This Month's Picks

Circles (CD)

Echoes of Suicide, Silver Apples and Spacemen 3 emulate from Moon Duo’s big bad amplifiers, but the San Francisco band develops that into their own brand of psychedelia on Circles , their latest and finest release. The band, which consists of SF psych-rockers Wooden Shjips’ Erik “Ripley” Johnson on guitar as well as Sanae Yamada on keyboards, sounded great on previous releases when they let things fly into extended jam territory (as do Wooden Shjips), but they sound just as engaging in more bite-sized pieces, as on the darkly melodic “I Can See” and jangly title track, which lets just enough light in to help illuminate the rest of the album as a result. They still do motorized rock with Kraut beats like no other, as on songs like “I Been Gone,” but songs like the actually kind of dancey “Dance pt. 3” prove to be the perfect augment to their sound. Badass and no-nonsense, for sure, Circles captures Moon Duo at their best but allows them loosen up stylistically and have a little more fun at the same time. More
Genre: Rock

Until The Quiet Comes (CD)

Al Franken
Flying Lotus albums take multiple listens to reveal themselves because they’re such densely layered opuses of electronic and organic sounds, voiceless, beat-driven pieces and guest vocal work that usually draws Flying Lotus into more accessible territory. So after many spins, I can say Until the Quiet Comes is yet another excellent entry into Fly Lo’s canon of work, which has included the murky Los Angeles and its excellent follow-up, Cosmogramma . Until the Quiet Comes , appropriately enough, is a more chilled out affair. The first vocal track we hear, “Getting There” with Niki Randa, doesn’t break the more atmospheric bent of the album’s first half, though Randa’s gentle vocals tug you into the density of subsequent tracks like “Heave(n),” which starts lush and laid-back before layering beat over beat until your mind spills over trying to keep track of the thing. It’s difficult not to talk about Flying Lotus albums in terms of vocal and more pop-oriented tracks, as the rest swirls together in a delectable stew, so you’ll probably track back to songs like “Sultan’s Request,” with its fat oscillator and dubsteppy beat taking center stage; the sparkling “The Nightcaller,” with its digitized handclaps and fizzy, funky synths; or the Erykah Badu-starring “See Thru to U,” in which Badu’s warbly pipes guide listeners through a kind of grimy afrobeat-jazz fusion that defies easy categorization. Speaking of Badu, Thom Yorke’s vocals on “Electric Candyman” sound more like her than anything he’s done with Radiohead — listen to this dusty bit of electronic jazz to hear Yorke in completely new environs. While Until the Quiet Comes ain’t exactly party jam material, it’s a brave journey into new ways of producing sound and song that takes time to sink its teeth in but offers lasting rewards. More

Lightning (CD)

Matt & Kim
Adorable indie boy-girl duo Matt Johnson (keys) and Kim Schifino (drums) are back with their hotly anticipated fourth album, and yes indeed it's a Lightning strike! The blowout success of 2010's Sidewalks has set the stage for some serious koo koo time. Fist-pumping psych-you-up fun, hot jams like "Let's Go," are the specialty of Matt & Kim, and they serve it up on a flaming silver platter. Though recorded in their unpretentious Brooklyn apartment, this will no doubt spawn more headline tours and singles you will hear in TV commercials and movie trailers, because who else can bring the silly/sassy hipster energy this hard? Kind of like a low-budget version of the best big expensive club jam ever, with xxxtreme attitude.More
Genre: Rock

Carry Me Back (CD)

Old Crow Medicine Show
Since 1998, these hep young dudes have breathed exuberant new life into the old-timey string band sound, playing their own downhome originals alongside prewar standards on guitar, fiddle, mandolin and standup bass. This is their newest since 2008’s acclaimed Tennessee Pusher , and shows they haven’t lost a bit of their country soul since. From blazing bluegrass workouts to stompin’ odes to pretty girls to plaintive laments, OCMS show that though it may sound old-timey, theirs is a living, breathing music, and can be just as righteous and relevant as the latest rock thing.More
Genre: Bluegrass

Epicloud (CD)

Devin Townsend Project
Having gotten a "quadralogy" of DTP albums out of his system last year, Canadian multi-instrumentalist progressive metal hero Townsend is back with a big, BIG romantic pop-metal album with a vast scope and sound. As usual, it features his blazing guitar work, huge choirs and string sections and avalanches of sound, but the real difference here is how catchy it is -- it hearkens back to the big pop era of Abba, Queen and E.L.O., with just the right touch of metal rage to light the fire. Ex-The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen returns as well. Townsend claims he wants to make something "spiritual without religion, and set to heavy music" and if a single phrase could sum up a sprawling musical juggernaut like Epicloud, that phrase will do. More
Genre: Rock

Old World Romance (CD)

Sea Wolf
On Sea Wolf’s breakthrough song “You’re a Wolf,” Alex Brown Church was running, seemingly away from someone, or unable to reach someone. On the opener, “Old Friend,” of his latest album, Church sings of such youthful drama as a thing of the past — “I went north, and I went east/Follow in the footsteps of some beautiful beast/But now we’re getting older and we’re growing up.” Old World Romance finds Church singing about relationships in similar turmoil, though with the grace gleaned by age, rolling nostalgic melodies over lush instrumentation. Its spell of morose reflection is somehow infectious to inhabit, even as the emotions behind songs like “In Nothing” (“You lived in each other/Keep looking for something in nothing,” goes the refrain) seem bleak. Church seems to know relationships always involve some measure of trauma, and only offers dry reprieve — “I feel the darkness at my back/That’s why I’m always rearranging/And looking forward to the season changing” he sings on “Changing Seasons.” Though it’s a bummer, Old World Romance knows its subject well, and through Church’s lovely melodies, its take on heartache rings true. More
Genre: Rock

2 (CD)

Guano Padano
Guano Padano are an instrumental three-piece who move from nourish country (“One Man Bank”) to Middle Eastern-inspired surf rock (“Gran Bazaar”) to glitchy jazz (“Lynch”) and just about anywhere else their instruments can take them, incorporating your basic guitar, piano, bass and drums, plus banjo, eerie steel guitar, Chinese instrumentation (“Miss Chan”) and anything else that might seem appropriate while retaining their Spaghetti Western sound. Mike Patton shows up to lend his howling vocals to the dark “Prairie Fire,” and the band turns in a dreamy cover of Santo & Johnny’s “Sleep Walk,” but these moments aren’t even necessary diversions — Guano Padano’s cool, kitschy sound stands on its own, soundtracking imagined, unmade films and allowing the listener to explore their own interpretation or simply bask in the sound. More
Genre: Rock

Anastasis (CD)

Dead Can Dance
Dead Can Dance’s music is one of high concept, sewing various world musics across centuries into its black cape of 4AD goth glory. So given the duo of Brendan Perry and Lisa Gerrard haven’t released an album since 1996’s Spiritchaser , and the demise of their relationship as lovers, it seems only fitting to hear Anastis (Greek for “resurrection”) in terms of the band as a concept. The death march drums and elegiac stringed instrument that open “Kiko” give way to a powerful, mournful vocal from Gerrard. Similarly, “Anabasis” moves on the sound of relentless, clanging percussion and unsettling melodic lines that rise to a climactic cry from Gerrard, but it’s also a perfect example of DCD’s ability to appeal both to world music and underground rock fans — both goth and gothic, if you will — as its synths blend with stringed instruments that predate the use of electricity, and its melodies would sound perfectly fitting played on electric guitars. However, despite the music’s usual grimness, there’s also that sense of revival hinted at by the title, and it comes through on tracks like opener “Children of the Sun,” which builds an expansive chamber sound on which Perry intones “We are the children of the sun/Our journey’s just begun.” Perry has said Anastasis is the beginning of a new era for the band, which will continue with a “regeneration” period; if Anastasis is the sound of death, it is one draped in the most beautiful attire and stately ceremony.More
Genre: Rock

Observator (CD)

The Raveonettes
After spending the better part of a decade producing huge, wall-of-sound, Jesus & Mary Chain-style guitar noise, The Raveonettes continue the scaling back of their sound begun on the darker, unfairly maligned Raven in the Grave on Observator . Though it still eschews the campiness that marked much of The Raveonettes earlier work, Observator is a sunnier affair than Raven , full of sparkling guitarwork and Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo’s twinlike melodies. The beginning songs on Observator sound like a back-to-basics approach to their sound, Buddy Holly melodies over tinny beats, but the Ride-like rush of “Sinking With the Sun” and lovelorn single “She Owns the Street” display an interest in jangle pop, without as much of the shoegaze sheen the band used to coat their songs with. This is a more melody-focused rendition of The Raveonettes’ sound, and thus its emotional quality comes through more clearly. Observator ’s noise-flecked pop in songs like the glorious closer “Till the End” relay a lonely sense of wonderment, like staring at the stars alone.More
Genre: Rock