National Music Reviews

Live From the Grove
Street: 11.01
Parallel Thought
3:33 = DJ Shadow + Herbaliser + MF Doom > Odd Fellows + ANTICON Collective/Boom Bip
Pretty unfamiliar with 3:33 and judging by the cover art, I was expecting some lo-end doom and gloom, mixing mysticism and bass breaks. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that while this album is still pretty doomy and gloomy, instead of the metal/rock/industrial imagery that it suggests, it’s chockful of dirty production, sturdy breakbeats and creaky, looping samples. AND just when I think it’s going to pull some Wu-Tang/OFWGKTA (Google it, it’s worth it) neck-breaking, it slips into a completely different direction. The end of track four, titled “LFTG-4,” slides surprisingly into an eerie 70s retro funk, but then slips into a bhangra world music track that starts feeling like heading into a dark pit. Proof that looks can be deceiving, Live From The Grove has a lot of ambience, creepiness, and energy without being over the top. Perfect for the coming winter months. –Mary Houdini

We Were Exploding Anyway
Street: 11.08
Monotreme Records
65Daysofstatic = 30 Seconds to Mars (instrumental) + Band of Horses (instrumental) + The Original Soundtrack to The O.C.
I’m going to go for it and express my disinterest in this band right away. After giving it a couple of earnest efforts to be open to this, I just can’t do it. I feel like there is something wrong with me, as this band of Brits’ online presence is well-documented with love, they have oodles of fans that call themselves the “65 Kids,” and they were blessed with a prestigious opening tour slot for The Cure (who I love unabashedly and without shame—and also, Robert Smith contributes vocals to the eight-minute-opus “Come to Me”). But there is not a track on here that sounds progressive or interesting to me. If anything, it sounds dated, like post-goth music from the early 2000s, and has the emotional impact of a teaser for the upcoming episode of Gossip Girl: shiny, with large production fluff. But what do I know? I am obviously jaded. –Mary Houdini

Acid Baby Jesus
Slovenly Records
Street: 10.11
Acid Baby Jesus = The Hickey Underworld + Ty Segall
Playing a tight, snappy garage rock style, Acid Baby Jesus of Athens, Greece, lays out fun, lazy riffs over heavy distortion and deep, resonant drums. Reverb-soaked guitars play intense psychedelic drone with cheery flower-power melodies, while Noda sings and screeches along. This is some really great driving music; even the slow tracks are somewhat energetic. LP never gets mired in shallow or boring riffs, and each song has a distinct feeling that goes along with the admittedly goofy lyrical material. “Tomboy,” “Android Robot” and “Oh, Aurelia” all stand out as great tracks. –Henry Glasheen

And So I Watch You From Afar
Sargent House/Richter Collective
Street: 11.08
ASIWYFA = Fugazi + Russian Circles + Caspian
You try to start attaching too many subgenre tags to an original band, and you put a little too much shit with the steak. Let’s be clear, Gangs is huge. Gangs is hypnotic. Gangs is breathtaking. A monolithic juggernaut pieced together between festival appearances, it’s a dualistic record, the genius of which lies in its ability to occupy two spheres: hard to place and instantly enjoyable. Indie, metal, electronic, dub and anything with a “post” prefix comes to mind, but it’s best not to get bogged down in all that blogger nonsense. Circuitous riffing, bombastic rhythms and the occasional choral detour coalesce into one rockin’ slab of cerebral aggression. Don’t misunderstand me, this ain’t sludge and it never crawls. Hyperfast on its feet, incorporating erratic blends of African percussion and Asian ambiance, constantly flitting between massive and more massive, never sacrificing melody or texture, it’s a document of belligerent beauty from one of this era’s pre-eminent instrumental trios. –Dylan Chadwick

Apple Brains
Get Fruity
Slovenly Recordings
Street: 10.11
My tolerance for kids’ music seems to be on the rise. I was a little reluctant to give this CD a listen when it was presented to me with questionable looks from my fellow SLUGers. I have generally had a total lack in interest in music that has been manufactured for kids—even as a kid, I thought it was lame. Now I have a kid of my own, and with few exceptions, I haven’t found much cause to question my kid-music zombiefacation theories. I am delighted that Apple Brains is one of those exceptions. Sure, it is kind of kooky music for kids, but I would not consider these happy tunes as manufactured or tasteless. Apple Brains (the chosen name of the artist) sings about enjoying fruit and about how peanut butter and jelly hooked up. Those are messages I can get behind. Who doesn’t love fruit? Each song is delightfully cartoony (think old school Looney Tunes) and the album consists of a wide variety of musical styles. I feel like Apple Brains has fun with his music without trying to dumb down the message for his young listeners. My daughter is smart, so she should be able to find some smart tunes to rock out to. –Ben Trentelman

Atlas Sound
Street: 11.08
Atlas Sound = Deerhunter x Ariel Pink
Maybe it’s because Halcyon Digest was so excellent and diverse, it’s hard not to hear this latest Atlas Sound record as a clearinghouse for ideas that didn’t make it as Deerhunter songs. There are promising moments, but even the best songs don’t sound fully fleshed out. Bradford Cox has stated in interviews that he typically makes up lyrics as he records; that approach sounds true here of the melodies. The exception is “Mona Lisa,” doubly successful since it sounds distinctly like Atlas Sound. Cox has demonstrated that he has an abundance of ideas. If Atlas Sound is going to have the same staying power as Deerhunter, he needs to refine the ideas as they proliferate. –Nate Housley

Bare Wires
Cheap Perfume
Southpaw Records
Street: 10.18
Bare Wires = The Fresh and Onlys + Home Blitz
This album is disheveled in an extremely calculated way, and it couldn’t have been done better. Every song has its hook and infectious riff hidden under the guise of garage rock. This is a pop album, and there is nothing wrong with that. With all of the handclaps and perfect backing vocals throughout, Cheap Perfume has the 60s down pat (the same feeling I get from The Fresh and Onlys sometimes). The title track is definitely the highlight and a perfect place to start. After a mini tour with Thee Oh Sees and a video featuring John Dwyer, Bare Wires is definitely getting exposure in the garage rock scene; my only worry is that these songs are a little too perfectly composed for those SF garage-rock kids. –Cody Hudson

The Big Sleep
Nature Experiments
French Kiss Records
Street: 01.31
The Big Sleep = Hum + Placebo + Autolux
Very rarely can a group craft an album that is simultaneously droney and anthemic. The Big Sleep attempts this on Nature Experiments, but doesn’t quite execute. This band has enough willpower and talent to potentially do what they do well, they just need to figure out what it is that they do instead of forcibly mashing together two conflicting styles. Some of these seemingly iridescent tones and guitar chords may sound like new territory to some, but listening (or re-listening) to a few 90s alternative rock beloveds such as Placebo, Hum, Lush and even traces of Mazzy Star would prove different. Tracks like “Ladders” would have great energy and a solid hook if Sonya Balchandani’s vocals didn’t sound so bored. A lot of these songs get lost in the mix, and the ones that don’t are too out there to fit this record cohesively. At the end of the day, this record is not interesting enough for a repeated listen. –Gregory Gerulat

The Bloody Hollies
Yours Until the Bitter End
Alive Naturalsound
Street: 09.13
The Bloody Hollies = The Dead Weather + The Black Crowes + early Guns N’ Roses
This latest CD from the Bloody Hollies hits on some of the similar themes and sounds they’ve hit on in the past. If you remember 2007’s Who to Trust Who to Kill Who to Love, or any of the other releases from the band’s decade-plus career, then you remember how well the guys in the band can merge bluesy Americana rock with the intensity of 60s-style surf music. And where the songs on this one have a certain level of intensity, they don’t build and pop like some of the older stuff did. That being said, it feels a lot like an old Guns N’ Roses record—with improved vocals and a dobro arrangement. If you’re into that sort of thing, then you’ll love it. It is better than a lot of the blues-punk out there, but it’s not as good as Supersuckers, and certainly not as impressive and genre-bending as The Gun Club. –James Bennett

New Album
Sargent House
Street: 12.06
New Album = Attention Please + Japanese Heavy Rock Hits + Heavy Rocks (2011)
Depending on how loosely you define what counts as a Boris album, New Album is the third or fourth full-length released by the prolific Japanese doom-pop-drone-psych band this year. This is also the third version of New Album, as the Japanese CD and vinyl versions feature different tracklists. To top off all this confusion, nearly every song here is a re-working of a song on one of the other albums Boris released this year. If you’re still with me, you must have the same kind of anal-retentive “gotta catch ’em all” mentality common to OCD record nerds such as myself, and you’ll be very happy with this version of New Album. The album is closer aligned to this year’s experimental Attention Please, adding lots of synth, danciness and pop gloss to Boris’ sound. “Flare” (which I’m pretty sure is exclusive to New Album) sounds like a lost anime theme song in the best possible way, and the new version of “Spoon” is particularly excellent. However, most of the changes here are merely cosmetic, and while New Album is great for Boris completists, Attention Please is still the best 2011 Boris release for casual fans. –Ricky Vigil

City of Ice
Edible Onion
Street: 11.22
Br’er = Philip Glass x (Marc Almond + Swans)
Hand-numbered and gorgeously packaged in a recycled-paper sleeve with moody black-and-white photos gracing the lyric booklet, this CD is a work of art before it’s even in your player. The aptly titled album features 11 bleak pop tunes by songwriter Benjamin Schurr, who also produced the CD. The outstanding single, “You Go, We’ll Stay Here,” reminiscent of Soft Cell, tells a tale of needful transformations and the fear of those who don’t understand. Dark violence underpins the narrative on tracks like “Safeword” (a spoken-word noise collage) and the textured, layered “Oestrus.” With the contributions of several musical “one-night stands” that Schurr met at parties, recorded, and then generally never saw again, the album reflects a seedy but ultimately empowered sexuality, a control of the artist’s own vision, and a demand for acceptance. Beautifully done, and an artist to watch. –Madelyn Boudreaux

The Brains
Drunk Not Dead
Street: 10.25
The Brains = Gutter Demons + the Rockets + Rezurex
Psychobilly is a genre of creativity and originality, so when a band come out sounding just like Demented Are Go or any other of the defining names of psycho, it’s disheartening to me, because the spirit of this music is all about concocting your own mix. The Brains are a breed all their own—it’s obvious to me that they’ve got all the right influences, but they also have the right idea as far as not sounding too much like any of them. Drums and standup bass pump unrelenting rhythms while the tempos of this record never drop below rapid, but that is not to say the melody is at all forgotten—the guitar sound is as rich and colorful as it is snarlingly aggressive. The song “Six Rounds” is among the most atmospheric psychobilly I’ve ever heard. These Canadian psychos change up the language with the French, “Pourquoi Me Laisser” and throw down some Spanish lyrics on “Gato Calavera.” Any stagnancy in the psychobilly genre will soon be cleared out by this band and this record. –James Orme

Cass McCombs
Humor Risk
Domino Records
Street: 11.08
Cass McCombs = Jeff Tweedy x Leonard Cohen
Humor Risk is the second album Cass McCombs has released this year, coming from the same sessions as Wit’s End. Humor Risk presents slightly lighter fare, with a bit more winking humor in the lyrics (“Daniel was a good guy, but a saint he ain’t”), even as Biblical references abound—the title track is “Love Thine Enemy,” and “Mystery Mail” tells of Daniel rotting in a California prison for killing lions. The lyrics here display McCombs’ characteristic close attention to character and narrative, but the songs hew more closely to rock n’ roll than acoustic folk. If levity is a risk, it’s paid off. –Nate Housley

Declarations of the Grand Artificer
Moribund Records
Street: 11.22
Chasma = Wolves in the Throne Room + early Immortal + Pelican
Hailing from the school of atmospheric US black metal, Chasma’s album is brutal and atmospheric, the meeting point between rapid blastbeats and doom-laden sludge melodies. Across three lengthy tracks, Declarations of the Grand Artificer is a bleak, emotional piece that blends depressive progressions with the intensity and theater of black metal. Chasma’s riffs build up intensity only to disperse into moody, clean guitars. Instead of getting caught up in experimentation and virtuosity, however, these passages contribute to an overall sense of hopelessness and despair. –Henry Glasheen

Cloud Control
Bliss Release
Ivy League Records
Street: 05.23
Clound Control = The Mamas and the Papas + all that was awesome about the 60s + The Shins + Talking Heads
With beautiful artwork and drawing comparisons to such acts as Fleet Foxes, 60s psych and Jack Kerouac literature, I was more than anxious to dive into this album by Australian band Cloud Control. The album starts like acid. It rolls in with flawless boy/girl vocal harmony before a buzzsaw guitar slides in and shreds everything with gorgeous texture. An organ and sun-drenched guitar floods over it all and thus starts this masterpiece. The entire album has a very live feel and shows how masterful this band is. Seemingly infinite layers intertwine to form indie-pop perfection. The multiple singers in this band often use their voices as instruments. I’m shocked to see that they are a four-piece, being that the album is surprisingly full. The name of the album is Bliss Release, and it is more than fitting. This album is joyful and beautifully chaotic. It’s childlike and playful, yet mature in its instrumentation. –Tom Bennett

Chester Himes EP
Prefuse 73
Street: 09.07
Creature = Astronautalus + DangerDoom
This li’l EP surprised the hell out of me, in a good way. Creature lays out five tracks with a funky flavor that features gritty yet smooth vocals and intriguing beat patterns. The opener, ‘‘Embrace the Day,’’ is effective in making you want to keep listening, and ‘‘Trying To Fly’’ is especially sweet on the ears, with an electro-keyboard riff that bops around pleasantly in your head. Having made appearances with MF Doom, it’s clear where Creature is drawing his inspiration from—Chester Himes weaves in obscure sounds and clever, somewhat dark wording in the style of his idol. As EPs tend to be either fucking brilliant or fucking worthless, I give props to Creature for releasing one that is potent and fresh. Chester Himes is worth slapping on your iPod and listening to once in a while. –Kia McGinnis

Crystal Stilts
Radiant Door
Street: 11.15
Sacred Bones Records
Crystal Stilts = Salem + The Avett Brothers
Crystal Stilts, formed in 2003 by Brad Hargett, and JB Townshend, have come a long way since the days of garage performances and cheap beer. They have followed up their LP “In Love With Oblivion” with a new EP called “Radiant Doors,” and it lives up to the hype. Overall, the EP holds true to their sound, but shows the slightest hint of evolution in their new songs. They have the lyrics and emotion of a seasoned band, but also keep up with modern trends in indie music. “Frost Inside the Asylum” is the perfect song for long road trips, or sitting and watching the snow fall from your windowsill (which you will be doing a lot of in the next six months). “Radiant Door” feels like the kind of song that Ryan Gosling would cruise to in Drive, what with its 80s synthesizer and its pleasant-sounding guitar riffs. Crystal Stilts music is contemplative. It is about thinking and feeling. Albums aren’t just for listening anymore—they are about the entire experience, and I like what I’m getting from Crystal Stilts. –Kylie Cox

Dead To Me
Moscow Penny Ante
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.25
Dead To Me = Hot Water Music + The Undertones + American Steel + The Clash + Tegan and Sara
After having streamed this album before its official release, I threw my cup at the SLUG office couch in glee when I saw it in my box. The hype about Moscow Penny Ante is that Dead To Me returns to their original, fast-paced energy. But it is so much more. Chicken has developed into a commanding frontman and has refined his singing: He bounces atop the staccato down-strums of the guitars in the punchy “Undertow,” and belts it in “The Hand With Inherited Rings” with a skill level on par with Greg Attonito. Ian Anderson directs the rhythm of the album by fluidly switching from driving rock beats to dance beats, and employs wallowing breakdowns while the guitars harmonize, bolstering MPA’s impeccable dynamics. Sam Johnson’s voice takes a little getting used to, but once you reach “Victims of No Ambition,” his crooning hits home. DTM continues with fast, honest, introspective punk songs, but MPA is altogether fresh and yet another gem in the band’s repertoire. –Alexander Ortega

The Dead Volts / The Cross Brothers
Split 7”
Twang N Bang
Street: 10.04
The Dead Volts = Supersuckers + Drive-By Truckers/The Cross Brothers = Heavy Trash + Turbo A.C.’s
For their part of this split, the Dead Volts turn in two entertaining tracks; the first a rollicking party tune, “I Ain’t Dead Yet,” which is pretty straightforward guitar rock with a country accent to it. The entire band pulsates in unity through the entire two minutes and 32 seconds of their first track, but their second effort, “Late Again,” perfectly sums up the next-morning hungover feelings after the Saturday night party of the first track. Lamentations of being late for church, and the metaphor for the life of a ne’er-do-well lifestyle, are presented in a lazy way, but the diversity is appreciated. The Cross Brothers are similar to The Dead Volts in that they maintain a rock n’ roll base, yet are able to bring out inflections of roots music. More bluesy and urgent on the later half of this split, things start off somber with “Twentyfourseven,” but about a minute in, things pick up and explode into an all-out blues rock-out. About a half step slower, “Baby Get My Gun” focuses more on the groove, but is essentially more of the same. Definitely two solid bands I’d like to hear more of. –James Orme

Dirty Projectors & Björk             
Mount Wittenberg Orca EP
Domino Recording Co, Ltd
Street: 10.25
Dirty Projectors & Björk = Björk Visits the Appalachian Grand Old Opry!
Brooklyn-based Dave Longstreth’s inception of this project began with discussions he had with Björk in Italy and obviously, our favorite Icelandic earth goddess—and her deep respect for nature—is a big inspiration for this short and truly sweet EP. Originally performed in 2009 as a charity benefit, recorded and digitally released in 2010, and finally debuting on CD and vinyl, Longstreth shares the main vocal duties—a rarity in itself—with Björk and the other female Projectors providing pleasant, 50s-sounding backing. Its title, derived from Projector member Amber Coffman’s sighting of a family of whales on the California coastal area, features the ever-experimental Björk’s distinctive turn as the mother whale, with the other women’s voices playing her offspring. Sharing a common oceanic theme, the musical highlights here are the ones where Björk is more prominently featured: “II On And Ever Onward,” “V Sharing Orb,” and the especially pretty “VII All We Are,” where the entire concept seems to come together. –Dean O Hillis

East Bay Ray and the Killer Smiles
MVD Audio
Street: 09.13
The Killer Smiles = Dead Kennedys + Monster Magnet + X
I know a girl who has a great recipe for pot brownies and uses all the best ingredients, cooking those fuckers down to delicious, potent little cakes that will stone you off your tits for a day and a half. I’d hoped that this album would be the same. The ingredients are right, after all. Everyone knows that East Bay Ray (Dead Kennedys) can shred, and Killer Smiles vocalist Skip McSkipster sang for The Wynona Riders, who ruled. The project was even produced by Butthole Surfers guitarist Paul Leary, whom I trust to know a good thing when he sees it, but somehow, this record came out of the oven a little bit stale and tasteless. The track “I’m a User” feels like a cheapo imitation of anything off of Social Distortion’s Prison Bound, and “Safe and Sound” might have been pulled straight from an embarrassing 311 album. The best track is the closer, a cover of Merle Travis’s “16 Tons.” Aging punx gotta keep busy somehow, right? –Nate Perkins

Electric Six
Heartbeats and Brainwaves
Metropolis Records
Street: 10.11
Electric Six = Aquabats / Bloodhound Gang
If you haven’t already been listening to E6 for years, you might not be able to appreciate their eighth album, Heartbeats and Brainwaves, for what it is: 14 tracks of pure sexual desire. Dick Valentine, the band’s lead singer and only remaining original member, is one of the most entertaining men in the music industry. His gravelly voice always brings the sex appeal and he has a cocky confidence that comes across even through headphones (especially on “French Bacon”). If you’ve never listened to E6 before, I recommend starting with their debut album, Fire. The rest of you will enjoy the hell out of this album. –Johnny Logan

Extra Arms
In Parallel
Bibliotec Recordings
Street: 10.11
Extra Arms = an attempt at “The Bends”-era Radiohead + Mute Math + Muse
If you are into the whole Muse and Cold Play-type radio rock movement, you’ll love Extra Arms—chances are high you’ll probably hear them on air soon. They are mainstream enough for big-time airplay and just indie-sounding enough to be listened to. Track two, “Race to Sleep,” starts off really strong, with a snare-heavy beat and super-catchy guitar. Give that one a listen to hear these guys at their best, and title track “In Parallel” is beautiful. I don’t think they are quite ready just yet for the big time, but if a good producer or label got a hold of them, they could probably be molded for it in no time. The album is strong musically, and the singer is good; however, I would like to hear it without the vocals—it almost seems like post-rock at times, which is definitely not a bad thing. I’m wondering why the band chose to fade out the first song when it finally started rocking? Sometimes young bands make weird moves, but these guys won’t be a young band long, they are probably the next big thing; time will tell. –Tom Bennett

Game Brothas
How the West Was Won
Game Brothas Entertainment
Street: 08.30
Game Brothas = Brett Michaels + Dipset + Ying Yang Twins
This album is best to be thought of as the album you would throw on, on that late night you are partying with the two girls you met on the side of the 7-Eleven. Every beat on this album is a downright dirty stripper beat, something to clap your ass to. How the West Was Won is a solid mix of what you would get from a love child between some down-South rap rock and a Bay Area bump track. “The Panty Droppa” is the perfect song and perfect track placement to move the party where it needs to be. “Sleep Wit’ A Rapper” has that downright cutty Oakland beat you have been missing in your life, teamed with an unforgettable hook. Mista Wonderful and Nature Boy bring the party to you! –Jemie Sprankle

The Gaslight Anthem
iTunes Session
Street: 10.24
The Gaslight Anthem = I don’t even know anymore ...
The Gaslight Anthem have always worn their influences proudly on their sweat-stained sleeves, and nary a description of the band has failed to compare them to Bruce Springsteen, but hearing them deliver covers of The Who and Pearl Jam somehow feels wrong. Covers of Tom Petty and The Animals, a re-worked version of “Boxer” from 2010’s American Slang and a new song, “Our Father’s Sons,” round out iTunes Session, but the release comes across as hollow. The Gaslight Anthem became well known and well loved because they play a fusion of punk rock and classic rock that appeals as much to dads as it does to little brothers, but the true heart of the band lies in Brian Fallon’s lyrics. Take those away, and The Gaslight Anthem suddenly feels much less special. We’ve all heard “Baba O’Reilly” enough in our lifetimes, and though Fallon’s gravelly howl injects some new life into “House of the Rising Sun,” it’s not exactly a unique choice for a cover. Also, Pearl Jam? Seriously? C’mon, dudes. Skip this one and check out the new album from Fallon’s side project, The Horrible Crowes, instead. –Ricky Vigil

Gauntlet Hair
Dead Oceans
Street: 10.18
Gauntlet Hair = Cocteau Twins + hip-hop beats + Mazzy Star
Everything that the Mexican Summer label has been involved with is pure gold, from bands like No Joy, Best Coast, Tamaryn, Washed Out, Wooden Shjips, and Nachtmystium, to this one, Gauntlet Hair. This self-titled album is radiant, pure bliss, a reverb heaven. From track one, “Keep Time,” I knew it was a gem. The vocals are similar to Black Lips or other garage bands in that vein, yet they are soaked in ambience. Bass notes pulse and explode under a warm sea of sound. This album sounds like heroin or the best sex you have ever had. It’s soft, wet and hot. It’s like a night with a lover on a blanket on a beach by a bonfire. If you love the new shoegaze experimentalist music that seems to be flooding out from all over the states, then get this album and blast it all winter. It will keep you warm. –Tom Bennett

Gregory Scott Slay
Horsethief Beats/The Sound Will Find You
Horsethief Records/Communicating Vessels
Street: 10.18
Gregory Scott Slay = Lenny Kravitz + Joss Stone
This album marks the completion of Gregory Scott Slay’s musical career. You see, Slay passed away from cystic fibrosis almost two years ago, a fact that gives his eerily beautiful tracks an additional level of eerie. “Birds Next Door” is particularly creepy, but you know, in a good way. The opening and closing tracks are just some of his daughter’s first words mixed to a good beat, which works surprisingly better than you’d think it would. Throughout the other tracks, Slay’s voice is deep and almost psychedelic; I think Tyler Densley could animate the perfect music videos for these songs. I couldn’t recommend this one enough. –Johnny Logan

Hammock/Steve Kilbey/timEbandit Powles
Asleep in the Downlights
Hammock Music
Street: 10.25
Hammock/Steve Kilbey/timEbandit Powles = Jesu + The Appleseed Cast + Discourse
Asleep in the Downlights starts with the ethereal acoustic track, “No Agenda”; minimalist echoscapes blanket a sparse acoustic guitar and the vocals of legend Steve Kilbey from the band The Church (who you may remember from the classic shoegaze anthem “Under The Milky Way”). This is a great winter, or late-night album: it is haunting, powerful and beautiful. Drums sound like the reverberations of fireworks. Track two, “Sinking Inside Yourself,” reminds me of a slowed-down Jesu or Appleseed Cast. This is a sleepy piece of work and I love it—perfect dream pop. You post-rock kids would love it, too—though it’s simple, it’s quite deep, with texture galore. –Tom Bennett

JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound
Want More
Street: 10.27
JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound = Cee-Lo Green + Otis Redding
The resurgence of classic soul R&B sound has been in full swing for a few years and I can’t get enough. Why am I underwhelmed by Want More, the sophomore release by JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound? The album is not horrible, there’s plenty of charm to keep one satisfied. The pumped up reimagining of Wilco’s “I am trying to break your heart”, is so fresh and infectious. Brooks made me weak in the knees with his falsetto voice covering the obscure Chicago band Kaldirons’ “To Love Someone (That Don’t Love You)”. The spunky horns and playful keys led me through the pop-soul groove of “I Can See Everything”. A third of the album is bland and unpolished. The vocals seem forced and awkward on “Everything Will Be Fine” and the country-tinged “Missing Things” is suffering from an identity crisis. –Courtney Blair

Audio, Video, Disco
Ed Banger Records
Street: 10.24
Justice = Daft Punk + Danger + Simian Mobile Disco
The long-awaited second album of the French DJ/producer duo Justice has arrived, met with a bit of disappointment. Not surprising, considering how close they came to perfect with their debut album, Cross. But I am here to tell you that this is worth checking out, listening to a few times and letting sink in, if only for the fact that it is wildly different from their previous music. It is less in-your-face electro-house, less dirty beats, less gain and reverb, less noise. The tracks will not take the world by storm, like “D.A.N.C.E” or “Genesis.” It still has the same distinctive sound, unmistakable as Justice, but with heaps of rock influences, and is the calmer sort of house (spanning a mass of genres) that is becoming bigger across the UK, France, and US. There are heavy guitar riffs that call to mind 80s metal, complex and layered synths that were absent in their first release, and overall, seems a bit more artistic and manipulated than before, if not quite as fun. There are a few week spots—“Ohio,” for one, but listen to “Canon,” “On’n’On,” and “Helix” for examples of the solid musicianship still present in France’s second-most famous house duo. –Jessie Wood

Kathryn Calder       
Bright and Vivid
File Under: Music
Street: 10.25
Kathryn Calder = Jane Siberry + Feist
New Pornographer and former Immaculate Machine member Calder’s second solo album is an experimental delight in both sound and voice.  I don’t know what it is about certain female Canadian singer/songwriters and their uniqueness, but this album brings to mind the joyous creativity of early Siberry.  Born out of grief (Calder’s mother died in between the recording of her debut and the writing of these songs), but with a definite pop exuberance to them, the album’s 10 tracks benefit from the juxtaposition. Again working with her husband, co-producer Colin Stewart, lead single “Who Are You?” is a great example of the happy marrying the sad, as the chirpy music belies the darker lyrics of “And when we die, our mouths will open up wide/And we’ll shake loose the hands we once had tied.”  Offering a variety of music styles, from experimental folk to lush pop, Bright and Vivid’s constant is Calder’s amazingly pretty voice. –Dean O Hillis

Kimya Dawson
Thunder Thighs
Great Crap Factory
Street: 10.18
Kimya Dawson = Belle and Sebastian/campfire songs + nursery rhymes
Hey, remember The Moldy Peaches? Everybody was singing along to ‘’Anyone Else But You’’ ‘bout five years ago, when the indie-liscious movie Juno came out. The female counterpart of the awkward duo has busted out a plethora of solo albums, Thunder Thighs being her seventh. Kimya’s style is composed of diary-like lyrics set to simple, cute acoustic guitar, which makes for a pile of mediocrity that you have to dig through for anything worthwhile. Thunder Thighs seems to be an attempt to reinvent herself, with methods including having small children sing along with her in “The Mare and the Bear,” and having hip-hop artist Aesop Rock and the Olympia Free Choir sing along with her in ‘’Miami Advice.” Although they add a bit of variety, these attempts are not to any great avail. Most of the songs are long, uncaptivating, and make reference to weird things about pregnancy, like peeing on a stick. I think I’ll pass on that. It might be time for Kimya to pursue something other than songwriting, before she releases an album about potty-training or some other parental shit. –Kia McGinnis

Little Dragon
Ritual Union
Peacefrog Records
Street: 07.25
Little Dragon = Draconius + “Ita”
It would be hard for any group to top Little Dragon’s second release, Machine Dreams, and even harder for the group itself. How do you maintain the innovative pop and genuinely creative sounds they brought to bear on their sophomore album? Some might argue only the greats can accomplish such tasks, and while Little Dragon is great, they aren’t Great. Still, their lead singer Yukimi Nagano sings her little Scandinavian/Japanese soul into the vinyl grooves on standouts like the titular track and “Little Man,” proving they still “have it.” I just wish they’ll have more of it next go-round to really reach The Greatness. This band is still one of the best live international groups around. That is one reason I still enjoy this album, though its songs weren’t as immediately gratifying as Machine Dreams, as I was able to watch them test new songs from it the last few times I saw the group. –JP

Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Mute Records
Street: 10.18
M83 = Depeche Mode + Washed Out + Com Truise
M83’s Anthony Gonzalez has hit the mark with his sixth studio album, a sprawling two-disc set that explores, in his words, “what it means to dream.” He has said that the two discs are brother and sister, that each track has a sibling on the other disc. This is, without a doubt, his most ambitious and accomplished release under the name M83. There is no weak track—every song would be successful as a single, something practically unheard of in pop music. The classic reverb-soaked, noise-pop sound of M83 has been fine-tuned into something beautiful and more emotionally resonant than his past releases. With a wide array of guest stars, including Zola Jesus and two choirs, each song has a distinct sound while not taking away from the cohesiveness of the album as a whole. With so many strong tracks, everyone who listens to this album will have a different favorite, so take a listen and see what strikes you most. –Jessie Wood

Mayer Hawthorne
How Do You Do
Street: 10.11
Mayer Hawthorne = Aloe Blacc + James Morrison + Matthew Morrison
If you have ever struggled with finding the kind of man you can bring home to your family, search no more—Mayer Hawthorne is he. Hawthorne is the quintessential pop singer/songwriter—side part, geek-chic glasses, vests and all. He comes to us with How Do You Do, his third full-length album. While the title of “No Strings” may give off a more promiscuous vibe, Hawthorne wins us over with his crooning, silky voice and his innocent melodies and playful lyrics. He switches gears with the ballad “You’re Not Ready,” which is more diverse than his previous, upbeat work. It is the kind of beautiful, soul-wrenching, love-lost piece that every album should have. A few other excellent, upbeat tracks include “Dreaming,” “You Called Me,” and “Finally Falling.” Mayer Hawthorne is like your guy best friend—sweet, a great time, and not taken advantage of nearly enough. –Kylie Cox

MC Zulu
Electro Track Therapy
Street: 10.11
Perception 2020 Recordings
MC Zulu= Mad Decent + Major Lazer + Pitbull (sorry, but it’s kind of true)
MC Zulu is a great vocalist who has a great old-school dancehall style. Overall, he’s got a smooth delivery that is pretty awesome, rolling some dubby vocals over the top of electro beats with a little reggaeton here, a little dubstep there. Initially, this album was exciting to me, especially after reading that MC Zulu’s worked with Aceyalone and Kool Keith. The album as a whole is definitely a feel-good, head-bobber album that is consistent for the style he’s going for, until the terrible, electrified twist in a harmonic reworking of the 1982 Eddy Grant hit, “Electric Avenue.” Not OK. Skip that one and turn up “Red Alert,” which is sure to get your party started. –Mary Houdini

Fat Possum
Street: 07.12
MellowHype = Hodgy + Left Brain + Lex Luger
Hodgy is lyrically better than Tyler, The Creator. Start it off like that. Left Brain is no Tyler when it comes to beats, though. Blackendwhite is just another premature release from the Odd Future set. This album is another slow-rolling, hard-to-make-it-through venture with just a bit too much to say. The biggest downfall for this Odd Future set will be their inability to transfer their everyday, off-the-wall energy onto an album. With the standout single “64,” you can tap into the energy level; however, a couple tracks later on, with “Right Here,” you’re back to heavy eyelids. “F666 The Police” is another diamond in the rough from both Left Brain and Hodgy—the loud and present beat teams up nicely with the “Motherfuck the police” chorus. The closeout, “Circus,” is another beat-over-lyrics battle. –Jemie Sprankle

Meshell Ndegeocello
Street: 11.08
Meshell Ndegeocello = Azure Ray + Norah Jones + Macy Gray
At one point or another, you will face a time—especially if you are a woman—when you feel like no one gets you. Your friends won’t get you, and neither will your parents or your therapist, but don’t fret—Meshell Ndegeocello will. She has been nominated for 10 Grammy Awards, has worked with the likes of John Mellencamp, Madonna, and the Rolling Stones, and has been credited with inspiring the “neo-soul” movement. Her ninth album, Weather, reminds us that we aren’t the only ones who pretend we are “fine,” and it’s OK to be broken-hearted sometimes. The single, “Dirty World,” has a kick drum that will pulsate through your body, a soulful melody, and a whispering hook that will haunt you for days. Its soothing rhythm and pacifying guitar riffs make for the perfect fall snuggle song. She varies into a more upbeat feel with “Chance.” It is a bit faster, and has synth accents and banging keyboard riffs, if you’re feeling daring. Overall, her sultry voice combined with the album’s jazzy bass lines make for a relaxing, uplifting and mesmerizing record in the midst of the mayhem that is your everyday life. Finally, a break from yourself. Just what the doctor ordered. –Kylie Cox

Mikey Mo The MC
Rule By Decree
3sixty5 Records
Street: 09.27
Mikey Mo = Nas + Mos Def + Cee Lo Green
This album is classically hip hop, with a wide variety of beats and lyrical approaches, but in the end, falls a bit short of being great. Many of the tracks are reminiscent of the good ol’ days of Biggie and Nas, with an even mix of both lyrical and beat influence. The album starts out with a generic, typical DJ intro, but stands out on “Freedom Ain’t Free,” with another rapper telling you how they are free from the bullshit materialism and over-importance of currency, and onto a larger calling. “Ashy to Classy” does it proper, with trumpet and keyboard, a smooth, jazzy track surprised with style. A tip-toeishly good beat on “The MC” plays a visual beat on your frontal lobe of sneaky cartoons walking in socks downstairs. It’s a well-balanced album, but that being said, nothing mediocre and well-balanced is ever great. ¬–Jemie Sprankle

The Misfits
Devil’s Rain
Misfits Records
Street: 10.04
The Misfits = The Misfits – Glenn Danzig + Balzac + Osaka Popstar
Ever since Jerry Only rebooted The Misfits in the late 1990s, I haven’t given two fucks about their output. The current version of the band includes Only on bass and vocals, former Black Flag member Dez Cadena on guitar, and Eric Arce of Murphy’s Law on drums. The result is three washed-up punks in Toys “R” Us costumes and fright makeup playing overproduced horror-pop. So is it bad? No, not really bad. A lot of what I always liked about the Misfits is still there—the 1950s pop-music influence, the punky doo-wop backing vocals and lyrics about the devil and his minions. These features, coupled with a progressive pop-punk soundtrack, actually create a few catchy songs. This is especially true when gravelly-voiced Cadena takes the mic. But aside from these few moments of clarity, the rest is ill conceived, overly polished and a little too Saturday morning cartoonish. I mean, do we really need a song about a monkey’s paw and one about a mummy’s hand? As far as punk music goes, this one is a little too Three Stooges. –James Bennett 

MOD (Method of Defiance)
Dub Arcanum Arcandrum
M.O.D. Technologies
Street: 10.11
MOD = Gorillaz Muzac + Big Mountain’s “Baby I Love Your Way” + UB40
Oh, Bill Laswell, what will you do next? What crazy combination of musicians will you cultivate this time? At Bill’s prime, he’s credited for producing Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit,” which, giving credit where it’s due, arguably brought turntablism and hip-hop to the mainstream masses in 1983. Since then, he’s put together countless combinations of extremely talented musicians for his whimsical projects, from John Zorn to Buckethead and DJ Krush to Jamaican production legends Sly & Robbie and P-Funk. In his latest collaboration, Method of Defiance, he puts together an exceptional cast, only to fall painfully flat on his fucking face. This is an attempt at making a dub album fresh—mixing modern with traditional—but it comes across trite, forced and waaaay too clean. If he keeps this up, he will be credited with “nü-reggae” or “white-dad-fratboy-dub.” I fucking hated it. You’re killing your career, Bill. Please retire. Please. –Mary Houdini

Mr Oizo
Stade 2
Ed Banger Records
Street: 11.18
Mr Oizo = Sebastian + Boys Noize + GLK
Fucktastic, that’s the only way to explain what the whimsical Mr Oizo has bestowed upon us with his new album, Stade 2. Frenchman Quentin Dupieux, best known under the alias “Mr Oizo,” took me into another realm with his fourth album. It felt like I was inside a boombox with a synthesizer, a drum machine and Netflix, set for life! Arbitrary patterns, crazy samples and sporadic drums kept me interested like when a girl gets implants to keep her boyfriend interested: Mr Oizo kept me enraptured. My favorite track on the album has to be “Datsun”; it made me feel like I was stuck inside a marshmallow. Funky bass lines, beguiling synths, robot voices and “A beat for the douches” make this album a contender to beat for album of the year. If you don’t buy this album, your life will be lacking. The End. −Mama Beatz

Mwahaha Music/Terrorbird
Street: 12.06
Mwahaha = (a weak attempt at being The Flaming Lips + Starfucker)
In a time when many bands are on that Flaming Lips-ish mental trip, here is yet another. Steadily building layers of synth, bass, and trumpets that are much too complicated in the intro disconcert and shake up listeners, leaving them to drown during opening track “Swimmer.” The music doesn’t breathe, and thus, suffocates under its own weight—a classic case of a bit too much going on. “Rainbow Diamond” sounds like something from Sesame Street, and yes, that’s a little bit of a compliment. A surfy bassline keeps the track together so the rest of the band can fuck around on top of it, but the drums are muddy and muffled. At times, the band ventures into experimental video game electro, but falls short of making anything memorable. Bands like Starfucker have already done this sound and done it better, though fans of this super weird and pretentious sound that has become so popular lately will probably eat this shit up. I just hope you brush your teeth after. –Tom Bennett

Nadastrom & Sabo
Nadastrom & Sabo present: Moombahton Remixes
Mad Decent Records
Street: 11.2011
Nadastrom & Sabo = Carlos Santana + Major Lazer + Nicki Minaj
Still holding down the Moombahton, Mad Decent releases another compilation. This time, Nadastrom & Sabo put together a six-track album of the hottest Moombahton remixes to the most popular songs, like JWLS’s remix of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” and Sabo’s remix of “Thriller” by the late Michael Jackson, just to name a couple. If I ever had to direct a softcore porno, this album would be the soundtrack. David Heartbreak’s of Dev’s “In the Dark” made me want to back it up and then some. Orgasmic drums, seducing synths and sexy vocals make the album a perfect candidate for bootiful party. Sazon Booya’s remix to Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain” is definitely my favorite on the compilation; epic is the only word to explain it. Adele’s powerhouse voice paired with Sazon Booya make for something truly beautiful. Buy this album, it’ll probably make you better in bed. −Mama Beatz

New Zealand @ CMJ 2011
Today the Moon, Tomorrow the Sun
New Zealand Music Commission
Street: 10.19
The College Music Journal (CMJ) is known for being one of the best sources for keeping yourself up to date with the latest music trends. This New Zealand compilation is just as strong as any that US festivals such as Coachella, Lollapalooza, or Bonnaroo would put out. A highlight is definitely Andrew Keoghan. He makes his debut on this album with “Gloria (Clean Sheets & a Fishbowl),” a wistful ballad with a funky jazz bass line. Another great addition is “Juices,” by Parallel Dance Ensemble. This is a sexy track that any smart guy would throw on while trying to put the moves on their ladies. Its sultry melody, sliding guitars, and echoing voices make for a great supplement to the album. Lastly, there is “Hardly Ever Think,” by Evil Twins, which combines the dualistic female voices of the band with some distorted guitar to create what could be the girl-version of the early version of The Strokes. These three tracks are great, but the album in its entirety is worth checking out, especially if you’re the kind of music snob that wants to know about everything cool before it’s cool. This is the music that will be cool. –Kylie Cox

Orchestra of Spheres
Nonagonic Now
Fire Records
Street: 11.08
Orchestra of Spheres = Neu! x Can + Indonesian gamelan music/street performances of Yogyakarta + AU + 60s science instructional films
I am STOKED about the recent resurgence of traditional music that is slowly making its way back in the public eye thanks to labels such as Mississippi Records, or the Ethiopiques collections.  And how refreshing it is to listen to the psychedelic modern spin of New Zealand’s Orchestra of Spheres.  This debut pulls from many dated traditional sounds, from eclectic free jazz to African beats, and successfully puts their own modern spin on these sounds without compromising the feel or integrity of the music itself, which is weirdly delightful and danceable. For being such a relatively young and unknown group, they’re definitely getting noticed globally.  My favorites are the kinetic off-kilter stomp and flange of  “Spontaneous Symmetry” and the off-tuning and repetition of “Boltzmann Brain,” a great gamelan-driven earworm. –Mary Houdini

Thee Oh Sees
Carrion Crawler/The Dream
In the Red
Street: 11.08
Thee Oh Sees = Sic Alps + Ty Segall
2011 just wouldn’t be complete without a second album from Thee Oh Sees. Carrion Crawler/The Dream ditches the poppy acoustic guitar lines and melotrons of the previous release, Castlemania (not surprising, since that album was pretty much a John Dwyer solo album) and returns to something more akin to Warm Slime (without the 13-minute title track). The songs seem to involve more of a build-up and more guitar fills and solos than previous releases, so it can get a bit tedious at times (especially during “Chem-Farmer”) but all in all, it is an incredibly solid release. The highlight of the album for me was “Crushed Grass,” a rehash of a song featured on the Ty Segall/Thee Oh Sees split released for Bruise Cruise last year. –Cody Hudson

Poor Boy’s Soul
Burn Down
Street: 11.15
Poor Boy’s Soul = (Two Gallants – the grit and rawness + The Black Keys – strong melodies)
Trevor Jones’ project Poor Boy’s Soul is an acoustic stomp, Delta blues revivalist attempt, but it sounds like some Northern boy trying to sound Southern, which makes sense, cause he’s from Portland. I am a Southerner and I know when you resurrect this kinda soulful roots music, you gotta dive into something raw and dirty, and if you got it, you got it, and if you don’t, you don’t. This album is just a watered-down, white-boy attempt at Delta blues, which takes some wild fingers and a life of sin to even start to play. (Check out Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, etc.) The strongest track on the album is “Nails In The Pine”; the slidework on this track has some nice rhythm to it. Trevor Jones, I’d like to advise you to get in touch with your inner suffering and really moan. I would like to see this released as a live album. I looked up some videos of Jones playing online and they were a lot better than the LP, which is a little too polished. I do give you credit, your guitarwork on “Movin’ To The City” is not bad at all, but you just sound like you’ve always lived in the city. Let loose, man, your guitarwork is killer, but that voice … I just don’t know … either get way dirty or get way smooth, but don’t stay in between. –Tom Bennett

Conditions of My Parole
Puscifer Entertainment
Street: 10.18
Puscifer = (Tool – The Melvins) + Tom Waits
Multi-talented and just plain weird, Maynard James Keenan is well known for releasing bizarre musical fuck yous that improbably garner adoration from fans and critics, and this album is no exception – either in weirdness or in popularity. Stepping away from the thinking man’s metal of Tool, Keenan here browses Americana and folk music, channeling Yellow Submarine-era Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel on “Tiny Monsters” and the banjo-drenched “The Green Valley.” With such a strong voice, vocally, musically and lyrically, there’s no forgetting Tool on “The Rapture” or “Toma.” The first single, creepy “Man Overboard” is an unforgettable ear-worm with its discordant plucked strings and unrelenting build to climax. While this CD doesn’t have any tracks as strong as some on the previous album, Puscifer continues to create some of the strongest and most uncompromising music in the industry. A must for fans but also excellent for those who found his other projects overly harsh. —Madelyn Boudreaux

Radio Moscow
The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz
Alive Records
Street: 10.11
Radio Moscow = The Jimi Hendrix Experience + Wishbone Ash + Siena Root
Few bands can compete with the fury of Parker Grigg’s agile, furious funk guitar, and with each Radio Moscow release, it seems he becomes an even more charismatic performer. The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz ditches the high-fidelity sound of Brain Cycles and instead focuses on Grigg’s impressive improvisational skills. The compositions on this album are wild and ambitious, breaking out into hysterical jamming that never sounds forced, because everything the man plays sounds so damn smooth. Keep an eye out for these guys, as they like to tour through Salt Lake City, and they put on a killer show. –Henry Glasheen

Rival Schools
Photo Finish/Atlantic Records
Street: 03.08
Rival Schools = Far + Stone Temple Pilots
Two of the 10 tracks on Pedals are better than anything you’ll hear on contemporary rock radio today, and it’s a shame that neither of them will get the attention they deserve. “Eyes Wide Open” has one of the most driving, adrenaline-inducing riffs I’ve heard since Nirvana’s “Breed.” “Choose Your Adventure” feels like an odd collaboration between Rivers Cuomo and the Dismemberment Plan, with a fuzz-ridden rhythm that forces you to bob your head and drum on your lap, whether you want to or not. Walter Schreifels is in fine form on Pedals; his vocals are tight and his lyrics aren’t trite. Of course, the album has the token, almost skippable alt-rock tracks for the diehard 90s folks to enjoy. But overall, Pedals is certainly more gas pedal than break pedal. –Andrew Roy

Roll The Tanks
Goodnight Jimmy Lee (7”)
Street: 10.06
RTT = the Replacements + The Kinks + Ennio Morricone
Man, this is a strange little single. It only features two songs, and they are different enough from each other that they do very little to help the listener understand what the band sounds like. That being said, both tracks are pretty good. The A-side, “Goodnight Jimmy Lee,” is a tribute song to the late garage-rocker Jay Reatard. It is as wild and irresponsible as you would expect a song about the dead Reatards’ frontman to be, though it does cross over a little into Midwestern rock territory. It is a tight and poppish track, with just the right level of anarchy. The flipside, an almost Spaghetti Western cut called “Pistolero,” is completely different. It reminds me a smidge of the Memphis-style records Frank Black was putting out 10 years ago—and I mean that in a good way. Then again, I may only be hearing this because the Tanks’ drummer is the same guy that played in Black’s band, the Catholics. If the Memphis observation has any merit, though, then there really may be some rapport between the two tracks—Reatard being a Tennessee native and all. The pièce de resistance, though, is the packaging. The record is pressed onto white vinyl, and comes housed in a sleeve that’s been lightly smeared with frosting. Not only is the whole thing confusing, but if I put the single with the rest of my records, it’ll make them smell like birthday cake. –James Bennett

Heritage of Satan
Agonia Records
Street: 10.25
Root = Sanctus Diavolos-era Rotting Christ + Root
The first few moments you spend with Root’s new album might confuse you, as the Czech masters of Satanic darkness have embraced a simpler, more direct sound that abandons many of their roots in classic black metal. After a few listens, though, the album starts to grow on you. Something about Jiri “Big Boss” Valter’s theatrical voice coldly narrating epic battles between forces of Light and Darkness, and their mid-tempo martial sound, makes Heritage of Satan sound more like a call to war than a conventional black-metal album. I find it helps to think of it as the dark side of heavy metal, where slow, heavy beats make for excellent music for headbanging ... or marching. –Henry Glasheen

Saturnian Mist
Gnostikoi Ha-Shaitan
Ahdistuksen Aihio Productions
Street: 12.15
Saturnian Mist = Deathspell Omega + Ved Buens Ende + Blut Aus Nord + Root
Gnostikioi Ha-Shaitan takes black metal to new territories and massive occult obscurities. Eight tracks of completely nasty, insane, uncomfortable occult exorcisms makes listening a huge challenge. Saturnian Mist forgo many of the typical black metal stereotypes—i.e., what tremolo riffing there is, is minimal. The album recalls the maddening intensity delivered by black metal’s pioneers, but pulling tangentially in all directions. Just in the vocal preaching/scathing there is a huge level of discomfort; they scoff at the idea of what black-metal vocals need to be, stemming from hate and fueled by trains of thought that the average person doesn’t even care to contemplate. The music is punishing from its core; oddly distorted, fuzzed guitar tone, hectic drumming and oddities in lone guitar passages delivers in each track something different and horrifyingly refreshing. This deserves to be listened to by dark music lovers that strive to find new territory in the obscure and the occult—listening to Gnostikioi Ha-Shaitan was like dusting off some forbidden occult book and reading passages that unleash things that cannot be sent back. –Bryer Wharton

Savaging Spires
Bending the Rules of Time
Critical Heights
Street: 11.21
Savaging Spires = Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes + Efterklang
For a band whose name might imply metal at first glance, this group is anything butt (get it? butt metal, ahem, sorry). In fact, they are the least metal band in the history of the folk revival. Glockenspiel, ponderously layered choruses and droning folk guitar all get together on this debut to form a pile of what I call “Music To Not Arouse Your Hangover.” Which is to say, it’s anything but bombastic, and drastically lacking in energy. This is good for what it is, but I don’t wear nearly enough turquoise/faux Native American jewelry to self-respectfully enjoy this UK group. –JP

Scott H. Biram
Bad Ingredients
Street: 10.11
Scott H. Biram = Hasil Adkins + Legendary Shack Shakers + T-Model Ford
Most five-member, full-on rock bands can’t match the raw power of Scott H. Biram. This motherfucker is a one-man band that incorporates blues, rock n’ roll, and country into a primal mix with punk and metal that is unlike anything else I’ve heard. Scott H. Biram has been hitting the road hard for about a decade now and nothing, not even being hit head-on by an 18-wheeler in 2003, has been able to slow him down. It is amazing how this guy can create the gut-wrenching blues on “Born in Jail” and then the very next track, play the sweet and sad country ballad “Broke Ass.” Although it’s apparent that Biram is versatile, his signature sound of no-nonsense blues rock will hit the spot for any fan searching for roots music without the bullshit. The final track, “Hang Your Head and Cry,” is an opus of country blues, frenzied guitarwork, and a madman genius behind the wheel. –James Orme

Snake Rattle Rattle Snake
Greater Than Collective
Street: 10.25
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake = The Dead Weather + New Order + Siouxsie & the Banshees
Snake Rattle Rattle Snake have conquered their home city of Denver, and now the band is ready to see how the remaining states take to Sineater, their venomous, dark-toned post-punk-dance-rock debut. One might think the band’s name is a tad cheesy, but it makes perfect sense once you hear the rattling guitar and highly percussive “Hastily.” The lower-register female vocals of Hayley Helmericks are at times reminiscent of Alison Mosshart (The Kills) and very apparent on “NOPD,” which is layered with Banshee-esque pounding drums and a snappy bassline. The indie-elctro comes out in full force on the danceable Rapture-esque “Kafka and the Milk.” The snake charmer is ready to play in the thick, atmospheric haze of guitars on “Like a Moth.” Grit and grace line the synth-heavy “Adoration,” while the dark undertones and ambient reverb-drenched guitar on “Warning” would make Robin Guthrie proud. –Courtney Blair

Star Fucking Hipsters
From the Dumpster to the Grave
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.11
Star Fucking Hipsters = Choking Victim/Leftöver Crack + Joanna Newsom + Desolate + The Distillers
At the risk of being struck down by rat-tailed, crack rock-steady junkies, I’ll say this: Star Fucking Hipsters are better than Leftöver Crack. Yeah, LÖC pioneered the sub-sub-genre, but the dynamics of From the Dumpster to the Grave evince Scott Sturgeon’s politics, more so because of female vocalists Nico De Gallo and Kelsey. FtDttG features switch-offs from “STRG”’s raspy vocals to De Gallo’s matching timbre, which Kelsey supplants with her lilted melodies, highlighting the album’s womanly touches. “Death Is Never Out of Fashion” boasts tradeoffs from all three singers, with Kelsey singing in español over skanky up-strums and “9/11 ’til Infinity” hammers down a nasty dance beat while guest artist Boots Riley spits political rhymes. “The Broken Branches,” though, is the song that’ll have you singing along with Kelsey: “The more I learn, the less I know/The more I reap, the less I sow/The streets are paved with epitaphs/Sink the lifeboat, burn the raft.” –Alexander Ortega

Still Corners
Creatures of an Hour
Sub Pop
Street: 10.11
Still Corners = My Bloody Valentine + The xx
The difference between My Bloody Valentine and bands that sound like My Bloody Valentine is that the former had a lot more going for them than just a sound. Still Corners succeed because of their attention to the fundamentals and not just the sonics. Creatures of an Hour is a grower, and it will take repeat listens to fully appreciate how well the songs are constructed out of basic elements—simple guitar arpeggios, pentatonic melodies, oldies drumbeats. On first listen, my criticism was that the tunes were too impressionistic to be memorable. But in the current landscape of in-your-face promotion, Still Corners remind us of the virtue of being subtle. –Nate Housley

Susan Surftone
Acme Brothers Records
Street: 10.25
Susan Surftone = Insect Surfers + The Ventures
When most people were picking up Nirvana or Pearl Jam albums in the early ’90s, Susan and the Surftones were reliving the days of Dick Dale or even The Ventures, with decidedly happier tunes (which is certainly admirable). Susan has gone solo, and is now just Susan Surftone. Shore is incredibly chill, and never overwhelming. Despite never becoming overwhelming, its retro feel borders on campy, and would probably bore or scare away somebody who isn’t an avid surf-rock fan. It has all of the edge you would expect from a surf-rock album recorded by a retired lawyer/real estate agent to have, because that is what it is. –Cody Hudson

Suzanne Vega             
Close-Up Vol. 3, States of Being
Razor & Tie
Street: 11.01
The eagerly anticipated third volume of Vega’s Close-Up project has been described by her as featuring her “mental health” songs, where the listener can often imagine themselves being the narrator. They certainly are some of her most unique, like “Blood Makes Noise,” “Tombstone,” and the profound “Solitude Standing.” The pared-down arrangements remind me of the brilliance of seeing her perform strictly solo, with just her and her acoustic guitar. Although in reality, her long-time musical collaborators Michael Visceglia (on bass) and Gerry Leonard (on electric guitar and musical direction) are here, they never overpower the beauty of the arrangements or her clear, precise vocals. Digital versions of this series boast bonus tracks, and two from Vol. 3 are my personal favorites: “Anniversary” and “Language.” Fortunately, both versions have the ever-astute observations in “Pornographer’s Dream” and her wondrous, haunting new Carson McCullers-inspired “Instant of the Hour After.” –Dean O Hillis

Star Fucking Hipsters
From the Dumpster to the Grave
Fat Wreck Chords
Street: 10.24
Star Fucking Hipsters = Choking Victim/Leftöver Crack + Joanna Newsom + Desolate + The Distillers
At the risk of being struck down by rat-tailed, crack rock steady junkies, I’ll say this: Star Fucking Hipsters are better than Leftöver Crack. Yeah, LÖC pioneered the sub-sub-genre, but the dynamics of From the Dumpster to the Grave evince Scott Sturgeon’s politics more so because of female vocalists Nico De Gallo and Kelsey. FtDttG features switch-offs from “STRG”’s raspy vocals to De Gallo’s matching timbre, which Kelsey supplants with her lilted melodies, highlighting the album’s womanly touches. “Death Is Never Out Of Fashion” boasts tradeoffs from all three singers with Kelsey singing in español over skanky up-strums; “9/11 ‘til Infinity” hammers down a nasty dance beat while guest artist Boots Riley spits political rhymes. “The Broken Branches,” though, is the song that’ll have you singing along with Kelsey: “The more I learn the less I know/The more I reap the less I sow/The streets are paved with epitaphs/Sink the lifeboat, burn the raft.” –Alexander Ortega

Noregs Vaapen
Dark Essence Records
Street: 09.27
Taake = Darkthrone + Carpathian Forest
Ulvhedin Hoest’s solo project is one of the most exciting examples of Norwegian black metal, a synthesis between furious dissonance and atmospheric majesty that’s always pushing the boundaries of the sound. Noregs Vaapen opens with the brilliant “Fra Vadested til Vaandesmed,” a harsh, sorrowful black metal song with a truly memorable central riff. The whole album is crisply produced, capturing the full range of high, droning guitars and the lows of Hoest’s sinister scream. Every song on the album feels fresh, and fans will appreciate the return of Taake’s meandering, restless melodies. –Henry Glasheen

Thomas Dolby
A Map of the Floating City
Lost Toy People
Street: 10.24
Thomas Dolby = Howard Jones + (Peter Schilling x Oingo Boingo)
Once one of the biggest names in new wave, wunderkind Dolby largely disappeared from the music scene for the last 20 years, reemerging last summer with “A Map of the Floating City,” a social networking game that turned 1000 players into sleepless squid-phobic puzzle-solvers. The album of the same name is one gorgeous jazzy journey north, from the paranoid city to an uncertain end on stormy seas. Standout tracks include the Middle Eastern techno “Spice Train” and Flat Earth-reminiscent “Simone.” Dolby—as The Aviator—unveiled new tracks during in-game parties, winning instant approval for “Evil Twin Brother” (with the smoky-voiced Regina Spektor) and the hilarious country parody “Toad Lickers.” “17 Hills” (bampersand), a sad tale of love gone wrong featuring Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) and Cape Breton fiddler Natalie MacMaster, is the most beautiful track, although the gorgeous, folk-tinged “To The Lifeboats” is a close second. This is more mature than his 1980s releases, and just as wonderful. –Madelyn Boudreaux

Tony Bennett
Duets II
Columbia Records
Street: 09.20
Tony Bennett = Frank Sinatra + Dean Martin + Joey Bishop
Duets II is star studded with the likes of Queen Latifah, k.d lang, Natalie Cole and the wondrous Mariah Carey. My question is, why is the man who performs in a suit, like a gentleman, on a track with that wack-a-doo Lady Gaga performing in a meat suit? I never thought I would work on a review where I would say that tracks featuring the likes of John Mayer and Lady Gaga were the banger tracks on an album. But here I am. Gaga is a perfect fit for the song, no other way to put it. Mayer and Bennett are a duo on “One For My Baby,” which is a stand out. One not to miss is “Body And Soul,” which features the late and lovely Amy Winehouse. It’s an unparalleled combo of her soulful and his smooth voice that overawes, and, as one of her last recordings, is an exceptional composition of vocals. –Jemie Sprankle

The Tontons
Street: 10.04
The Tontons = Ingrid Michaelson + Macy Gray + Beach House
This quartet from Houston, Texas, present to us a taste of what they are capable of with Golden. It is a strong follow-up to their EP and LP previously released. Melodies in their songs are flooded with that repetitive electric organ that we all love to hate. It is a superb mixture of retro meets indie meets psychedelic. It begins with “Charlie,” which includes a ukulele, some soft drums, and a sweet lead voice, and is accompanied by some heartbreaking lyrics about moving on. Almost reminds me of something Jason Mraz might be interested in teaming up with. On “Never Never,” we catch The Tontons saying “You owe me something kind of wonderful,” and who hasn’t felt that a time or two or 60? “Golden” is more upbeat, and could be one of those songs used on the O.C. soundtrack or shown during the credits of Twilight. “Vietnam” is the most unique track on the EP, and sounds a bit like being stuck in an Eastern European carnival. Overall, it’s an unyielding effort, and makes us anticipate future releases from The Tontons. –Kylie Cox

Tornado Rider
Jark Matter
Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club
Street: 08.09
Tornado Rider = Apocalyptica + Gogol Bordello + Dr. Demento
Silver Sprocket BC took me by surprise with Jark Matter. Tornado Rider’s goofiness puts it more on the level of Weird Al Yankovic than on the level of so-called serious punk. It’s an expertly cello-led concept album, part cheese metal, part psych, and part pyrate punk, written for guys who play Warhammer 40,000 in the back rooms of comic book shops. As influenced by Lord of the Rings and Terry Pratchett as by anything remotely musical, Jark Matter includes a nerd map of the mythical land of Sneth tucked inside the packaging. Musically, the album is all over the place, experimenting on occasion with some funk guitar (“Giant Tree Man”) or a psychobilly breakdown à la Reverend Horton Heat (“Search Warden”). The unique style has been referred to as WTF-core. WTF is right, although I’m not sure there’s anything “core” about it. Sometimes, though, when the effects pedals fade and elf-costumed frontman Rushad Eggleston’s cello shines through, there’s something about Jark Matter that I kind of dig somewhere deep down in the long-repressed nethers of my self-conscious, music-snob soul. –Nate Perkins

The War on Drugs
Slave Ambient
Secretly Canadian
Street: 08.15
The War on Drugs = (Bob Dylan + Bruce Springsteen in a cave)
The War on Drugs presents a look at Americana slowed down, a fine blend of ambiance and folk rock. Slave Ambient is an ambient soundtrack, perfect for the late-night unwind after work, and a glass of wine on the couch chillout while you wait for the sleeping pills to kick in so pirate ships can sail through your bedroom walls and into your head. The band is steadily gathering hype and drawing comparisons to an echoed-out Bob Dylan. For those who can’t quite fall into the beauty of shoegaze and who have a penchant for folk leanings, you’ll love this album. If you ever wanted to know what Dylan and Springsteen dreams sound like, here ya go. The structures of these songs focus on building, rather than choruses. Quite a lot is going on in each track; however, the songs don’t feel overwhelming or too bloated. Tasteful folky soloing smoothly sails over simple beats and acoustic guitars. The band played Kilby Court on Oct. 29; make sure to catch them next time around. I don’t know how fitting the name The War on Drugs is, because it sounds like leadman Adam Granduciel takes his fair share. Maybe you should smoke some, too, as you listen along. –Tom Bennett

Ghetto Hymns
M9 Entertainment
Street: 10.25
Winstrong = Wyclef + Pitt Bull + Sean Kingston
Hip hop with a smooth, soulful sound and plenty of beat to move and wiggle to, Ghetto Hymns is the poppy, Top 40-influenced album from Winstrong. If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of Winstrong. Well, let me help you out: Think Wyclef meets the reggaeton culture and goes mainstream, Main Street. Track No. 3 pops the top of the auto-tuned single and gets right into it, but not a lot of this album stands out and really wows you; it all seems very cookie-cutter. It comes across as more of a label-produced album and less of an artist’s expression of oneself. Track six is a moral-boosting track that seems to fall short of rallying the troops, while the album falls short on creativity. The real bummer wave of this endeavor album is the overuse of the auto-tune function. –Jemie Sprankle

Wooden Shjips
Thrill Jockey Records
Street: 09.15
Wooden Shjips = Brian Jonestown Massacre + Black Rebel Motorcycle Club + Steppenwolf
Despite the clichéd name of this band, I was curious to begin my listen of the West EP, mostly due to Wooden Shjips’ history with the impressive Mexican Summer label. Wooden Shjips has transitioned from primitive and minimalist rock to a rock n’ rolling west desert acid sound machine. It’s hippy, but it’s not all peace and love—these guys make dark trip-rock. Organs and guitars swell like nighttime desert fires. At any moment, I was expecting a native chief to walk in and hand me a feather that would send me reeling. “Crossing” is a huge drone of buzzing guitar and pulsing organ with a tambourine bouncing its way throughout. Lazy vocals float above the mist of sound like a spirit guide. This band is patient enough to let a sound build and breathe, and oh, man, track No. 3 comes in like wolves running in a circle. “Lazy Bones” is a trippy dance piece that, despite its name, is not lazy at all. These guys have created a truly Western album and a truly summer sun-drenched piece. –Tom Bennett

Woooden Wand
Street: 11.07
Woooden Wand & the Briarwood Virgins = Captain Beefheart + the Band + boring
I hate just about anything psychedelic, and I especially hate when hippies think that, because they’re hippies, they’ll have special insight into playing music they have no business playing, like reggae, or, in this case, folk music. It enrages me to my core—the music never goes anywhere, and usually collapses in on itself because of its complete lack of direction. Wooden Wand & the Briarwood Virgins are listless in their efforts to create anything cohesive on this record. “Scorpion Glow” is the closest thing to any excitement you’ll find on this album, with its big crescendos, but even that is pretty toned down. If the pace of this record could be double-timed, there might be something there, but as it is, earthy and slow Briarwood just puts me to sleep. –James Orme

Open Season
Feel Trip
Street: 08.30
YAWN = Vampire Weekend + MGMT
Sometimes bands make unfortunate decisions in names, YAWN is one such instance. It’s too easy to make bad puns about how sleep-inducing this group is. Don’t get me wrong, if you like mainstream pop standards like MGMT and Vampire Weekend, you’ll enjoy swimming in the sea of sameness of YAWN. Someone out there is loving, “bumping,” and enjoying the shit outta this release. It could have been me three or four years ago—just not so much today. –JP

Zechs Marquise
Getting Paid
Rodriguez Lopez Productions
Street: 09.27
Zechs Marquise = The Mars Volta + Cougar + RJD2
You will one day—perhaps, in your dreams—see the most badass, most ballingest, stylish, hardcore, potent piece of gangster movie ever sucked through someone’s eyeballs, and then as the credits roll, under “Soundtrack,” you will see the name Zechs Marquise. Though it’s not the warrior from Gundam Wing, but rather a reference to him, the appreciation for the dramatic is the same here, and the swagger is tripled. These guys make lounge rock for tweakers or post-rock for kids who wear trenchcoats. If you’re sufficiently lost in its conceit, you can almost believe it is the hip hop that the name Getting Paid implies, produced by someone with an eye for lush timbre and old-school R&B production—maybe RJD2? The comparison with the Mars Volta is the closest, but instead of freakouts that leave you a little lost, these grooves have an attention span that isn’t so much shorter than yours; plus, you can dance to it. Fierce drums and heavy bass form a rhythm section that allows keys, elaborate guitar escapades, and the occasional haunting vocals to do their psychedelic but ultimately pleasantly hooky thing with abandon. Think 70s funk mixed with future rock and genius-level virtuosity. I’ll be on the lookout for these guys playing live, because with an album name like Getting Paid, you know they have to break a sweat. –Rio Connelly