National CD Reviews

Street: 10.04
Absu = Melechesh + Mercyful Fate + Desaster
Texas-based Absu have been turning heads in every direction from the get-go for over a decade. Abzu’s playing time is almost half that of their previous effort, but its intensity has already ruptured my eardrums in so many ways. My first little spin with Abzu completely liquefied my brain. It’s faster than fast. It takes a bit of comprehension—I’ve forgotten how many times I’ve listened to the album and I’m still trying to fully grasp its not-so-plain intensity. There is a reason Absu are on the tongues of the entire metal world: They can craft something that completely transfixes its listener into a fully attentive state, the music taking hold like some pleasurable parasite. The record’s production—not overproduction—is about as pristine as metal can get. Every little nuance sounds like you’re sitting in the room with the trio while they’re playing the album flawlessly. When it’s all over, all I can do is place my hands in a triangular fashion and mutter evilly, “Excellent.” –Bryer Wharton

Amen Dunes
Through Donkey Jaw
Sacred Bones Records
Street: 08.16
Amen Dunes = Velvet Underground + Suicide + Syd Barrett
This is a drug-induced, psychedelic freak-folk ride that requires some close listening, so go ahead and put on your headphones and get ready for a long overdue trip. The songs on Through Donkey Jaw are haunted like an abandoned hotel in middle America, drenched in reverb, where you have been left behind to uncover the lost confessions of Damon McHahon, the man behind Amen Dunes. The vocal chants and lingering drones on songs like “Not a Slave” and “For All” will leave you gasping for air. The curtains are pulled back briefly on “Good Bad Dreams,” allowing a moment of natural sun, and “Christopher” is soul-crushing with the lyrics, “I heard your stories/And nobody cares/Are you fit for my mind?” The 10-minute-plus “Tomorrow Never Knows” promises to linger in the distance, but pulls you in when you least expect it. Through Donkey Jaw proves to be both a disturbing and compelling piece of work that  deserves a listen. –Courtney Blair

Like Shadows
No Idea
Street: 08.16
Ampere = Orchid + Funeral Diner + Born Against + Pg. 99
Even if Like Shadows is Ampere’s crispest recording (and their first full-length), it’s still a dense affair, rooted in 90s screamo (the good kind, not the swoopy haired kind) and DIY iconoclasm. Pursuing the cathartic exuberance established on past releases (notably 2004’s seminal All Our Tomorrows End Today), Like Shadows is a typically lo-fi emotional barrage in which songs rarely exceed 40 seconds, wayward hisses, squeals and strains mask melodic undertones, and lyrics sustain a fluttering balance between misanthropic bleakness and wild-eyed defiance. Ampere prove masters of their craft, beating everything into corybantic frenzy, while somehow maintaining some semblance of control. Untrained ears may struggle with the mix (drums up high, vocals deep down fighting amongst the guitars) but there are no throwaways here. Repeat listeners willing to dig deep will find 14 cuts of passionate fury congealed below the surface of Ampere’s best work in years. –Dylan Chadwick

Andrew Jackson Jihad
Knife Man
Asian Man Records
Street: 09.20
Andrew Jackson Jihad = Defiance, Ohio + Neutral Milk Hotel + Bobby Joe Ebola
Arizona is a land of suburban sprawl, heat and hate—the unrelenting sun bakes the state’s residents into fits of violent stupidity and melts their brains into a mucky sludge of intolerance. It is the perfect breeding ground for punk rock. Phoenix natives Andrew Jackson Jihad create a brand of punk that is sincere, sarcastic and just plain fucked up. Knife Man, their fourth full-length, opens with a 22-second song titled “The Michael Jordan of Drunk Driving,” encapsulating the band’s dark humor and folksy sentiments—a perfect introduction into the world of AJJ. Sean Bonnette’s lyrics are full of frank confessions and humorous observations that range from the greatness of being a “straight white male in America” to the advantages of fucking the devil in the mouth. The band deftly moves from fuzzed-out pop punk (“Gift of the Magi 2: Return of the Magi”) to sparse, dark folk (“Back Pack”) and everywhere in between. If that doesn’t pull you in, I have one more word for you: kazoos. Seriously, pick this one up. –Ricky Vigil

Anna Wilson
Countrypolitan Duets
Music World Music/Transfer Records
Street: 04.05
Anna Wilson = Joanne & The Cliftonaires + Valerie Simpson + Norah Jones
The most recent album crafted by husband-wife pair Anna Wilson and producer Monty Powell is aptly named, seeing as it is a collection of country duets reworked into smooth, sexy jazz arrangements. The pair called on some big-name friends, such as Lady Antebellum, Kenny Rogers, and American Idol finalist Matt Giraud to assist them in their new recording project. Some of these performances are more on point than others. Connie Smith is clearly at home on the new version of her classic “Just for What I Am.” Keith Urban lends some surprisingly welcome twang on “Good Time Charlie’s got the Blues.” Unfortunately, Rascal Flatts contribute a Boyz II Men-style background vocal which entirely clashes with the bluesy treatment Wilson and Ray Price give his tune “You’re the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me.” All in all, though, Wilson is well-equipped for the crossover from country to swing. –CG

The Rip Tide
Pompeii Records
Street: 08.30
Beirut= A Hawk and a Hacksaw + Cowboy Indian Bear
It seemed almost impossible for Beirut to get cuter after 2009’s Holland, but their newest effort proves that wrong. With less eastern European influences and more of an American pop sound, they’ve got something awesome going on. There is still an obvious Beirut root, but they’re branching out, or back in, to a less bizarre sound. The album starts out with the booming, ukulele-laden “A Candle’s Fire,” a song that would make anyone want to dance, even on the worst of days. “Santa Fe” sounds like Vampire Weekend’s interpretation of a hypothetical vacation to Romania. Sharon Van Etten does some guest vocals on “Payne’s Bay,” fitting in perfectly with Zach Condon’s unmistakable croon. There’s something beautiful about this album that isn’t so apparent in Beirut’s others. It’s a lot less demanding to listen to than, say, Gulag Orkestar, in that it isn’t as heavy. There’s still quite a lot going on (and with 11 members, there’s not a way around that), but there’s an airy quality that feels really good. Beirut might lose a few fans on this one due to the apparent change in direction, but it could just be a trend album. Even if it is, it’ll be on heavy rotation while I’m in transit. –Kyla G.

Body Language             
Social Studies Deluxe EP
OM Records
Street: 10.04
Body Language = Passion Pit + Four Tet
Brooklyn quartet Body Language was started by longtime friend/collaborators multi-instrumentalist Grant Wheeler and vocalist Matt Young, and evolved into their current lineup with the addition of vocalist Angelica Bess and drummer Ian Young. Dance-leaning at times, with a handful of their songs already remixed, this new EP collects four previously released 10” singles in one spot, but is a mixture of different genres besides dance, including indie funk and pop. The acclaimed “You Can” is represented twice: first in its original hooky form and then in a joyously uninhibited live take. “Falling Out” and the catchy title track are joined by the equally toe-tapping “We Got Enough” and the dubby “Holiday.” While it would have been nice to have included a remix or two, nine tracks is still fairly generous for an EP by anyone’s standards. –Dean O Hillis

Boy + Kite
Go Fly
Street: 07.26
Boy + Kite = Pains of Being Pure at Heart + New Pornographers
Thankfully, Go Fly is nowhere near as twee as it sounds. In fact, parts of the album sound downright muscular. Boy + Kite go for tasty pop rock and achieve it, making for a thoroughly pleasant listen. Once the album is over, though, few of the melodies have staying power. For a debut, it’s promising—the sound is focused and the production is great, but the songwriting simply doesn’t deliver the earworms. –Nate Housley

Canon Blue
Street: 08.16
Canon Blue = Florence and the Machine + Radiohead + The Secret Machines
It’s been a while since Daniel James released anything under his indie alter-ego, having spent the last three years as a live performance member of the Denmark rock band Efterklang. Between tours, James wrote and recorded his sophomore album, Rumspringa, out of the group’s Copenhagen studio, working with the string quartet Amiina and 20 other studio musicians to bring this album to life. It may be cliché to use the term “movie soundtrack” on Rumspringa, but that’s exactly what this sounds like. There’s no specific genre to tack onto this, as the music moves from big band to alternative indie to space folk to radio pop. By definition, this album has no definition, as if it were composed to appeal to every kind of listener while remaining eclectic enough to keep everyone coming back, even if only for one track. It’s a shame the album probably won’t get airplay beyond NPR. (Kilby: 11.01) –Spencer Ingham

6 Cover Songs
Bridge 9
Street: 08.09
Ceremony = Negative Approach + Black Flag + Vile
It may have brought them acclaim from the smarmy confines of the indie world, and dumb hardcore kids may have been quick to cry about it, but Rohnert Park was Ceremony’s best work to date and only proved the power of their abrasive, sand-paper and razor-wire approach to fast ’core. While their recent signing to Matador has fans anticipating another aesthetic sea-change, 6 Cover Songs may temporarily quell their impatient histrionics. Though it fails to tread new ground, it’s strangely comforting to see a band pay tribute to their influences, and these reworked punk relics, vitriolic and paranoid, sound innate and instinctive, not forced or obligatory. Like any Ceremony release, it doesn’t drag itself out much, but obvious highlights are their acrid renditions of Pixies’ classic “Nimrod’s Son,” Wire’s “Pink Flag” and Eddie & the Subtitles’ “American Society.” –Dylan Chadwick

Dan Mangan
Oh Fortune
Arts & Crafts
Street: 09.27
Dan Mangan = Shearwater + Beirut
The most striking thing about Oh Fortune is the arrangements. For a genre based on songwriting, this may sound a bit like a backhanded compliment, but the arrangements are distinctive in how well they complement the songs while making their own ambient stylistic mark. The album, Mangan’s follow-up to the 2010 iTunes Album of the Year, ebbs and flows fluidly. The problem is that Mangan seems to be floating with the current instead of piloting the songs. –Nate Housley

Devil Makes Three
Stomp and Smash
Milan Records
Street: 10.25
Devil Makes Three = The Dirt Daubers + The Sadies + John Hartford
Live records generally make me shutter. The quality is rarely up to par, the crowd is usually annoying, and maybe one out five lead singers actually sing into the microphone. But maybe when the formula is a three-piece that play their instruments so well you’re forced to stand up and take notice, and all three (and especially the lead singer) sing into their microphones, the result is a brilliant live record by the Devil Makes Three. Once you realize that all three of their full-length records are recorded live in studio, it’s easy to see why they’re so good live. Even when they slow the pace down on songs like “Graveyard,” you can tell they’ve got the audience in the palm of their collective hand. Although this is their second live release, there are only two of the same tunes on this one, and this time around, they’ve added blistering fiddle to a handful of tracks, which adds richness to their sound. This is a must for fans of the band, and for anyone who wants some of the best recorded live folk music out there. –James Orme

The Dirt Daubers
Wake Up Sinners
Colonel Knowledge
Street: 09.13
The Dirt Daubers = Devil Makes Three + Pine Hill Haints + The Carter Family + The Cumberlands
Colonel J.D. Wilkes has made a career out of breathing new strange life into music long forgotten and dead in the minds of most people. He’s done astonishingly so, time and time again, with his band The Legendary Shack Shakers. With the Dirt Daubers however, he and long time collaborator and Shack Shaker bass player Mark Robertson play things a little more traditionally, if they even know the meaning of that word. Jessica Wilkes rounds out this folksy trio and adds her lead vocals to a handful of songs, which lends to the playful attitude throughout the whole record, making me think the live show would be a hoot, to say the least. The songs range from country, hot jazz, bluegrass, ragtime and blues, played with gusto by a slew of instruments such as mandolins, banjos, accordions, kazoos and something called a thunder sheet. This, the band’s second release, doesn’t have the lo-fi mystique of their first self-titled effort, but it does have every bit of the character and quality. I’ve been a Shack Shaker fan for quite a while, but now I’m equally interested to see what the Dirt Daubers do next. –James Orme

Inflammable Records
Street: 10.17
DJ CAM = Sade + Sigur Rós
Returning from his short hiatus after his 2001 acclaimed album “Sunshine,” France’s own DJ CAM releases his new album, “SEVEN,” which, after experiencing it, has left me in a world of Technicolor dreams filled with waterfalls and blue skies—i.e., it’s a beautifully well-produced album. SEVEN as a whole is something that can take you to far-off places within your mind, where true serenity can be obtained if you give the music complete control, with its soulful drums and enticing synths. The Parisian, hip-hop, ambient and soulful jazz influences are abundant on this album. My favorite song [missing some words here]? SEVEN is perfect for a dinner party, a chill-out sesh, or just some alone time. Definitely worth the buy. −Mama Beatz

Family of Love EP
Street: 06.09
Dom = Beach Fossils + The Sea and Cake + Telepathe + Real Estate
Worcester indie-pop newcomers Dom are maturing, and it suits them very well. On their second EP release in as many years, the trio has revamped their sound from a scrappy lo-fi synth-pop cloud of fuzz into fleshed-out, deliberate sophisti-pop with full, dense-sounding compositions. While growing up is typically a two-edged sword, with both benefits and drawbacks, Dom is managing to pull it off while maintaining every bit of the goofy charm of their debut, Sun Bronzed Greek Gods EP. Family’s best song is the EP’s jaunty title track, which, despite its sunny façade, is the first time our eponymous frontman makes reference to his less-than-ideal upbringing, and the hope of a happier family life among friends in the future. −CG

Grace Jones
Play It Again Sam
Street: 09.06
Grace Jones = the original Gaga + Ivor Guest + Bruce Woolley + Sly & Robbie + Eno
Grace Jones emerges 19 years after her last album and shows no signs of letting up—Not too bad for a 63-year-old musician.  Released in the UK in 2008, Hurricane is finally getting a proper US release. Album opener “This Is” sets the tone, with Jones reminding us that “this is my voice/my weapon of choice.” As the Tricky-co-penned title track suggests, Jones is a creative and vibrant musical force to be reckoned with. Written with Wendy and Lisa, “Blood” is autobiographical and tells the story of how Jones’ musical interests come from her mother’s side—not her preacher father’s—and is highlighted by her spoken refrain of “Amazing Grace,” over her own mother’s vocalized version.  It is amazing indeed. Her mother emerges again in the lovely paean “I’m Crying (Mother’s Tears).”  Even more ambitious is the sheer awesomeness of the full ‘dub’ version of the album, entitled Hurricane Dub.  The album’s nine tracks—plus the enticing ‘Hell Dub’—were remixed by Guest into wicked dub versions and makes the ultimate chill-out companion to the album proper. –Dean O Hillis

Gringo Star
Count Yer Lucky Stars
Gigantic Music
Street: 10.25
Gringo Star = Foreign Born + Thomas Function
This album lacks substance, but that should probably be expected by a band that goes by the moniker Gringo Star. It starts off really strong, with a song that is strikingly reminiscent of Foreign Born’s “Blood Oranges,” but every song gets cornier as the album progresses. The songs are just too hook-driven and sappy (the high production values make this feel even more awkward). The oddest thing for me, though, is how much the singer’s voice reminds me of Ima Robot (yet not Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros). The album certainly has a couple of highlights, though, such as the opening track, “Shadow,” which I mentioned earlier, and acoustic tracks such as “Beatnik Angel Georgie.” If you aren’t down for plenty of doo-wop style background vocals and predictable guitar solos, maybe skip this one. (Urban: 11.03) –Cody Hudson

Hank 3
Ghost to Ghost/ Guttertown
Hank3 records
Street: 09.06
Hank 3 = David Allen Coe + Hasil Adkins + Bob Wayne + Anti-Seen
Now that Hank 3 has finally broken free of his Curb records contract, he has formed his own record label, Hank 3 Records, and taken full control of his musical destiny. Now I’m all for creative freedom, but there was something in those early Hank 3 records, a tension that was apparent between label and artist that produced some great country music. Yes, when the label won its few victories, the songs suffered, but I think ultimately, that it created a unique point of view for Hank 3. As he’s resisted label influence more and more over the years, a more brazen Hank 3 has appeared. Ghost to Ghost is Hank 3 run amok—country music with attitude, metal guitar, heavy drums, and other metal tropes mixed with country elements, creating a hellbilly brand that only Hank 3 could think of. His concept songs go way too far to follow, and his more conventional country tunes are usual Hank 3 fare. There’re fun songs like “Cunt to a Bitch,” which is the story of an evil drug-thieving woman, which could be called speed country. The accompanying disc, Guttertown, is far more interesting, a 19-track epic where every other track is a Cajun-style romper or a backwoods folk tune with an onslaught of accordion and steel-slide guitar. It sets a scene of hammering out tune after jaunty tune down somewhere in the Louisiana bayou. The tracks in between each song are filled with ambient noises of nature, mechanical sounds, howling dogs and cryptic chanting, but the songs are worth sorting through. On one hand, I’m glad Hank has gained control of his artistic fate, but on the other, the actual product needs to be reined in a bit. –James Orme

Hess is More
Creation Keeps the Devil Away
Street: 10.11
Hess is More = Body Language + The Go Find + Eero Johannes
Mikkel Hess is back with a catchy, powerhouse electro-pop album. Vocals that range between the flat, low singing of Hot Chip and the sweet and high harmonies of Stars are layered over catchy four-to-the-floor beats, disco grooves, organic hi hats, an international variety of strings and horns and folksy indie-rock melodies. It’s electronic music with heavy alternative and indie-rock influences, like Junior Boys, The Presets or Her Space Holiday. “Going Looking for the End of the World” calls to mind Andrew Bird, with a background of violin and whistling, and a definite world music influence. “Circling High” is one of the strongest songs on the album, with beautiful harmonies and a catchy, upbeat chorus that you can’t help but dance to. The title track is great as well, with a fun bass line, synths that offset it perfectly, and low, low vocals that chill you to the bone. –Jessie Wood

Himalayan Bear
Hard Times
Absolutely Kosher
Street: 09.11
Himalayan Bear = Shannon and the Clams + The Growlers
With so many reverb-laden love songs out there, it becomes hard to discern one from the other. On this Ryan Beattie (of Frog Eyes) release, he seems far less concerned with fitting into the garage pop scene and more interested in being a slightly melodramatic band leader. His highly emphasized vocals hearken back to 1950s crooners, but the instrumentals are more akin to a mid-60s garage rock band (like a much slower Sonics). Another selling point: The songs aren’t laid out with the same simple structure you’d expect from a garage rock band, and each progress in a different manner. –Cody Hudson

Work (work, work)
Ghostly International
Street: 09.06
HTRK = Swans + (Ladytron x Velvet Underground) + Cocteau Twins
In the works for four years, and released a year after the suicide of bassist and founding member Sean Stewart, this is the third full-length for the former trio, who pronounce the four-letter name “Hate Rock.” And rock it does not, as it drags itself bleakly along on somber notes and minimalist instrumentations. The remnant of the band, Jonnine Standish and Nigel Yang, wring such a melancholic rage from the songs that you get the feeling they’d be filled with fury if they weren’t so damn depressed. Measured rhythms set the pace on tracks like “Ice Eyes Eis” and “Bendin’,” and glitchy electronics make their mark on “Eat Yr Heart,” while a gloomy pall fills the aural spaces of the CD. It doesn’t help that they look so damn young in the album art; Stewart stares out defiantly in the photo, eyes boring into you as if daring you to reach out, too late. Not a summer rocker, but an album for a dismal autumn day. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Beyond the Lightless Sky
The End
Street: 10.11
Hull = Neurosis + Mastodon + Torche
This New York City metal crew left off with a hopeful album that showed promise, but not a full-on execution of that promise, with their 2009 debut, Sole Lord. This follow-up is poised to knock Mastodon on their now-boring, proggy asses and turn some heads in the modern metallic world, where traditional genres are shunned upon. Beyond the Lightless Sky is a battle of sludge, groove and post-hardcore. Who needs an introductory track? This record starts out with an 11-minute wallop called “Earth From Water.” You can decide if this offering will strike you or bore you based on hearing that first song, however, that doesn’t mean the first track shows all of Hull’s tricks. Compare it to reading the first chapter of a book. Beyond the Lightless Sky is structured in a familiar way, but for the sake of the pummeling that the band can slam and slam again, the grizzled, bestial tracks are broken up with shorter, almost interlude-type tracks not only serving as a break from the outpouring of noise, but as a great way to break up the album. There is a fantastic amount of riffs you’re going to want to repeatedly hear on this record. Couple that with some guitar solos that come out of nowhere and fit like gloves with the album’s songwriting and its layered vocal approach, and you’ve got a hell of a ride. (Urban: 11.14) –Bryer Wharton

Imelda May
Street: 07.19
Imelda May = Devil Doll + Stray Cats + Miss Derringer
I have to admit, I was leery and suspicious of this record. I sniffed around this thing looking for something to latch onto and rip it to shreds. It’s too clean, too well played, too well produced, with even a cliché cover of 80s hit “Tainted Love,” all vintaged up, of course. I wanted to hate this dynamite Irish dame who, with ease, switches from sultry jazz to red-hot rockabilly, and makes pit stops with country and garage rock as well. I built up a conspiracy theory in my head that some record label exec was trying to quickly fill the space in pop music that was left when Amy “Whinehouse” died, but the fact of the matter is, with each spin of Mayhem, I was liking it more and more. I had finally realized that Imelda May has a voice that can melt butter straight from the fridge and has one hell of a band behind her. Sometimes when you can’t find anything wrong, that means they’re doing a lot of things right, and there’s a whole lotta right on this record. –James Orme

One For Sorrow
Century Media
Street: 10.18
Insomnium = Amorphis + Dark Tranquillity + Katatonia
Isomnium encompass straightly true melodic death metal and doom—and one could even hinge at a bit gothic elements with the album’s nuances of keys. The four members that make up Insomnium have been at their craft for well over a decade now and really haven’t failed to craft a lackluster record, One for Sorrow marking their fifth full-length. The songwriting snaps into place at every turn; even with the bulk of the songs being in the highly melancholy realm, the album isn’t one that’s going to send listeners running for Prozac. The myriad of melodies performed make for some astonishingly memorable tracks, be it in more epic territory, where “Song of the Blackest Bird” and “Lay the Ghost to Rest” truly shine, or more abrupt, heavy territory on melodic cuts like “Every Hour Wounds”—which sounds like it could’ve come from Colony/Clayman-era In Flames—or “Meandering Through the Shadows,” which contains an introductory lead that slices through any mediocrity for which one might be looking. This is one of the great occasions on an album where no song contains less worth than another. –Bryer Wharton

Juno Reactor
Inside the Reactor
Street: 07.12
Juno Reactor = Laibach + Fluke
Ben Watkins’ seminal world-industrial-trance juggernaut, Juno Reactor, has been causing havoc on dance floors since 1993, hitting true stride with tracks featured in films like Beowulf, Once Upon a Time in Mexico and The Matrix. The tracks on this remix album cover a wide array of their best work, but this isn’t a greatest hits album. Some songs are barely recognizable, like the standout track, Bombay Dub Orchestra’s remix of “Pistolero,” which trades most of its Western drawl for Bollywood flare. But any reactor leaves a trace of its characteristic radiation, and so, too, does this one. There are few real surprises here, and the originating songs, like “Hotaka” and “Conga Fury,” shine out brightly. This is a must for collectors who can’t get enough, but casual fans may want to wait for their all-new album due out later this fall.
–Madelyn Boudreaux

Commerce and Marx
Paper + Plastick
Street: 08.02
Landmines = Avail + Title Fight + Marathon
Richmonders love their bands. I saw Crime in Stereo at United Blood fest ‘07 open with “Simple Song,” and it resulted in absolute bedlam, everyone clamoring for the mic. Really, Richmond has always been a hotbed for great melodic hardcore (Avail? Strike Anywhere?), so Landmines don’t have to look far beyond their hometown for inspirational cues. Commerce and Marx hasn’t evolved far beyond their self-titled record, and maybe that’s OK, because they’ve got the talent and cohesion to play this brand of tuneful ’core the right way (metronomic drumming, shout-alongs, Avail worship, occasional noodling and a hardcore flourish or two). Cuts like “Hookerpiss” and “You Are Number Six” sound particularly potent, with political lyrics (Oppressive technology? Combating apathy?) and a cogent execution. Admittedly, it fails to carve out anything new genre-wise …but it’s played so damn well it’s hard to fault ’em for it. –Dylan Chadwick

Tarantula!/Blue Blood
Goner Records
Street: 08.16
Limes = Stephen Merritt x Brian Jonestown Massacre
Limes is the band centering around Memphis singer-songwriter Shawn Cripps, and oddly enough, Tarantula! is a reissue of a 2005 album released in New Zealand. The bluesy garage rock sound of the album means that it’s aged well, sounding just as retro as it would have in 2005. Blue Blood is included on the CD version of the reissue, a CDR originally put out in 2006. Cripps’ lackadaisical baritone ties the two releases together and gives even the upbeat numbers on Tarantula! a pleasantly lethargic feel. Blue Blood, however, suffers from the lack of focus seen on the earlier record, and one acoustic strummer blends into another. Limes are fortunately nowhere as lazy as they sound—but, in this case, their industriousness turns into a glut of music that can be a bit heavy to sift through. –Nate Housley

Mad Anthony/The Yellowbelts
XMAS Cactus
Street: 08.26
Mad Anthony = Rocket From the Crypt + Zeke
The Yellowbelts = Trophy Wives + Love Battery + Drive Like Jehu
What a scorcher! An offering from each band, just enough to gently blow an obscenity or two into your waxy ears, wheeze hot breaths onto your pimply neck, tap your gnarled veins and then pack up and drive far away, leaving you cupping your privates and howling for abuse. Cinci’s Mad Anthony rips through a dissonant garage-punk cocktail with a lil’ swagger and poise … like Glenn Danzig hammered and stumbling his way through an Icarus Line cover set, while Lex-Vegas Kentucky’s Yellowbelts take the twisted perversions of their Louisville counterparts (namely Young Widows), add some classic 70s proto-punk and filter it through the psyche-y flower groove of Love Battery. It’s short, pretty (on nine different colors of vinyl) and has a hand-screened cover. If it doesn’t have you bounding around your neighborhood in a tinfoil hat, moist and incoherent, you’re probably too far gone, anyway. Rock n’ roll, you creeps! –Dylan Chadwick

Midnight Odyssey
Funerals From The Astral Sphere
I, Voidhanger
Street: 10.04
Midnight Odyssey = Drudkh + Alcest + Lustre
There are memories I like to call audible memories—the mind remembers things not just from sight, but also from every sense, smell, taste, and touch. Audible memories strike particular chords with me. Midnight Odyssey’s double album Funerals from the Astral Sphere will imprint one of those audible memories, like hearing wolves howling at the moon in the middle of a remote forest or the complete absence of sound, which in a weird way, could be considered a sound. There’s something beyond special when you first hear a piece of music that alters perceptions, makes that strange organ lodged in your skull start tingling and sending shivers and other sensations throughout your body. The musician/songwriter known as Dis Pater has already made headway with Midnight Odyssey’s Firmament and his other project, The Crevices Below. There is no avoiding the pure fact that when you decide to take on this sonic opus of over two hours of music, you need to be doing nothing else but listening to it. Life is always about the journey, not the destination. To slap a label on this undertaking is difficult; you could call it ambient black metal, but it pushes far beyond any genre. Forget the notion that you think you’ve heard every little bit and piece of what is considered music, this record is a firm and lovely reminder that you haven’t. –Bryer Wharton

Monkeytown Records
Street: 10.11
Modeselektor = Claude VonStroke + Deadmau5 + Glitch Mob
Whether you’re looking for a track to vibe to or something to help get the party started, this album has it all. Monkeytown, the third album from Berlin duo Modeselektor, does not disappoint. Variety is something this album doesn’t fall short on, with its different styles, tempos and profuse amount of musical influences throughout. Due to the overflow of talent on the album, Monkeytown left me feeling high off the drug that is Modeselektor. Incredible collaborations with artists like Thom Yorke, Pillow Talk and Busdriver, just to name a few, bring the album to a whole ’nother level. The beats are hypnotizing, the lyrics entertaining and the synths impeccable. My favorite song on the album, “Evil Twin” with its enthralling synths and ensnaring bass, drew me into a world of shuffling warrior robots dancing to save the princess from her evil twin, Palinella. Monkeytown is worth the legal download. –Mama Beatz

New Villager
Street: 08.16
NewVillager =The Eels + Little Dragon
Most music fans immediately gravitate toward the sounds visual/multi-instrumental artists NewVillager are making. A hodgepodge of prog with dashes of funk make for an unpleasant-sounding concoction on paper, but make for a warm blanket of recorded sounds. Ingesting their vision via their videos (highly recommended) results in even more layered experience—as you’d expect from visual guys. These gents have even created their own mythology—a mythopoeia—for the album and the art that accompanies it, involving quests and adventures from their Cocoon House homebase. It doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface, but who wants an album of just surface music in our disappointing land of washed-out pop poseurs? Fuckheads, that’s who. And most fortuitously, New Villager isn’t made for them or their meat costumes. −JP

Night Birds
The Other Side of Darkness
Grave Mistake
Street: 09.01
Night Birds = Adolescents + Descendents + Agent Orange
Take that burrito doused in Dexter Holland’s hot sauce out of your mouth and log out of your account, because Night Birds are here to kick you right in your Menzingers-loving ass. In a world where about a million “punk” groups are trying to sound like mediocre bands from 15 years ago, Night Birds seem focused on sounding like awesome bands from 30 years ago. Following up several excellent 7”s and an equally awesome demo tape, Night Birds’ full-length debut is 22 minutes full of the snotty, surfy (snurfy?), pretension-free punk rock they have become known for. “Neon Gray” and “Landfill Land” are great additions to the band’s thrashy, horror-inspired catalogue, while the re-recorded versions of “Can’t Get Clean” and “Paranoid Times” add a little extra “oomph” and will hopefully inspire new fans to seek out the originals. If there is any justice in the world, The Other Side of Darkness will bring Night Birds the attention they deserve. –Ricky Vigil

The Nighty Nite
Dimples EP
Graveface Records
Street: 06.21
The Nighty Nite = Battles + Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads x Stan Ridgway
The Paper Chase achieved cult status as a vehicle for frontman and producer John Congleton (Explosions In The Sky, The Thermals), and now he’s added a fantastic roster of musicians to his “new and improved” vehicle. Congleton is extremely talented as a producer, but obviously (and maybe a bit desperately?) wants to be on the other side of the mixing board. Sadly, the dude can’t sing well, but maybe that’s the point. No matter, there are lots of bands that have used this approach to great success. For example, Joanna Newsom, Gary Numan, and Stan Ridgway from Wall of Voodoo (Mexican Radio, anybody?) have the same nasally quality that Congleton shamelessly flaunts. If you can get past the tone-deaf singing, the album really showcases fantastic musicianship and packs a lot of emotion and drive into four great songs that are bombastic, dramatic, dark and twisted. Dimples is good stuff. –Mary Houdini

Dead Oceans
Street: 09.20
Nurses = Animal Collective + The Ruby Suns + Prince
The Portland-based group has returned with the follow up to 2009’s  bedroom psych album Apple’s Acre. On Dracula, the band claimed they wanted to avoid all outside influences by heading to a cabin on the Oregon coast. Um … Haven’t we heard this story one too many times? Bon Iver? The Antlers? If they were trying to avoid influences, then why do they sound like a more approachable Animal Collective, or a shitty version of Yeasayer? Oh, they hired Scott Colburn (Animal Collective, Arcade Fire) to mix the record? Well, that explains it. Sorry boys: Scott can’t help Aaron Chapman’s muffled falsetto vocals. Someone please grab me a clove of garlic so I can keep these overly bedazzled blood sucking hipster creatures away from my Grizzly Bear collection. –Courtney Blair

The Pack A.D.
Mint Records
Street: 09.13
The Pack A.D. = The Kills + a meaner Tegan and Sara
I've been looking for a new pissed-off, whiskey-fueled rock n’ roll band, and here they are! And, as if the rock gods were shining down upon me, they're girls, too. While they aren't new to the music scene, they are new to my ears, and such a treat! This is gritty, garage rock at its finest. This would also be the best post-breakup album, should someone need one. Starting out with "Sirens," all I can think about is Ally Sheedy's character in The Breakfast Club. You know, the girl clad all in black, kinda weird but cute enough for the jock to like. That's what this music is. At their slowest, The Pack After Death sound like Fiona Apple in vocals and lyrical content, but backed by jangly guitars. "Ay, don't give a fuck!" is sternly told to the listener at the beginning of "8," followed by lyrics that demonstrate exactly that. The guitar/drums duo have been compared to g [Is “g” really the name of the band, lowercase and all? I couldn’t find it on Google] and The Kills, and while I can hear it in their older albums, Unpersons has a sound all its own. Listen to this! You'll love it. −Kyla G.

The Pine Hill Haints
Welcome to the Midnight Opry
K Records
Street: 10.04
The Pine Hill Haints = The Dirt Daubers + Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers + The Sadies
Self-described as Alabama ghost country, the Pine Hill Haints have forged their path by playing their own brand of music that touches on country, folk, rockabilly and more. The distinctive bounce of a bucket bass (that’s a bass made up of a stick, a bucket and one string) and the haunting tones of an accordion are telltale signs of a Haints record—raspy vocals and buzz-saw acoustic guitar give each track a punk-rock bite. Although the Haints draw on the old-timey sounds of the past, everything they do sounds fresh. It’s new-era mountain music that leaps out at you from the shadows, and before you know it, they’ve made you one of them. Songs like “The Day the Sun Did Not Come Up” and “Ghost Town” are eerie and push the line on creepy without crossing over into horror. True originals, the Pine Hill Haints have breathed fire into music long thought dead and made it into something new. –James Orme

The Planet Smashers
Descent into the Valley of the Planet Smashers
Stomp Records
Street: 07.12
The Planet Smashers = The Toasters + The Bouncing Souls + The English Beat + The Aquabats
I’m no ska connoisseur, but if you’re into ska, I know you’ll dig this record. The album starts off somewhat roughly with inevitable ska cheesiness (although doing the hippopotamus dance sounds like a blast), but gets better once the band drops in on “Happy New Year’s.” “My Obsession” begins with an electro-shock bass line on the keys at mid-tempo, which deals with the innocent desire to materialize a woman with a song. Sigh. Come to think of it, The Planet Smashers display their talent for writing love songs. “Something Special” features whistled melodies atop sunshiney up-strums, whose words could have been a collaboration between Junior Murvin and Bon Iver. The band doesn’t coast on these songs, though, as they include bouncy party songs such as “I’m OK if You Want to Party,” and neurotic subjects like antagonistic enemies in “Death Threats,” which are sure to round off your skank sesh. Pick it up! –Alexander Ortega

Monotreme Records
Street: 11.11
Polanski = Com Truise + Pretty Lights + E.T.
Galactic music of epic proportions is the only way to properly describe this album. Picture a movie about pothead aliens flying through the galaxy in pimped-out spaceships, partying in clubs on Tron like planets in the universe, with Labyrinth being the film’s score. I closed my eyes and was instantaneously taken to a different realm of the universe where Polinski was my guide. As a debut album, Labyrinth far exceeded my expectations! After 10 years on the road, 65daysofstatic member Paul Wolinski, a.k.a. Polinski, reveals his vast imagination and impressive production skills with Labyrinth, leaving my imagination wanting more at the end. Only seven tracks long, Labyrinth’s astronomical synths, absorbing beats and powerful bass is a space odyssey masterpiece. “Like Fireflies” completely took me in and engulfed me in its spacy, melodic, sweet synths that hold a personality of their own; and the track is produced beautifully. This album is a must-buy for sci-fi nerds like myself, and a worth-it if you love losing yourself in music. −Mama Beatz

Radiation City
The Hands That Take You
Tender Loving Empire
Street: 09.17
Radiation City = Beach House + She & Him + Cults
Over dark, menacing beats (akin to The Weeknd, though that may be a bit of a stretch), vocals akin to Zooey Deschanel’s are draped underneath a tasteful layer of Beach House-esque reverb. Tender Loving Empire is interesting and classy, with each song sounding vastly different from the last. Though minimalistic, the songs are lush. Some of the songs start out as ugly, as something off a Women album, but each song ends up somewhere lovely. I generally get bored with female vocalists, but I have yet to lose interest in this album. –Cody Hudson

The Widow Blades
Street: 10.25
Reigns = Black Tape for a Blue Girl + Birthday Party + John Moran
Starting with a back story about the mysterious 1978 disappearance of the titular widow from a town near where Reigns (the musicians are listed only as Operatives A and B) grew up, and recorded in the locations where the missing woman spent her last known day, this album takes a thoughtful approach to a difficult problem. Although it sounds like some kind of Blair Witch premise—and indeed, some of the music could come from that movie’s creepy mix-tape soundtrack—the final product is surprisingly melodic and enjoyable, if not exactly upbeat. “Over Tone Gulley” is a gorgeous piano meditation, while “The Diagram” collages a pleasant, simple melody with creepy found sounds. The standout track is the overwhelmingly dramatic “I Will Burn for This,” which could serve as a prequel for Nick Cave’s “Mercy Seat” or a track from the Manson Family Opera. With a release date just before Halloween, this is a fitting memoir to the mystery of Milicent Blades, wherever she’s gotten off to. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Rocket from the Tombs
Street: 10.11
RFTT = Pere Ubu + Television + Dead Boys
Rocket from the Tombs is one of those bands that is criminally unknown. They existed for less than a year in the mid-’70s before splintering off into Dave Thomas’s Pere Ubu and Cheetah Chrome’s Dead Boys. They never recorded a studio album and only played a handful of shows. Punk rock tape-trading being what it is, though, live recordings and rehearsal tapes have been bootlegged ever since. At some point in the early 2000s, a handful of reunion shows were played and these old bootlegs were given a proper release. Now, for the first time ever, surviving members have come together to record a studio album. And man, is it good. The dueling guitars of Cheetah Chrome and Television’s Richard Lloyd weave a cacophony of snotty rock over which Thomas spews his MC5/Captain Beefheart-style vocals (I once heard his voice described as sounding like actor Jimmy Stewart trapped inside of an oboe). Original bassist Craig Bell and Ubu’s Steve Mehlman round out the five-piece. Opening track “I Sell Soul” sounds like it was picked right out of 1975. Other songs, like “Romeo & Juliet,” bring in more of the manic blues that Thomas is known for. This is an eerily good punk artifact. It blows my mind that this is a new release. One can only hope that the rumors of a fall tour are true. –James Bennett

Hopeless Records
Street: 09.06
Samiam = Samiam circa 1998 + Green Day circa 2000
In ways, I feel like this album sounds a little bit more grown up than the mid-to-late ‘90s Samiam I know, with more of a put-together sound, better harmonies and a more thought-out album as a whole. But those “flaws” are what I liked about their older albums. Trips is too overproduced, especially when compared to their older albums. The first couple songs of Trips put a weird, bitter taste in my mouth, but four songs out, “Demon” restored my faith a little bit. It’s absolute power-pop at its finest, and has a hint of the old Samiam that made me love them in the first place. The song “Crew of One” sounds pretty good, too. The new sound is good, it’s just a lot different than what I’m used to. “El Dorado” has a good grip on their older sound, and the last couple songs, too, but they’re just not the same. It hurts my heart a little bit to not like this album as much as their older material. The songs are catchy and hooky and fun, and every note and beat is immaculate, per usual, but there’s something in the mix that makes it uncomfortable to listen to. I kind of like it, ’cause it’s Samiam, but it’s Samiam with a squeaky-clean, used-car smell. –Kyla G.

Sleep 8 Over
Hippos in Tanks
Street: 09.27
Sleep 8 Over = Cocteau Twins + M83 + Nite Jewel
Austin’s Sleep 8 Over began as a trio with members Sarah Brown, Christa Palazzolo and Stefanie Franciotti. During 2010, every indie-worthy blog went apeshit over their debut 7”, Outer Limits. Since then, the trio has been downsized to a party of one, Franciotti. Listening to the full-length debut shows Franciotti was doing the heavy lifting from the beginning. Forever starts with the dizzy instrumental “Behind Closed Doors,” leading your curiosity to take a peek inside. The warped and wobbly beats on “Romantic Streams” create an impressive, ethereal beauty. You can hear your own heartbeat under the layering soundscapes of “Casual Diamond,” and the ghostly lyrics on “Don’t Poison Everything” will cause your own shadow to shudder. You may feel isolated spending time with Forever, but in reality, this is a splendidly crafted album and a perfect companion piece to the approaching crisp fall season. –Courtney Blair

Sole and the Skyrider Band
Hello Cruel World
Fake Four Inc
Street: 07.19
Sole and the Skyrider Band = B. Dolan + Sage Francis + Millie Vanilli
More than anything else, this album sounds like Sole covering the hip-hop underground. I’m sure this album is drunk on meaning and full of important political messages, but with Sole’s overly nerdy approach and less-than-advanced lyrical style, it makes for a real weak album. “Captain Bad Swag” is the only song to really stand a chance, thanks to an appearance by Lil B the Based God, even though that chance comes in the form of ball-washing. On top of the lyrical weakness, the album is overproduced and sounds like it was made with a beats-by-numbers book. This sounds like a bad karaoke night. –Jemie Sprankle

Sonic Youth
Hits Are For Squares
Street: 08.23
Sonic Youth = Post-punk artsy forbearers, filtered through major label success and Starbucks.
Man, this is a weird review to have to write. Hits is being released in conjunction with the DVD release of Sonic Youth -1991: The Year Punk Broke. This is the first time that this career-spanning collection has received wide distribution, but the exact same CD has been commercially available through Starbucks for a while now. It is a collection of Sonic Youth songs selected by famous fans of the band (Flea, Radiohead, Beck, etc.). As you may have gleaned, it’s a pretty good collection of songs, especially for Sonic Youth fans.  The liner notes even include blurbs written by the folks that picked each song. If you’re a fan, there’s a good chance you already have the music (though one track, “Slow Revolution,” was recorded specifically for this release). If you’re unfamiliar with Sonic Youth, this would serve as a great introduction. It groups together the more listenable tracks like “100%,” “Sugar Kane” and “Teenage Riot” without tacking on the sometimes harder to listen to cuts that can turn off the casual listener. In all, it’s a great collection, even if one of the curators is Portia de Rossi. –James Bennett

Greyday Records
Street: 08.16
Southerly = M. Ward + Johnny Cash
Singer-songwriter Krist Krueger is the voice behind Southerly, and it’s his haunting, world-weary voice that most distinguishes Youth. The title track is a standout, as the harmonized vocals lead into a propulsive beat over an echo-y piano line. However, much of the rest of the album falls victim to the tweedy blandness that plagues most folk-rock. Focus can seem to be the enemy of mood, but in this case, tightening up and trimming the fat could have made for a darker statement. –Nate Housley

People Like You/Century Media
Street: 07.25
SS-Kaliert = Casualties + Exploited + Total Chaos
I don’t know what to think about a German punk band with SS in their name, but apparently, their name used to be Eskaliert, which in German means, escalate, but they changed it so it would look like a better logo. Whatever made them make that terrible decision aside, they’re actually a pretty decent hardcore punk outfit. They blend metal and hardcore elements seamlessly into their brash brand of street punk. Subzero is their third full-length record, and I can tell these boy have been refining their craft. I hate when bands think playing punk rock means they can be lazy. The gang vocals on “Burn Down” sound as though they could knock down walls, and lead singer Torsten has such a distinctive growl to his voice that it’s almost frightening. I don’t see them reaching too far beyond the skins and pins boys, but they’re going to eat this record up. –James Orme

Strong Killings
Don’t Stop Believin’ Records
Street: 07.19
Strong Killings = The Weirdos + Comadre + the New York Dolls + Angry Samoans + Run DMC
I love a band who take an electric knife to the conventional rock beats and power chords of punk rock and add equally intriguing album art; Strong Killings synthesize bouncy rhythms and choppy guitar with black–and-white comic book art on their front cover and lyrics sheet. The result is neo-surrealist/Dadaist punk songs that prove to be conceptually challenging as well as fun and aggressive. The lyrics present us with the common, ugly shit we trudge through, such as with “Licked/Nicked”: “My girl got licked and my taxes came in/Looks like I owe 50 dollars/Then my mom called me up, told me that my little dog died.” “New Mexican Frontier” and “Stegosaurus” are instrumental pieces that exhibit Strong Killings’ rhythmic dexterity and knack for melding dynamic chord choices with outlandish leads. Also note that “The Basement” hosts the best punk/hip-hop crossover I’ve ever heard, which is reminiscent of the days of sweaty punk shows in gritty basements. –Alexander Ortega

Suicide Squeeze
Street: 09.20
Tammar = Superchunk + Neu!
On paper, Tammar sounds a bit like a dubious concept: Combine a motorik beat and droning organ with catchy pop-rock. But Visits works so well that one barely notices the concept at first. Running a pop hook through the lens of krautrock, as Tammar does on “Summer Fun,” turns the fleeting pleasures of a brief melody into an extended loop of enjoyment. The album feels a little slight with just seven tracks, but otherwise, this is a great, refreshing listen to usher out the summer. –Nate Housley

Street: 09.20
Thrice = Balance and Composure + Polar Bear Club + City of Ships
Thrice have never been afraid to expand their sound, and their new album once again finds them in unfamiliar territory. Major/Minor combines the gruff, driving style of post-hardcore pioneers like Hot Water Music and Samiam with the melodic chunkiness of early 90s alternative rock (or “grunge,” if you wanna be lame about it). The album’s sound is thick, dark, angular and surprisingly easy to enjoy. Much like Thursday, Thrice seem more focused on the atmosphere and space inside of their songs rather than huge hooks or aggressive vocals (frontman Dustin Kensure doesn’t scream a single time throughout Major/Minor). Though the album is a definite improvement on 2009’s Beggars, it still has some problems: Every single song is at least a little bit too long, and the album’s best songs are crammed into the first half (apart from the penultimate track “Anthology,” which features lyrics from several past Thrice songs). Even so, Major/Minor is a fine listen for Thrice fans who have stuck with the band throughout the years. –Ricky Vigil

Trapped Under Ice
Big Kiss Goodnight
Good Fight Music
Street: 10.11
Trapped Under Ice = Crown of Thornz + Next Step Up + Linkin Park (yeah, I said it)
I’ve wanted to hate them for a while … between the German fan-beating incident, naming themselves after a Metallica song and having awful fans … but I can’t. B-more’s Trapped Under Ice has consistently separated themselves from the mouth-breathing horde of troglodyte generi-mosh, writing excellent standout tracks that incorporate subtle pop dynamics. Like Secrets of the World, Big Kiss Goodnight exudes as much passion, introspection and mental vexation as it does camo and wife-beater urban tuffness, but opts for a mid-paced groove. “Jail” has a leaden mosh bit, “Time Waits” boasts an infectious staccato romp, “Outcast” and “Victimized” showcase superb riffin’ (slagging it as nü-metal ain’t inaccurate) and even if those clean vocals resemble Linkin Park (izzat auto-tune on “Dead Inside?”), that beefy call-and-response aesthetic is damn catchy. Hot Topic types might dig it, core kids will roll their eyes, and though FM radio is dying … Ozzfest isn’t. –Dylan Chadwick

Twin Sister
In Heaven
Street: 09.27
Twin Sister = Blondie + Class Actress
The love affair with Long Island’s Twin Sister started in 2010 after releasing their first two EP’s Vampires with Dreaming Kids and Color Your Life. We were introduced to Andrea Estella’s odd, chirpy vocals and Twin Sister’s brand of imperfect pop songs. In 2011, they signed to Domino for the release of their debut full-length. In Heaven is aptly titled; these songs are perfectly polished and the imperfections have been ironed out. The Casio-beat driven “Daniel” kicks off the album, breaking into the shuffling drone of “Stop,” which is laced with 80s atmospheric fairy dust. By the time you read this, the sunny and danceable Blondie-esque “Bad Street” will be pinned as the song of summer. “Gene Caimpi” is a French-flavored gem with a slight twang, while “Eastern Green” effortlessly rounds off the record, painting a perfect dreamscape. Believers and non-believers of Twin Sister will be begging their way into this heaven. –Courtney Blair

Worlds Torn Asunder
Century Media
Street: 09.27
Warbringer = Vio-lence + Death Angel + Exodus
Warbringer’s always instilled an irrepressible giddiness in me. Call it my biased bent towards bullet-belted metallers playing anything moshable and primal, but when it comes to iGeneration jeans-tucked-into-Reebok thrash, these Ventura nutjobs lead the pack, and Worlds Torn Asunder proves it. Maybe it’s Dan Seagrave’s artwork. Maybe it’s Steve Evett’s beefy production, lending John Kevill’s slobbery bark the rabid edge it’s never had. Maybe it’s the leadoff cut “Living Weapon”—four minutes of war-time audial savagery abuzz with machine gun riffing, air-raid siren solos, and psychotic lyrical fare spat forth with all the subtlety of a meat hook in your pimply forehead … but it’s exceptionally memorable. “Wake Up … Destroy!” and “Demonic Ecstasy” prove capable of reducing brains and necks to quivering mushes of Bay Area bongloads and teutonic clashing, and somewhere in hell’s inner sanctum, Paul Baaloff is stomping poseurs into the devil’s nutsack while listening to this record on repeat. Come stagedive at The Complex (11.01). –Dylan Chadwick

Warm Ghost             
Partisan Records
Street: 09.27
Warm Ghost = Hi, I’m Robert Smith for Cymbalta
Brooklyn-based Paul Duncan and Oliver Chapoy make for an interesting musical partnership. Named after a Fritsch specter sculpture and possessing a sound that is at times dark, moody and consistently atmospheric, they have fashioned an intelligent full-length of mostly coherent songs that sound like early Cure—elevated with modern synths—but performed by a more optimistic vocalist. Like their acclaimed Uncut Diamonds EP from this year, opener “G.T.W.S.” contains a melody and “I Will Return” is somewhat upbeat, even when the album as a whole is decidedly not. “Myths on Rotting Ships” is gorgeous and wouldn’t sound out of place on any early 4AD release, and the same could be said of “Mariana,” whose 80s drum pattern is nicely complemented by Chapoy’s keyboards and Duncan’s expressive vocals. “Splay of Road” is much better than its depressive title would suggest, while ethereal closer “An Absolute Light” is actually highlighted by Duncan’s buried and whispered vocal performance, and, while not quite optimistic, is light-hearted nonetheless. –Dean O Hillis

Warm Ghost
Partisan Records
Street: 09.27
Warm Ghost = Dead Can Dance + Depeche Mode
After their debut EP dropped and I saw them at SXSW, I expected great things from this group’s debut LP. Fortunately, in a rare universal move, this release does not disappoint. I really enjoyed their track, “Open the Wormhole in Your Heart”—a standout on their Uncut Diamond EP for its ambient chillwave synths and really nostalgic ‘80s sounds. Thankfully, the band included songs like “I Will Return” and “Myths on Rotting Ships” that are in the same vein. A different, more understated sound on tracks like their intro, “G.T.W.S,” prove that their sound goes beyond what they showed on their EP and aforementioned songs, going into more subtle landscapes with less emphasis on retro sounds and more on futurescapes. Catch them live when you can. –JP

Weerd Science
Sick Kids
Horris Records
Street: 05. 17
Weerd Science = Slim Shady + Joaquin phoenix + Kottonmouth Kings
I can’t say enough bad things about this album, so I will start with the only positive matter I can come up with: The beats sound like they were well-produced and the album is mastered well. As for the rest of the review, rapping about drug abuse, as well as home and love problems, is what music is all about. However, Weerd Science does it badly. There is not much to the album in the way of lyrical advancement, and that makes it pointless. From small children talking about drugs to cheerleaders yapping, this has all been done before and done better. –Jemie Sprankle

White Orange
Made in China
Street: 09.11
White Orange = Queens of the Stone Age + Veracrash + Nebula
A hypnotic homage to the desert rock tunes of the Palm Desert scene, White Orange evokes the more aggressive side of Joshua Homme’s style without sounding derivative. Instead of trying to buck this easy association, however, the band uses this sound as a stylistic backbone for their progressive flirtation with other genres. From a classic Black Sabbath influence on “Middle of the Riddle” to a mediocre tribute to Mastadon with “Kill the Kids,” this album is a versatile affair with bright, summery riffs and an excellent execution. –Henry Glasheen