark Da Skydiver’s Super Villain Issue 3, but I feel like I’ve heard it all before. “Elevated” is a showcase track; you get a good lyrical tongue-lashing, and the hook hypnotizes. “Skyscrapers” got some horn sounds to its track and a friends-list attached. After that, there is a bunch of pilot talk with double meaning and some high-rise building talk with double meaning. The production is nothing to frown at. Every beat is crafted and diverse, incorporating a range of sounds, including horns and deep-down South bass hits. “S.A.S.,” featuring Terri Walker, has a down-to-business bass beat accompanied with a smooth yet oh-so-rough hook from Walker. It’s got its highs and lows. Average, really. –Jemie Sprankle

Various Artists
Fat Music Vol. 7: Harder, Fatter + Louder
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 11.23.10
Fat Music = Punk-O-Rama + Give ’Em the Boot + Rock Against Bush
After eight years, the Fat Music series has returned to a world where rampant Internet piracy has rendered the punk rock label sampler a relic of the past. If you’re a fan of Fat Wreck Chords (and if you’re the kind of person who steals punk rock off the Internet, you probably are) most of these 22 songs are likely already on your porn-infested hard drive. The only truly unreleased track is an irritating cover of “Dream Police” by No Use for a Name, as the other “unreleased” tracks have already been released on recent 7”s (pretty good tunes from Swingin’ Utters and Old Man Markley), or will be released on forthcoming albums. You get decent new tracks from Pour Habit and Chixdiggit!, but the main reason I was drawn to this comp were the new songsfrom Cobra Skulls and Against Me! Cobra Skulls’ “Hot Sand” is a slithering, skanky tune that sounds like it was recorded in the Reno desert, and Against Me! delivers a slightly altered version of “Holy Shit” from their upcoming demo collection. However, since most of these unreleased tracks will be readily available in a few months, this comp isn’t really worth the investment. –Ricky Vigil

We are Hex
Hail the Goer
Roaring Colonel
Street: 08.03.2010
We are Hex = Jesus and Mary Chain X really early Siouxsie Sioux 
Ah, now here’s the fetid breath of true indie; the jerky, sweating pulse of post-punk that’s been missing for so long. Like a soundtrack from some early 80s underground movie that all the artsy punks talk about but have never seen, this sophomore album creeps under your skin. Intense drumming on songs like “Singer/Tastemaker” join a jungle of dense lo-fi guitars and bass on “Teeth Collection” and “Don’t Let Dirt In Here,” together providing a fantastic backdrop for Jilly Weiss’s unpredictable and mesmerizing vocals. According to an interview with Weiss, the songs are recorded (in their studio Hex Haus, located in some “foul Indianapolis neighborhood”) as they are written, for a sound that’s “raw, loose, and from the hips,” with little studio production work. The result is stunning—heated, gloomy, angry, and spooky by turns, the kind of album you don’t want to turn your back on, lest it should dose you with LSD and drag you back to its dank cave to … well, let’s not think about that. Let’s just listen … . –Madelyn Boudreaux

Young Prisms
Friends For Now
Street: 01.18
Young Prisms = Grizzly Bear + No Age + My Bloody Valentine
It might be the immense amount of reverb (for which I am a sucker), but I really liked this album. It displays emotion in what appears to be an incredibly genuine manner. It tends to drone on a bit (My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless was obviously a staple on these guys’ iPods), but never gets tiresome. It is ugly and pretty simultaneously, like a symphonic cacophony. It is definitely a noteworthy album, so get yourself a nice pair of headphones and spend a night in. –Cody Hudson