National CD Reviews

The Appleseed Cast
Middle States
Street: 03.29
The Appleseed Cast = Moving Mountains + Elliott + Red Animal War
Evolving more quickly than many of their peers in the parallel worlds of late ’90s emo and indie rock, The Appleseed Cast have been creating a unique brand of atmospheric and energetic post-rock for nearly 15 years. Though it features only four tracks, Middle States is a satisfying encapsulation of many of the things that The Appleseed Cast does well. The EP opens with the aggressively spacey “End Frigate Constellation,” propelled by a driving drum beat and washed over by waves of subtle synth, tripped-out vocals and the band’s always-excellent guitar work. The next track is the aptly titled “Interlude,” reminiscent of the noisy in-between bits on the band’s landmark Low Level Owl double album. The title track is the most traditional song of the EP, but it still showcases the band’s ability to expertly weave their instruments into and out of one another. Unfortunately, the EP’s 14-minute closing track “Three Rivers” overstays its welcome and ends the release on a down note. Still, Middle States showcases The Appleseed Cast doing what they do best and should generate some excitement for their new album next year. –Ricky Vigil

As Likely As Not
Stand Up And Nerve
The Execution Kollective Records
Street: 03.28
As Likely As Not = Heaven Shall Burn + Unearth
I can see why As Likely As Not would be a popular festival band: they’re brutal, they know their way around a metal song, and for the most part, they make some great tunes for moshing. Unfortunately, their debut album got old before I could make it to the pit. The good news is this album features some fantastic beats, impressive picking, and some of the best bass-work I’ve heard in a long time. The real downside lies in the repetitiveness—melodic death metal fans need more complexities, and this reads too much like straight hardcore. “Red Fleer” is the strongest and most creative song, and has a gorgeous acoustic break that makes me wish the rest of the album had been given as much thought. The sludgy riffs of “Nerving Empathy” serve them well, until it fades away into another boring race between the guitarist’s picking and the drummer’s blast-beats. And guess who wins? It’s not the listener. –Megan Kennedy

Feel It Break
Domino Records
Street: 05.17
Austra = The Knife + Zola Jesus
Step out of the light and into the dark dreamy land of Austra with their debut album Feel It Break. This Toronto trio creates a sound that is equal parts velvety soft and jagged sharp. Katie Stelmanis’ vocal acrobatics trill over the hammer of the bass catching in the pit of your stomach. Her operatic harmonies, enveloping each pulsating track, create a trance of layered palpitation. Whether it’s the perfect dance delirium of “Beat and The Pulse” that massages the nerve endings or the running command of dense gothic drums in “The Villian,” the outcome is a perfect score to a medieval masquerade, but with a pulse. Enable yourself to get lost in the somber instrumental duet of the tangible and phonic soul of “The Beast.” The experience is purely fluid. When Stelmanis sings, “The morning I was born again/I was turned into a beast/Am I free now/Am I at peace?” consider the unforeseen fulfillment when you, too, are finally able to feel it break. –Liz Lucero

Bill Gould and Jared Blum
The Talking Book
Koolarrow Records
Street 05.10
The Talking Book = A Silver Mount Zion +  Sunn O)))
The first thing I noticed when I picked up The Talking Book was the album artwork, an erie photo of an ancient cemetery.This album is possessed with a mystic vibe and the sound of old, damaged vinyl. I was quickly transported to the scene on the cover. If you have ever seen the Jodorowsky film The Holy Mountain, this is it in audio form. This album should be played at high volume to catch all the nuances it contains. The Talking Book is composed of structures without form that meander through the subconscious. I would love to hear this live with all of its wonderful swells and falls. Gould and Blum have created a truly psychedelic album without any of the cliches of most current psych music- this album is actually scary. “Sundown” is a masterpiece, a progressive track that takes form slowly and ends with bone crushing guitar tone. Excellent textures carry the listener away into the deep drones of this complex work. This is the first installment in a series the duo is working on, and I can’t wait to hear what’s next. –Tom Bennett

Blut Aus Nord
777 Sect(s)
Debemur Morti
Street: 04.19
Blut Aus Nord = Deathspell Omega + Godflesh
Responsible for some of the most disheartening, dismal, outright menacing black metal sounds of the last 16 years, France’s Blut Aus Nord offer 777 Sect(s) as a beginning of a trilogy of albums, with the sequel expected in the fall, and the finale in the winter. If you’ve come to admire what Blut Aus Nord does, this album won’t disappoint, but it does offer some starkly contrasting songs to its repertoire, where previous albums may not have treaded. This really reminds me of if Godflesh had a really bad acid trip—it’s all hazed in the industrial landscape of smokestacks, warehouse after warehouse of useless crap for the consumers of the world. Listening gives me the imagery of Dr. Suess’s Lorax when the landscape is bled of all its animals and colorful trees. The album is split up into six tracks—titled Epitome’s I-VI. Epitome IV, the longest of the album’s tracks, literally causes discomfort in your stomach and brain simultaneously, grabbing your nerves of sanity and twisting them. But as equally dismal, there is some demonical beauty to the album in some softer atmospheric tracks or actual melodies. Ultimately, 777 Sect(s) feels short and incomplete, which is a great start for what madness lies in store in the upcoming two albums. –Bryer Wharton

Christy & Emily/Talk Normal
Quick Words
Street: 04.05
Christy & Emily = Pretty Girls Make Graves + Fleetwood Mac + Bloc Party
Talk Normal = a Native American rain dance + Meredith Monk
Quick Words is a split 7” featuring two very different songs. Christy & Emily’s song “Bells” is a fast-paced dance-rock track. From the smooth, moody female vocals doused in reverb to the single note, delayed lead guitar in the background, everything in this song recalls the 80s. Christy & Emily only recently added bassist Pete Kerlin and drummer Kristin Mueller to the group, but they make full use of them in their new sound. Similarly, Talk Normal’s track, “Hurricane,” relies heavily on drums. More experimental than the first track, this song sounds like it was recorded live in a tunnel with a single drum, a didgeridoo, and a pack of wolves. I probably listened to this song 20 times on repeat before I wrote this due to its hypnotic and addictive nature. It definitely gets my stamp of approval. –CG

Citizen Fish
Alternative Tentacles
Street: 03.01
Citizen Fish = Subhumans + Choking Victim
In comparison to the Deadline split with Leftöver Crack, Goods is better orchestrated and more fun to listen to—the guitar and horns sections play off each other concordantly, and the vibe leans more to lighthearted, sarcastic ska punk rather than trade-offs with sporadic hardcore bits. Given the political nature of Citizen Fish, however, the album is only as good as how well vocalist Dick Lucas balances essay-esque social criticism with clever song-writing. “Marker Pen” illustrates Lucas’ merit as he tells of a man submitted to a nursing home who writes all over the facility, demonstrating an ironic wisdom that the character holds over his oppressors. “Discomfort Zone,” on the other hand, reiterates anti-consumerist clichés and imagery we’ve already heard. Though much of the album retains a banal character, the solid songs (e.g., “Click” and “Wake Up”) still warrant a listen to this release. (Kilby: 05.28) –Alexander Ortega

Big Blue
Street: 03.22
Communipaw = Limbeck + Hot Rod Circuit + Miniature Tigers
Communipaw has made some strides in the last year and a half since they released their self-titled debut. For their second full-length, Big Blue, the New Jersey band displays the same dynamic blend of alt-country and indie rock while improving in the areas of recording quality and original, climactic song structuring. Songs like “Everyone’s Baby” and “Overseas” rise slowly from contemplative songs of longing and introspection to boisterous rock jams with twangy lead guitar solos. When the band writes a soft country ballad, they do so with a crisp and deliberate edge and honest, straightforward lyrics. If you were a fan of our hometown pride Band of Annuals, you might benefit from checking out Communipaw. –CG

Crawl Babies
Street: 04.26
Crawl Babies = The Strange Boys + The Cramps + The Smiths
There’s something infectious about the debut effort by Brooklyn-based band Crawl Babies. Every song on Tangles draws on an interesting blend of influences, from rockabilly to psych rock to 50s pop rock. Even though it’s definitely a throwback, Tangles is in no way boring. Over the top of the simple, repetitious percussion rhythms are soaring, atmospheric lead guitar lines that grab the ear without stepping on the vocal melodies. Singer Phil Pierce wails over each track with legitimate energy and passion, which causes one to forgive and even fall in love with the nasal in his voice and a few sour notes. The point is, it’s real. The less-than-ideal recording quality, making it feel like you’re hearing the band live at a house show, actually lends itself to the listening experience. –CG

Cute Lepers
Adventure Time
1-2-3-4 Go!
Street: 04.05
Cute Lepers = Buzzcocks + Johnny Thunders + The Jam
At first listen, The Cute Lepers are poppy and bouncy, but immediately beyond that is some brilliant rock n’ roll and a little deeper are decimating levels of vigor. Add thoughtful lyrics, and this album could win over anyone. Adventure Time is the third outing by the Cute Lepers, who have risen out of the shadows of The Briefs (previous band of lead vocalist and guitarist Steve E. Nix and bassist Stevie Kicks) and reflects everything that band accomplished and so much more. The first track, “Tribute to Charlie,” an ode to U.K. Subs’ lead singer Charlie Harper, has this tremendous sound with pumping piano and saxophone blasting along and “Head Over Heels” is a catchy power pop tune that’ll be in my head for weeks. I love hearing a punk rock band that drags the genre wherever they want to. –James Orme

Dag för Dag
Ceremony Recordings
Street: 04.26
Dag för Dag = PJ Harvey + Arcade Fire - Hope Sandoval
Taking a name from the direct Swedish translation “day by day,” this brother-sister team have developed as a band through constant, curious travel. Based out of Sweden, these two bring a hazy, grunge-filled sound with their debut album, Boo. Thick with dirty guitars and waves of washed-out vocals, it’s impressive knowing that just two people are behind the array of sounds. Touching on moments reminiscent of Mazzy Star, vocalist Sarah Snavely brings serious grit and raw energy to the release. In the standout track, “I am the Assassin,” dark guitar lines lumber behind challenging lyrics and chillingly sweet howls. From beautiful textures to stripped-down melodies, Dag för Dag does a solid job projecting their wandering journeys through their songs. –Ryan Schoeck

Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets
Go, and Sell All of Your Things
Hopeless Records
Street: 04.12
Damion Suomi & The Minor Prophets = Murder By Death’s Good Morning, Magpie + The Builders and the Butchers + Bonanza
I can’t help but think about The Builders and the Butchers when I listen to this album, but it isn’t a bad thing in this case. The album is catchy, folksy, and whiskey-drunk to perfection. Lyrically, this band rules, singing, “We’re here to unlearn/The teachings of the church and State/We’re here to drink beer, we’re here to kill war” in “A Dog From Hell (And His Good Advice).” Good advice, I’d say. They sing about the Bible a little bit too much for my liking—in “Camel,” they plead, “Help me get that camel through the eye/’Cause I’m a rich man, I know I’m gonna die,” and reference turning stones into bread in “Stones.” What’s to expect with Minor Prophets in the band, though? “I Hope You Die Sad and Alone” is the funniest waltz I’ve ever heard, which sounds more like a letter from a mother getting impatient for grandchildren. It’s clever. Every song is such a toe-tapping good time, magnified with pretty layers of piano, mandolin, banjo, lap steel, heavy drum beats, guitar, and upbeat harmonies, fronted by a booming voice that catalogues a man’s journey through wisdom and metaphor.
–Kyla G.

Bizzaro World
Lifeforce Records
Street: 03.15
Deadlock = Lacuna Coil + Caliban + Dark Tranquility
This is my first experience with Deadlock, and right away, I have to say: what a surprisingly great record. While the concept of Bizzaro World ’s dystopian pains are meant to feel strange and uncomfortable, this album is so tightly structured in its excellence that chaos is far from mind.  “Virus Jones” opens the album with techno samplings before they smash your face in with a rough beat and distorted guitars. Sabine Scherer’s voice comes soaring in the pre-chorus, backing Johannes Prem’s thick deep screams, and it’s a shockingly beautiful and catchy moment. She has that clear-as-a-bell sweetness that you rarely find in metal maidens (except maybe Ashley Ellyllon of Abigail Williams), and it adds a serious layer of emotion. “You Left Me Dead” is part love song, part suicide note, blending piano, crashing guitars, and shadowy drumming. “Falling Skywards” and “Brutal Romance” showcase a bit more of the techno sampling, but it never overwhelms the pure metal beneath. “Paranoia Extravaganza” closes with dark strength, and its evocative vocals will crawl under your skin before you can stop it. The imaginative song construction of this band is worth its weight in gold, and they’ve got a new fan in me. –Megan Kennedy

Roads to Judah
Street: 04.26
Deathwish Inc.
Deafheaven = Boris + Slowdive + Wolves in the Throne Room
On paper, the combination of silky British shoegaze with the relentless clatter of Norwegian black metal seems awful … a foolish experiment in grasping at ’90s cultural touchstones. Regardless, this San-Fran power trio hacks it with spectacular results (and nary a hint of irony). Blanketed in chiming guitars and an understated swirling lushness, opening track “Violet” lulls the listener into a long, tranquil stupor before rousing them awake with a bursting bombast of rasping, black metal-fury. The album sustains this pattern seamlessly throughout its four dizzying tracks, dancing back and forth between breathy Slowdive-esque wonder and cacophonic explosions à la Burzum, varying in tempo but never losing its permeating ethereality. It’s an arduous aural journey, one that may discourage impatient listeners, but those who embrace its exhaustiveness will find it quite rewarding. Bewildering, primal and obstinately beautiful, this risky sonic experiment pays off. –Dylan Chadwick

Deep Sleep
Turn Me Off
Grave Mistake
Street: 03.04
Deep Sleep = All + Verbal Assault + Chemical People
Having released more 7”s than the Sub Pop Singles Club, Maryland’s melodious pop-creeps finally make the jump to full-length LP. Don’t be fooled by the extra 5”s of wax, though … this little bugger plays plenty fast and ends before you can say “Descendents worship.” More polished than previous records, Turn Me Off finds itself treading some familiar ground without being too derivative of their forbearers. Nick Vance’s urgent quasi-surf leads are more pronounced than ever, exploring new territory and fleshing out the songs while Mike Stearns’ tightly controlled, cymbal-heavy drumming keeps it all in check. Never shy about their influences (“Be with You” channels Milo Aukerman in a 50-second light-speed love song, and “Nothing Inside” features the unashamedly pilfered riff from “Rise Above”), nor willing to simply regurgitate, it’s endearingly catchy cuts like “Play Another” that showcase high caliber, melody-drenched punk done with brilliance. –Dylan Chadwick

Dennis Coffey
Dennis Coffey
Street: 04.25
Dennis Coffey = Isaac Hayes + early Carlos Santana
Funk OG Dennis Coffey (Marvin Gaye, Temptations, Parliament) revisits some of the classic records he played on decades ago, reinterpreting them with a synthesis of the heady sounds of the 70s. The guest vocalists–such as Mayer Hawthorne and Mick Collins of the Dirtbombs—are superbly chosen; there are no gratuitous Timbaland collaborations here. Coffey shows a touch of stylistic diversity with the days-long echoing guitar of “I Bet You,” but for the most part, plays wailing, fuzzed-out leads as if each note were his last. The weakest songs are the Coffey-penned instrumental jams, but the spot-on sensibility of the other tracks more than makes up for them. –Nate Housley

The Donkeys
Born With Stripes
Dead Oceans
Street: 04.26
The Donkeys = Vetiver + Mountain Goats + Ryan Adams?
This shit is fucking corny. It is kind of a shame, because the instrumentals are really good in some of the songs, but the contrived, corny fucking lyrics sort of ruin it. The lead singer’s delivery of the “Baby it’s true/I’m in love with you” chorus really fucking kills the bluesy (and coolest-sounding song on the album), “Bloodhound.” I kind of knew this album was going to suck when the Ryan Adams-sounding (late in his career, not Heartbreaker) “I Like the Way that You Walk” rhymed “things that you do” with “you like honeydew.” This guy is a fucking pussy. –Cody Hudson

Drifting In Silence
Labile Records
Street: 02.15
Drifting In Silence = New Age Music + Rejected Tron Soundtrack + Ambient EDM
Darkness descends and out of a ring of fire steps ... the Terminator. Stay calm, dude—he’s not here to kill, he is here to hand out drugs at a rave. That’s the image that came to mind as I listened to Lifesounds. This album simultaneously contains elements of industrial music and ambient post-rock. However, the ambience here is not organic—it’s more cyber punk. It’s like the annoying kid with glow sticks who won’t leave you alone when you are high. The vibe on this album is straight out of the 90s—I quickly noticed the outdated synth sounds which comprise this release. Drifting In Silence could easily be the rejected soundtrack to RoboCop. The album’s name, Lifesounds is not accurate, as all I got from this is computer and machine sounds; I didn’t hear any life in it at all.“Rorshach” was the only track that stood out; with its guitar ambience, it was more organic than the rest. I wish I was drifting in silence rather than drifting in this drivel. Lifesounds would be a fitting soundtrack for sleeping. –Tom Bennett

Ear Pwr
Street: 05.24
Carpark Records
Ear Pwr = The Knife + The Whip + Dance Manatee-era Animal Collective
After a few listens to this album, I still couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  It’s not that it’s outright terrible, it’s just more of a … near miss.   I can hear what they’re going for, and there is potential for it to be OK (if I feel like being nice about it), but it seems like they’ll need to try to step away from their 8-bit Nintendo Gameboys and quit pretending they are a couple of fucking garden gnomes that started an electronica band in order to actually write proper songs that aren’t about living in “tiny cottages” or reflecting on the “Milky Way in my brain.” Pass. –Mary Houdini

Eksi Ekso
Brown Shark Red Lion
The Mylene Sheath
Street: 03.15
Eksi Ekso = David Bowie + TV on the Radio + Q and Not U
For being reduced from a six-piece to a trio, Boston’s Eksi Ekso sound anything but sparse on their sophomore release. Rife with tinkling pianos, warm brass, circuitous rhythms, and occasional flourishes of the orchestral and electronic varieties, the album projects a lofty aural vision and boasts its share of magnificent moments. “Carte de Viste” shimmers like electro-Mogwai and “14 for 3” showcases a stunning vocal harmony. It’s the complexity, however, that sometimes hinders the album, diluting its potential potency into something scattered and unfocused (“Kills of the Flood Tide”) and withholds it from breaking into the soaring coda it so desperately hints at. Still, it’s lyrically compelling (based loosely on the story of a missing 19th-century photographer); it exudes a keen grandeur, and its “can’t-quite-pin-me-down” sensibilities will appeal to many a post-rock weirdo … but a little streamlining would’ve done the trick as well, and for greater results. –Dylan Chadwick

The Famine
The Architects of Guilt
Solid State Records
Street: 02.15
The Famine = The Black Dahlia Murder + Through The Eyes of the Dead
Expectations are high for Southern metal. That region seems to breed excellence in musical brutality like it’s going out of style. The second coming of death metal group The Famine has maintained this standard with a record that gets better every time you spin it. “The New Hell” opens the album with insane blast-beats and ripping screams, setting the bar high early on with their technical prowess. It’s hard to get over the snaking riffs and galloping drums in “We Are The Wolves.” In “VII The Fraudulent,” the screams ride the back of the music like a lunatic jockey, turning this track into a black, groovy trip. The extreme death growls in the breakdown of “A Fragile Peace” instantly drop to the pit of your gut while the guitars shred your nerves. The generous smatterings of Southern sludge throughout make me feel dark in all the right places. I can see the similarities to The Black Dahlia Murder, but truly, The Famine are working out their own sins just fine, and the likeness is only skin-deep. –Megan Kennedy

Forgotten Tomb
Under Saturn Retrograde
Street: 05.10
Forgotten Tomb = Katatonia + Amorphis + Agalloch
Italy’s depressive black/doom quartet Forgotten Tomb’s fifth full-length is probably their most accessible to fans across all genres. Its accessibility is not attributed to catering to easily comprehensible songwriting or music that doesn’t provoke thought—it just means they’re breaking out of their niche. Under Saturn Retrograde really reminds me of a black metal version of Sweden’s Katatonia’s mid-career. The band, known for more of a depressive black metal side, hits more on the doom edge with their new offering. With hints of gothic metal, it may not be as scathingly raw and starkly depressing as the band’s favored album, Springtime Depression. There is a mixing of emotions, from the pissed-off “Shutter” to flat-out rocking “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” to “Joyless”’s” gothic crooning with the later half of the album, beginning with “Under Saturn Retrograde Part II,” hitting on melodic and depressive tones. There are plenty of different musical formats to drench yourself in with Under Saturn Retrograde, just try not to drown in it. –Bryer Wharton

Gang Gang Dance
Eye Contact
Street: 05.09
Gang Gang Dance = Zola Jesus + WIN WIN + Fever Ray
After 2008’s surprisingly successful Saint Dymphna, the NYC collective are back with an absolute masterpiece which condenses and amplifies much of the accessibility of their last album. GGD’s jump to 4AD seems like an appropriate move. Lizzie Bougatsos’s breathy vocals would have fit nicely with 4AD’s roster of dream pop chartreuses. While ephemeral and auxiliary in the past, Bougatsos’ direct vocal stylings on Eye Contact is one of the album’s most prominent vehicles. The other element driving these compositions are GGD’s world music-inspired, polyrhythmic percussion, ’80s synths, warped electronics and Josh Diamond’s heavily processed guitar playing. As expected, the low end is massive, taking cues from eccentric experimental dub, post-rave techno and UK grime. Eye Contact is easily one of the most anticipated and rewarding albums of the year. Gang Gang has simply never sounded better. –Ryan Hall

Get Help
The Good Green Earth
Midriff Records
Street: 05.10
Get Help = R.E.M. + early Built to Spill
In the polyglot landscape of 2010s indie rock, it’s refreshing to hear a band just play some rock songs. Get Help show a strong R.E.M. influence here, complete with keening Mike Mills-esque backup vocals. The thing about just playing songs, though, is that those songs better be good. This album has no bells and whistles to disguise the lackluster songs on it and suffers from the curious choice of burying highlight “A Brittle World” deep in the tracklist. While the album boasts some straightforward, solid indie rock, Get Help never fully escape the shadow of their influences. –Nate Housley

Street: 05.17
Makeshift Music
Glorie = Explosions In The Sky + Tortoise + Mogwai  + Dude Rock For Dudes
This has rad cover art!  And it’s a bunch of good-looking dudes that make arty, moody, instrumental rock!  And it sounds like exactly what you think it would sound like!  All the influences are there, including the cinematic masterpieces.  Their press and bio indicates that they are somewhat musical powerhouses in Memphis that should not be trifled with!  These guys know their stuff!  And it sounds exactly like everything else.   I’m really trying to not be a dick about it, as they have highly respected Memphis musicians who compose works for other more recognized and more esteemed musicians, but have not yet found their own commercial success.  I wish them all the best, but found them ultimately uninteresting.  I am going to go listen to my EITS albums again, thank you. –Mary Houdini

The Golden Dogs
Coat of Arms
Nevado Records
Street: 04.26
 The Golden Dogs = Rilo Kiley + The New Pornographers
Canadian rockers The Golden Dogs are back after a while in hibernation, and have changed direction on their third full-length album. Coat of Arms revives ’70s rock in a very modern and indie way. The album is full of contagious beats, seductive synths and surprise—Jessica Grassia can sing. In fact, some of the album’s more “golden” moments are when Grassia takes the lead. In “Underwater Goldmine,” the combination of her soft voice, Rhodes piano and omnichord lends it a very ethereal quality. Grassia’s vocal stylings in “As Long As You Like,” and “Cheap Umbrellas” are evocative of an earlier Jenny Lewis. However, the songs where Dave Azzolini sings are just as good. “Dear Francis” has a catchy melody and “Old Hat” has a roaring dinosaur of a guitar. From start to finish, the album is unexpectedly fresh, upbeat, energetic and bursting with sunshine. “Coat of Arms” is a perfect listen for any spring adventure—now all they need is a new band name. –Julianna Clay

Ha Ha Tonka
Death of a Decade
Bloodshot Records
Street: 04.05
Ha Ha Tonka = Local Natives + Monsters Of Folk
I kind of hated this album upon initially listening to it. There was something about it that didn't sound right, or maybe it sounded too right, like there was no feeling behind it at all, or something. After about the third rotation, I put on my headphones and listened to it with no distractions of a certain curly-haired boy, the damn Internet, or various other things that easily let my mind wander. I still am not the biggest fan of the first song, "Usual Suspects," as the lead singer almost sounds like Scott Stapp of Creed at times, and that doesn't make anything good. He's also comparing himself to cotton (?!), but the music is driving enough to ignore the lyrics and his voice, and still come out a pretty good tune. Throughout Death of a Decade, the chugging bass line contrasts well with the airy mandolin, and their four-part harmonies are near-perfect. I don't detect any other Scott Stapp moments in the rest of the album, which makes it all that more pleasant to listen to. They have this roots feel to them, but still maintain to sound genuinely happy. "Jesusita" gets a little bit wild, while "Hide It Well" gave me tinglies and the rest of the album sounds better and better the more I listen to it. –Kyla G.

Here We Go Magic
The January EP
Secretly Canadian
Street: 05.10
Here We Go Magic = Yes + the Antlers
Here We Go Magic have been dusting off their Yes records, apparent not just from lead vocalist Luke Temple’s resemblance to Jon Anderson. Since prog rock’s nadir about a decade or so ago, key changes and noodly keyboards have inched their noses back into indie’s tent, albeit without much of the self-seriousness. Here We Go Magic step up the braininess on this, their follow-up EP to their breakthrough sophomore LP, but wisely temper their preciousness with a bit of humor on the tongue-in-cheek witchiness of “Hollywood.” The January EP is original without sacrificing accessibility. –Nate Housley

I Was Totally Destroying It
Greyday Records   
Street: 04.12
I Was Totally Destroying It = Superchunk + Rosebuds + Tsunami
Wow! This band, hailing from Chapel Hill, embodies all the nostalgia that I feel when I think about the old ’90s Merge roster (which makes sense, considering that Merge founders and Superchunk pioneers Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance also hail from Chapel Hill). It’s true that there was a lot of bad music in the ’90s and it was an era that people easily want to forget, but I implore you, dear reader, give this band a shot. It has everything that you want if you are a pop geek. Super happy guitar hooks, driving power chords and playful boy/girl vocals that are heartfelt, personal, and kind of a bummer will invoke sing-alongs for days. I highly recommend “Fight/Flight” for the next time you want to drive around with the top down and pretend you are in an episode of Gossip Girl. –Mary Houdini

Idiot Glee
Street: 06.07
Moshi Moshi Records
Idiot Glee = Saturday Looks Good To Me + Papercuts + Casiotone For The Painfully Alone
While I commend the kids these days for singing regardless of their talent (this takes balls!) I really want to pat them on the back and say, “Listen, it would behoove you to learn to carry a tune.”  Idiot Glee (a.k.a James Friley) has great ambition.  He uses a lot of layered vocals and sweet synths with a pop sensibility that resonates a love of the Beach Boys and Phil Spector and lo-fi bedroom rock that the twee kids go nuts over.  It’s very earnest, brave and seemingly a very personal and private grouping of songs, with thoughtful harmonies and la-la-la’s.  Unfortunately, all the reverb in the world can’t save this, and it’s apparent he’s gluing his project together with effects.  Still, the melodies are great, and the songs have good construction.  Maybe the twee kids will love it. –Mary Houdini

Into Eternity
Buried In Oblivion
Century Media Records
Street: 02.10.2004
Into Eternity = Dream Theater + Opeth
Death/prog heavyweights Into Eternity bring us their third and thus far, strongest studio release with this scarred and symphonic hellscape, a dichotomy of well-blended blast beats and melodic heartbreak. The album’s namesake song is a painful acoustic trip with a choir of soaring clean vocals; the band’s first single, “Spiraling Into Depression,” offers the other end of the spectrum, a thick, thrashing, melodic pit of brimstone where death vocals and precision drumming reign supreme. All at once, the album is heavy and progressive, but also catchy and lacking the feeling of negativity that can weigh down death metal to outsiders. And therein lies the true power of this band and album, methinks: their ability (and bravery) to see just how far metal can stretch across the emotional gradient. –Megan Kennedy

John Brodeur
Tiger Pop Ten
Mr. Duck Records
Street: 04.05
John Brodeur = Sondre Lerche + Rufus Wainwright + Ozma
John Brodeur is a rare commodity in music today: a pop artist who exhibits a great deal of musical skill. Just listening to his new album, Tiger Pop Ten, you can tell the guy knows his way around a fretboard. It might be a slight misrepresentation to call this collection of songs “new,” though. With the exception of the piano ballad opener “Masterpiece,” every song on this album is a reworked version of the songs on his album, Tiger Pop, which was released 10 years ago (thus, the name). Both albums are included in the two-disc release, apparently so that you can chart his musical improvement over the last decade. Unfortunately, some of the tracks may not have been worth resurrecting. Most of the lyrics are the sort of juvenile love musings you would expect from Ozma or Weezer. –CG

The Kills
Blood Pressures
Domino Records
Street: 04.05
The Kills = The Dead Weather + Eagles of Death Metal + Spinnerette + The Black Keys
Blood Pressures finds Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince pushing their signature bare bones sound in a fuller and more dynamic direction. The guitars remain gritty and raw on the majority of tracks and the drum machine that backs the two-piece band continues to drive it forward, but Moshart’s voice feels more forceful than on earlier albums—possibly a result of her time with Jack White and The Dead Weather. “Future Starts Slow” opens the album with a solid drumbeat before Mosshart’s vocals cut in and begin crooning, “You can holler, you can wail, you can swing, you can flail.” It’s a great introduction to the undeniable catchiness of everything that is to come on Blood Pressures. Although the album sounds dramatically different from The Kills’ early work, the fuller sound is a welcome change and seems like a natural progression for Mosshart and Hince. Blood Pressures perfectly combines nasty grit, sultry sex bomb style and raw emotional intensity in a tight little package. Buy this one on vinyl. –Jeanette D. Moses

King Creosote
Domino Recording Co.
Street: 02.22
King Creosote = Mason Jennings + (Fleetwood Mac – Stevie Nicks)
Don’t you hate it when you’re the last person in the world to find out about something cool? Despite the fact that he’s well known in his homeland of Scotland and has, in the span of only 13 years, released nearly 40 albums (you read right), I’d never heard of King Creosote until I got this album to review. Thrawn is a collection of songs from Kenny Anderson’s entire career, which he has re-recorded to market to North Americans who, like me, haven’t heard him. You’ll find a little bit of just about every genre on this disc, from the bossa pop of opener “Bootprints” to the adult contemporary pop of “Homeboy.” One thing that is consistent throughout the album is the clear and beautiful vocals of Anderson. “My Favourite Girl” is the sweet lullaby song I’d like to sing to my daughter if I ever accidentally had children. –CG

Memory Map
Holiday Band
Joyful Noise
Street: 05.10
Holiday Band = Q and Not U + Animal Collective
Memory Map take a strong cue from math rock, but from the tempo changes and pointillist guitar work emerge melodic anthems worthy of their earnest vocal treatments. The songs, often not much longer than 2:30, zip by in a flash of guitar pyrotechnics. Memory Map will appeal to a broader audience than just the Dismemberment Plan fans, and that’s due to the heart hidden underneath the spiky guitars. The climax of the album is the outstanding closer “Protection Clause,” which is not coincidentally, also the most personal. –Nate Housley

Mock Orange
Disguised As Ghosts
Wednesday Records
Street: 04.12
Mock Orange = MGMT + Arcade Fire + Paul Simon’s Surprise
Anyone who is a fan of the modern psych-pop indie rock movement has probably been awaiting the newest release from the Evansville, Indiana band Mock Orange. You won’t be disappointed. It can’t be said that Disguised as Ghosts is a departure from their former material, but who needs it to be? They had perfected the kind of dance pop that made bands like MGMT famous well before MGMT was around, only Mock Orange specializes in fusing their songs with traditional folk underpinnings. “Going Away” almost sounds like a John Denver song that you can show your friends without being embarrassed. On “Silent Motion,” they not only make 7/4 time feel natural and comfortable, but also pull off using mandolin and banjo as staple instruments in a rock song. This album is essential. –CG

My Inner Burning
Eleven Scars
Street: 03.22
My Inner Burning = Within Temptation + Lacuna Coil
I hear a lot of potential in the second release from this band, but sadly, Eleven Scars feels like a roller coaster that never quite made it over the first steep drop. Becky’s voice is powerful and evocative, and she shows her incredible precision on “Masquerade,” a strong introduction. But the album seems to collapse into mediocrity after that, repeating its verse-chorus-verse setup, stuttering downtuned guitars and boring double bass from the drummer. Melancholy ballad “When I’m Gone” is easily the strongest song on the album; Becky’s voice will break your heart, and the harmonizing, quiet guitars remind me of Opeth’s melodies. “Electrified” sounds exactly like its title, drowning in keyboards, making the result more goth than metal. And what’s the deal with the awkwardly placed death metal screams from guitarist Daniel Pietrzak? That’s one hell of a growl he’s got; he shouldn’t be hiding in the chorus. The band’s energy is great, but it’s just going nowhere for me as a metalhead. They are trying to touch on too many genres, and end up not hitting the mark on any of them. –Megan Kennedy

Nader Sadek
In the Flesh
Season of Mist
Street: 05.17
Nader Sadek = Morbid Angel + Nile + Mayhem
Pulse: my heart is still beating. Breath: air still incoming my lungs. Muscles: I can at least move my big toe. Hell, I think I may have just had a seizure—I just attempted to digest the black, oily, metallic substance that is Nader Sadek’s In the Flesh. Backstory of the band: Its concepts and players I leave that to you, the reader, to seek out. The more mysterious this record is, the better, and I have no place in ruining any first impressions that listeners may gather. Nothing about In the Flesh is run-of-the-mill—you’ll remember the songs once they blitz-attack you like a hundred wolves descending on an unsuspecting flock of sheep. This album is like a drug. Memories of its bestial gnawings will linger, but it’s truly like the need for a smoker to huff in their tobacco flavor of choice, or a heroin addict’s obsession with how to get the next fix. The uncanny ability of this album is its way to build up a stronghold in your brain stem, but still require regular auditory experiences to man the stronghold. The truly scary thing about Nader Sadek is that the album is just its starting point—promised visual treats to the sonic deviousness in form of recorded and live creations have only begun to be unleashed. –Bryer Wharton

Of Legends
Season of Mist
Street: 03.29
Of Legends = Hatebreed + pre-calculus Meshuggah+ Winter Solstice
I can’t blame metal bands for wanting to emulate Meshuggah’s chug rhythms of doom, though it would be nice if one of them could try and make it interesting. Such is the case with this metal debut of Luis Duboc of The Secret Handshake fame. He brings us Stranded, a metalcore album that he has written and performed himself, aside from the beneficent addition of Travis Orbin’s impressive drumming. While Duboc is clearly a master of his instruments and offers us a sharp and technically solid production, his crossover into metal leaves me without the emotional thrashing required to make an impact. Aside from a few painfully short Dillinger Escape Plan-esque creative outbursts, the two-minute songs bleed together in an almost fundamental expression of what I imagine metal must sound like to an outsider. He has a solid scream, but his choice to go monotone only flattens his voice against the sound of the drop-tuned guitars like a corpse catapulted at a fortress wall, and his lyrical outrages against assimilation and worship of a false god feel … well, false.  By album’s end, I’d forgotten most of what I’d heard, and my only desire was to check out Orbin’s other projects. –Megan Kennedy

One Win Choice
Jump Start
Street: 03.01
One Win Choice = Kid Dynamite + Against Me! + Comeback Kid
Even if they plucked their name directly from a Little League coach’s motivational manual, Conveyor is every bit a mature sophomore release. Cutting their teeth on multiple tours over the past few years, this Jersey quintet has developed a “tighter-than-a-duck’s-rear” musicality and a caustic sense of potent melody that saturates the album. Opening track “Movement,” with its massively infectious chant-back, sets the precedent and they’re at their most tunefully fervent on songs like “Places” and “Act Your Age.” Now, most hardcore bands shouldn’t make full-lengths (never say in 10 songs what can be said in five!) and for the Ritalin chompers, their occasional forays into slower, more thematically shifting numbers (“Ocean, Luzerne, Monroe”) might choke the momentum a bit, but as a whole, the album excels as a triumphant slab of sing-along basement hardcore with a head and a voice. –Dylan Chadwick

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo
Cotonou Club
Street: 03.28
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo = Fela kuti + James Brown + Tony Allen
Orchestre Poly Rythmo has been a buried treasure in Benin since the late 60s. It wasn't until 2004 that their afrobeat-jazz-soul-psych-voodoo-funk spread to the West with the help of two labels, Soundway and Analog Africa, who each released a collection of archives. With newfound fame, the 10-piece band reformed with five original members and recorded their first album in 20 years. Recorded in Paris, Cotonou Club finds the group with new material and revisiting some of their classics, like “Gbeti Madjro.” The album opens with the punchy horn section and snappy guitar-driven “Ne Te Faches Pas,” while “Pardo” is drenched in vicious blasts of organ. “Von Vo Nono” is lined with layers of voodoo-psych. The real gem, “Lion Is Burning,” is tucked away at the end and features self-proclaimed fans Paul Thomas and Nick McCarthy of Franz Ferdinand. –Courtney Blair

The Orion Experience              
NYC Girl EP   
Street: 04.15
The Orion Experience = David Cassidy Cover Band
I know one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover—or in this case, an EP, by its dreadfully conceived cover, because sometimes, the content or here, the music inside, is better than the packaging it came in.  Fortunately, this is the case with the New York City-based quintet The Orion Experience.  Having said that, however, the light and, at times, cloyingly sweet music here is best taken in smaller doses, which is why this EP is just about the right length.  Led by the 70s disco-tinged title track, the band’s sound is breezy and they don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and this laidback approach makes them appear to be a cover band rather than an actual group. NYC Girl’s five tracks are credited to the whole band: lead singer and frontman Orion Simprini, lead singer and keyboardist Linda Horwatt, lead guitarist Reef Roxx, bassist Chris Lucas and drummer Jon Weber, and they are clearly talented, but I would prefer to have Horwatt’s voice more prominent in the mix.  The unoriginal (in theme at least) “Vampire and Rollercoaster” are both catchy, if not a tad predictable, but the too short “Sweet Friend,” lead by Horwatt, simply ends too abruptly.  I’d bet they would do justice to a disco cover tune, but in a Glee-dominated pop world, this seems as uninspired as the band appears to be themselves. –Dean O Hillis

Other Lives
Tamer Animals
tdb Records
Street: 05.17
Other Lives = Sigur Rós + Goodspeed You! Black Emperor
If in need of a burning swell to kickstart your heart, then I recommend Other Lives second album, Tamer Animals. Force-feeding an ethereal reverberation complete with strings and horns could have you wondering if you’ve died, and despite common threats to the contrary, landed yourself in heaven. From the first bouncy bellows in "Dark Horse" to the gentle instrumental death of "Head East," each track is layered with a familiar thump that closely resembles that powerful muscle which gives you life. Title track "Tamer Animals" is a constant push of faultless harmony which bleeds into the next track and then into the next in an indefinable separation of each tone. It’s more than music; it’s an atmosphere where every stroke of the piano key, every pull of the bow and every tiny noted nuance is perfectly crafted to make the body come together as a whole, because one part simply couldn't work without the other. –Liz Lucero

Pet Shop Boys
The Most Incredible Thing   
Street: 03.22
The Most Incredible Thing = Pet Shop Boys + Tchaikovsky + disco
I have to confess that I don’t have much knowledge of classical music—This doesn’t mean I don’t like what I hear—it is just not my cup of tea. If Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe only made dance and pop music that was lacking in classical elements, I would have been more apprehensive about this release, which is their original score for a contemporary ballet based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. My apprehension was unfounded, thankfully, since this is essentially still a Pet Shop Boys release, and it is by turns (or should that be pirouettes?) interesting, thought-provoking and above all, enjoyably listenable. By mixing classical elements (quite beautifully rendered with orchestrations by Sven Helbig and conducted by Dominic Wheeler) with striking electronic ones and occasional voices, this album makes for a riveting listening experience. Mr. Tennant’s unmistakable voice is heard fairly early in the score, midway through the mesmerizing “The Grind,” although truthfully, there is nothing that could be construed as single-worthy here. There is drama and pathos in the music and elements of surprise in this ballet for sure, but what resonates the longest is a buoyant happiness that continually rises to the top. Which for a mostly classical piece, may be the most incredible thing of all. –Dean O Hillis

Psychedelic Horseshit
FatCat Records
Street: 05.10
Psychedelic Horseshit = Black Lips + M.I.A + Desertion on a desert island
Matt Whitehurst, aka Matt Horseshit of Psychedelic Horseshit calls his style of music, “Shitgaze.” If the artist himself calls it as such, who am I to say it’s not. Hell, he proved it to me, just listen! “Shitgaze” is a play on the genre of shoegaze, with the latter being lush and sonic guitar-driven ambient rock music. “Shitgaze,” as it’s presented here on the Laced L.P., is lo-fi jungle psych noise pop. Laced is replete with melodies accompanied by sonic freakouts and audio hallucinations. The album is a cloudy, inversion-like confusion, though it’s not entirely unpleasant. In the book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, an LSD chemist takes too large of a dose and finds himself shifting through time and ultimately having to rebuild the universe with his mind. Laced would be a fitting soundtrack for the early stages of such an endeavor. “Tropical Vision,” with its sun-scorched guitar melody, is like the rantings of a madman on a deserted island listening to the tribal drums coming his way, considering his impending doom. “Another Side,” a neo-folk track with a nice harmony, was the most musical track on the LP. Laced is what drum circles sound like on Mars. I would advise listening to it when you’re not actually tripping but just need to make your day a little more interesting. –Tom Bennett

The Raveonettes
Raven in the Grave
Vice Records
Street: 04.05
The Raveonettes = Panda Bear + Siouxsie & The Banshees + A Place to Bury Strangers + The Jesus and Mary Chain
From opening track “Recharge & Revolt,” it’s clear that Raven in the Grave is remarkably different than the music that came before it. The sunny, radiating surf sound found on earlier Raveonettes albums is noticeably absent and has been replaced with lo-fi vocals, synths that barely shimmer over the surface and an ethereal sound created by loads of feedback. “Forget that You’re Young,” and “Let Me On Out” are some of the only tracks that resemble the group’s earlier work. Although the album takes a huge leap in a different sonic direction, it maintains a feeling of enchantment and wonder. Raven in the Grave isn’t as catchy as earlier work—it will take quite a few careful listens to fully devour these songs, but ultimately, it’s worth it. The Raveonettes may have ditched some of their pop hooks, but the result is beautiful songs that feel dreamier and more like lullabies than anything that they’ve done before. –Jeanette D. Moses

Lightweight Bi-Polar Mania
H.Q. The Change Factory
Street: 07.02.2010
Roch = Cee-Lo + Outkast + P.O.S.
In hip hop today, to make a solo album that’s consistently awesome requires something special.  You have to be an amazingly talented producer (RJD2), a soulful vocal virtuoso (Cee-Lo), or one damn fine lyricist  (Jay-Z).  Roch’s first solo effort has some pretty solid beats produced by some talented musicians, and the rest is up to him.  Both the singing and rhyming on this record, while showing great versatility, may have stretched this artist too thin.  The songs are generally dark with trip-hoppy, almost NIN-esque beats and heavy, deep synth and gritty, soulful crooning.  I found myself wishing for more raps rather than more singing, though.  When he really flows like on “Hard Times” and “On Everything Lude,” Roch nails it with nice rhythms and some great punchlines.  Some, like “A Beautiful Curse,” even had me almost humming along.  But overall, the singing and heavy bass cause this record to blend together.  All the choruses seem to have similar melodies and I’d like to see him branch out.  While the whole album did grow on me, nothing ended up addictively listenable.  –Rio Connelly

Satan’s Host
By The Hands of the Devil
Street: 05.03
Satan’s Host = Mercyful Fate + Nevermore + Mayhem
Straight-up evil heavy metal – black metal – thrash metal? You want it all? You’ve got it with Satan’s Host’s By The Hands of the Devil, this Denver, Colorado, band’s eighth studio album. The album is a reunion of sorts—Satan’s Host has been trouncing out black/death/thrash albums since 2000, but back in ’86, they released their debut with Leviathan Thirsen, otherwise known as Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, who went on to see fame in Jag Panzer. Be it known, this album is not all about Conklin returning, no matter how great his vocal feat on this record is, all artists associated in the album propel this album to lofty heights. Picture some raging black metal tune inspiring all the violence and darkness your black heart desires, but instead of a scowl, you have high falsetto vocals—once the first track hits, it makes things deemed “epic” theses days look like a tiny crumb in comparison to the heavy blasting fun this record delivers. It kicks like a mule and fights like a wolverine injected with steroids. This is the epitome of classic heavy metal styles meeting modern production and I can’t stop listening. –Bryer Wharton

Scar Symmetry
The Unseen Empire
Nuclear Blast
Street: 05.17
Scar Symmetry = Soilwork + In Flames + Nightingale
Ah, melo-death metal—a term used to describe modernized melodic death metal, no—not the stuff from the early 90s that At The Gates and In Flames started, which became not only a scene revolution in Gothenburg, Sweden, but all over the world. If you have no taste for melo-death, then you have never listened to bands like Scar Symmetry or the much-touted band they “supposedly” ripped off, Soilwork. There’s something about catchy melodies with just as catchy vocal and guitar hooks that are hard to resist, especially for fans of more accessible, less-raw sounding metal. The production for The Unseen Empire is near pristine and mostly, the album sticks to the meat n’ potatoes of melo-death here; there are some keys and intermitted pop in from time to time, but the guitars crunch as much as they fly into nicely done melodic work. The two vocalists, clean and harsh, work off each other’s strengths. This is a nice return to the sound of Scar Symmetry’s pinnacle album, Holographic Universe: clean, heavy, and melodic, and will stick in your head long after the album’s done. Fans of modern metal, apply to The Unseen Empire. –Bryer Wharton

Dead House
What Delicate Recordings
Street: 05.17
Screens = Local Natives + Harlem Shakes + early Modest Mouse + Menomena
It’s hard to make general statements about Screens. They have a different sound from song to song, but one thing they have in common is that they’re all pretty strange. Musically, they often resemble modern indie-rock bands like Local Natives and Menomena, only instead of singing over the material, vocalist Breck Brunson usually chooses to scream and holler through a lot of reverb and sometimes fuzzy distortion. When his performance is melodic, it resembles Geoff Rickly of Thursday a little bit. Portions of the album are spent in arrhythmic noise sessions that build tension before the next rambunctious rock song or synth-driven dance track. Their experimentations aren’t self-gratifying nonsense, though. Every second of this album is genuinely enjoyable to listen to, which is rare for bands trying to do something bizarre and loud. –CG

Shannon and The Clams
Sleep Talk
1-2-3-4 Go!
Street: 04.05
Shannon and The Clams = The Fresh & Onlys + Hunx and his Punx
Sincere and straight out of the ’60s, Sleep Talk is something to behold. It sounds like the Fresh & Onlys’ less aggressive songs (think “August in my Mind”), with a bit of doo-wop mixed in. Half of the album sounds like a Del Shannon B-side, which hopefully excites you. The highlight of the album for most Utahns will hopefully be “The Cult Song,” which seems to be an anti-Mormon anthem (name-dropping Moroni and Nephi). These upbeat-sounding downtrodden love songs are really enjoyable—it should be a perfect summer album as our bipolar spring is on its way out. (Urban: 05.08)  –Cody Hudson

Bad Time Zoo
Street: 02.15
Sims = Sage Francis + P.O.S. + Atmosphere
Producers are doing some very interesting things in hip-hop these days, and Doomtree’s Lazerbeak is on the cutting edge. On his solo release last year, Legend Recognize Legend, he showed a knack for huge, dramatic beats. I mention this first because every first-rate MC needs a foundation of incredible production to work over and Lazerbeak did every single beat for Sims’ new record, Bad Time Zoo. As a result, the feel and rhythm of this record is complex, with choral vocal samples on “Future Shock” and a dominant saxophone melody on “Burn It Down.” There’s also an influence of world music with diverse instrumentation on many songs—pan pipes, xylophones, cowbell and trumpet all mixed with tight snare and crisp, thumping bass. Sims himself is flawless—lip-blisteringly quick flows with his characteristic scratchy staccato delivery make the rich sonic landscapes just that—a background. “Too Much” and “Good Times” and the relatively quiet (yet somehow vast) “When It Rolls In” are particular favorites. Our world feels increasingly like one giant food chain in an urban savannah and Sims’ lyrics are like war chants to blast through your headphones as you go out and face it. Another great release from the Doomtree collective. (Kilby/Urban: 05.12) –Rio Connelly

Staccato du Mal
Sin Destino
Street: 03.22
Staccato du Mal = (Hawaiian Pups + Clan of Xymox) X Visage ÷ Wire
Well written and performed, yet marred by a fuzzy, muddled live recording from analog instruments, this album by the Florida-based, Chilean/Venezuelan Ramiro Jeancarlo (Opus Finis) could have been a dark synthpop gem. It opens with the beautifully complex “Walls Fade,” a (subconscious?) tribute to Visage’s “Fade to Grey.” Subsequent tracks recall Peter Howell’s 1980 “Doctor Who Theme,” or the hyperweirdness of experimental new romantic wavers Hawaiian Pups and Spoons. The fuzz on Foto Archivo comes on so strong, it is painful and dizzifying (especially through headphones), which makes me think the effect was intentional, but instead, it is simply distracting. Even with the layer of noise, the whole effort is worth a listen if you can handle it. I really want to hear this rerecorded and mastered with clean sound; minimalism and the cold edge sound are not improved by fuzzy experimental production, and it’s unfortunate, because the source material is engaging, danceable, and really, very good. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Times Of Grace
The Hymn Of A Broken Man
Roadrunner Records
Street: 01.28
Times Of Grace = Killswitch Engage - Howard Jones + All That Remains
Patience is a virtue, or so I’m inclined to believe, now that former Killswitch Engage frontman Jesse Leach has finally brought us Times of Grace, his long-incubating project with Adam Dutkiewicz. “Strength In Numbers” opens the album with a one-two punch of sharp military drumming and speedy licks before Jesse’s voice erupts like a prophet addressing his masses. “Where The Spirit Leads Me” sounds like a missing “Alive Or Just Breathing?” cut with windblown clean over gravel-deep vocals, tricky guitar work and thumping drums; it’s catchy as hell and lingers in your brain. “The Forgotten One” is a fantastic ballad, and the acoustic guitars and lonesome cowboy feel of it only makes the vocal harmonies stronger. Mosh pit fiends will love the fist-in-the-air anthem “Fight For Life” and the fiendish shredding of “Hope Remains.” “Until The End Of Days” is a forceful dichotomy, beginning with dreamy chords and clean singing before it drops into a death metal hell of thick screams, merciless drums and discordant minor notes. It’s not reinventing metal, but I dare say it is a masterpiece just the same, and it’s right where Jesse Leach belongs. –Megan Kennedy

w h o k i l l
Street: 04.19
tUne-YarDs = S.L.F.M + Sister Suvi
Merrill Garbus, aka tUne-YarDs, has had an exhausting touring schedule over the last few years, opening for Sunset Rubdown, Dirty Projectors, Thao Nguyen and Xiu Xiu just in the last couple years (all of whom came to Salt Lake). One of the biggest complaints you will hear about her (not from me) is that her first album was too lo-fi to really showcase the incredible voice you will hear at her live show. This album will leave nobody complaining. All of the shortfalls of the first album (most of which was recorded with a handheld voice recorder) have been overcome and all of the new songs (which you may have seen performed, if you have seen her in the last year) are catchier and more well written. The single “Bizness” has had a ton of Internet buzz, but my personal favorite has to be “Powa”—with its incredibly simple song structure, it will be stuck in your head for days. –Cody Hudson

The Tunnel
Fathoms Deep
Glorious Alchemical
Street: 04.05
The Tunnel = Swans + Nick Cave
Gritty rockers The Tunnel are back for another round with their second album, Fathoms Deep. Much like their debut album, Carver Brothers Lullaby, they keep it simple with dirty guitars and a predictable crack of the bass drum. Because making personal reflections of every horrible mistake into a dark, sludgy drinking jam is something close to talent, The Tunnel could have the capacity to be your new favorite bar band. Especially with Jeff Wagner’s awkward croaks disguised as vocals, which create a sound that can only be good a few drinks in. In track “The Best Catcher,” Wagner’s vocal mockery is reserved enough. The listener is able to get wrapped up in the damp, whiskey-soaked chaos or “Fathomless Deep” a track that creates a dynamic instrumental trip, which embodies a promising glimpse into what could be a favorable direction for the band, an awesome silence of Wagner’s voice. However close they come to sounding like an actual band, instead of Wanger’s failed endeavor of mimicking Nick Cave, we should all raise a glass and drink (because you are gonna need it) to The Tunnel. –Liz Lucero

Alchemic Heart
Street: 03.01
Vampillia = Swans + Philip Glass x This Mortal Coil
Comprising only two tracks but running 50 minutes, this album by a little-known orchestra from Osaka, Japan, along with members of The Boredoms, is not for the ADHD generation. “Sea” features the legendary songstress Jarboe (Swans) breathily intoning over a slow-building swell of orchestral layers mixed by Merzbow that pick up around 11:25, as both orchestra and singer launch into a beautiful lyrical maelstrom. The ocean may be a metaphor for sex, but this is both stormier and prettier than it is sexy. “Land” is crafted from the same source material as “Sea,” but it is quite different: a digital noize reinterpretation, with the same layers creating a beautiful cacophony of the previous track’s lyricism. I once heard an apocryphal story about a Japanese musician attending a Western orchestral performance. After the discordant tune-up, he clapped wildly, to the dismay of the Westerners, who didn’t consider the preliminary noise to be music. Land is that tune-up, set to shine against black velvet earth. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Various Artists
Mortal Kombat: Songs Inspired by the Warriors
Watertower Music
Street: 04.05
Mortal Kombat = Cold Blank + Wolfgang Gartner + Doctor P
Produced by JFK from MSTRKRFT and Death From Above 1979, this album is comprised of 12 original songs based on characters’ themes from Mortal Kombat. The striking thing about this compilation is the diversity of the producers who signed on, but the album is fairly hit or miss. The biggest miss is Skrillex’s track, which sounds just like every other horrible song he’s ever produced. This guy has one gimmick—he glitches the fuck out of every womp—and he beat it to death a while ago. Congorock’s track has the same problem, in that it sounds like every Congorock track I’ve ever heard. However, there are some standout tracks, notably those by TOKiMONSTA (from Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label), who is making big waves right now, as well as Them Jeans’ track, which is a sweet and original blend of house with some dub elements, and Felix Cartal’s track, which gives an excellent example of his remarkably original brand of progressive electro-house. It’s a fascinating album, and worth picking up for the good parts.
 –Jessie Wood

Street: 05.03
Wormrot = Brutal Truth + Insect Warfare + Napalm Death
The latest release from Singapore’s Wormrot should include a universal sticker that you can place over the play button on your audio-playing device that simply says “pwn’d.” That’s damn well what Dirge is going to do to you—not only when you’ve given it a full spin but within the first five minutes of listening to the new offering. Dirge is anything but a dirge—once you click “pwn’d,” you’re in for a hell of a ride of pure ultra-violent grindcore—no frills—no fucking around—eyeballs blowing out of their sockets and bleeding ears ferocity in speed-shredding-drum kit annihilation (who needs a bassist) bliss. If you were one of the lucky few to catch Wormrot play at Raunch Records in March, Dirge puts into perspective the very aspect of the live quality of the band, which is what they sound like on record. Well, except for the fact that live, the drummer has to stop and catch his breath every few minutes. Keep in mind that the drumming is one of Wormrot’s best qualities, showing it’s not just all about grindcore blasting, but executing that percussion to near-perfection. Dirge just may be the best grindcore record you hear all year. –Bryer Wharton

Candlelight Records
Street: 05.03
Xerath = Meshuggah + film score + Dimmu Borgir
The aptly titled second release from symphonic death metal band Xerath hits like a sledgehammer to the knuckles, fearlessly combining elements from progressive, thrash and even cinematic scores into a brutal, soaring trip, albeit not in a powerful enough way to really stick in your mind. The album’s mixing lends weight to this unique collective, letting the vocals accompany rather than lead. Opening track “Unite to Defy” sets the stage with symphonics that rise like toxic gas to bone-crunching drums and guitar stutters. Richard Thomson’s voice is a demonic rip in their sound, reminiscent of Heaven Shall Burn, a surprisingly effective counter to the sludgy strings. Xerath never lets the symphonic overwhelm the metal: “Numbered Among the Dead” is an excellent showcase of their ability to balance, creating fierce atmosphere where lesser musicians might only find chaos. Ultimately, however, the album is lacking in memorable moments. When all was said and done, ravaged though my ears were, nothing stuck in my head for long. –Megan Kennedy

Young Widows
In and Out of Youth and Lightness
Temporary Residence
Street: 04.12
Young Widows = Swans + Liars + Coliseum
Largely abandoning the Jesus Lizard-influenced weirdo swagger found on 2008’s Old Wounds, Young Widows have become slower, darker, creepier and noisier on their latest effort. Created in the wake of vocalist/guitarist Evan Patterson’s divorce, In and Out of Youth and Lightness is cold and distant, maintaining a detached ambiance throughout the album’s 48 minutes. Patterson’s guitar and bassist Nick Thieneman provide a constant buzz rather than the jerky riffs of previous albums, as each instrument seems to creep above Jeremy McMonigle’s constant drumming to provide only fleeting licks before being devoured once again by the noise. Repeat listens reveal that these songs are actually incredibly well crafted and do indeed include catchy moments (most apparent on “Young Rivers,” “Lean on the Ghost” and “In and Out of Youth”), but this is still a dark album that can be an instant bummer—in a good way (at least you’re feeling something, right?).  It may take old fans a while to appreciate In and Out of Youth and Lightness, but it is well worth the patience. (Burt’s: 06.03) –Ricky Vigil