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Guidance (CD)

Russian Circles

Chicagoan trio Russian Circles continues to examine their multi-dimensional world full of musical and emotional dichotomies on their sixth album, Guidance . Their cinematic sound washes in like waves: simple one minute and staggeringly complex the next, or a guitar-driven swell followed by a quiet retreat into melody. Despite the extreme modulations, their music is intuitive more than constructed for effect. The songs on Guidance meander in the best of all possible ways, as if they are themselves searching for meaning and transcendence in a confusing world.

Dirty Heads (CD)

Dirty Heads

Huntington Beach, CA's Dirty Heads capture the mood of hot Orange County days on their self-titled fifth album. It feels like it takes less risks and strange directions, choosing instead to go for a much cooler, relaxed atmosphere covered in a haze of LA smog, the smell of the salt in the water, and good weed. Recorded in Los Angeles, a thirty minute drive north from their home, the easy-going feel fuses the verbal prowess of hip-hop with the stoned in flip-flops feel of ska like a perfect cocktail. Smooth organ riffs bounce against tinny snares, dub bass and snappy guitar lines offset the aggressively catchy rap rhymes that distance themselves from the harsh vibes of life and goes for pop fun. The nostalgic first single, "That's All I Need," is a love-letter to SoCal twenty years ago. Spitting a laundry list of memories, people, and even the musical feel of California beaches, nothing captures the spirit of Los Angeles' summers quite the same way. "Too Cruel" has the minimal rock spaciness of early Coldplay that suddenly gets real trippy when the track turns off and the bass gets real sensual with raunchy, tongue in cheek humor that's close to a teenage sunburnt fantasy. "Oxygen" is dub spun through techno synths and scratchy vinyl samples. The dramatic lyrics and groove of "Oxygen" culminates in a catchy crescendo of synthesized that horns that can easily get stuck in your ear. For fans of OC '90s ska, Dirty Heads doesn't recapture that sound. It keeps the spirit alive. Pour a lemonade, mix it with some booze, and chill to this.

Take Her Up To Monto (CD)

Roisin Murphy

Weird pop visionary Roisin Murphy returns with an innovative, surprising new LP with echoes of Brian Eno and Giorgio Moroder style production. Ever the chameleon, the Irish diva’s vocal stylings alternate between disco diva, ‘80s soul singer, unforgiving ice queen, and coy cabaret songstress. The album skips between genres, propelled forward at times by icy, stabbing synths, sometimes by spacey atmospherics, twinkling keys, and bossa nova beats. Murphy proves once again that she is the master of smart, ever-evolving dance music.

Cheetah EP [Foil Stamp Sticker] (CD)

Aphex Twin

Cheetah , the latest EP from Aphex Twin, amps up slowly. Named after a discontinued and apparently unloved early ‘90s synth (synth fans online seem to consider it at best mystifying and at worse, unusable), Richard D. James’ latest release is icy, industrial, pulsating, and evocative. The first tracks are minimalistic, more focused on rhythm than sound palettes, with washes of color and moody atmospherics gradually seeping into the mix. As the EP progresses, it takes on acid vibes and ’80s soundtrack style, with wistful flutes and dark, longing synth tones lending to its sense of ephemerality. Once Cheetah has reached its bouncy final track, things have gotten as close to a dance floor jam as anything you’ll find on an Aphex Twin release.

Fighter (CD)

David Nail

David Nail's latest should prove to be the soundtrack to many a summer evening across the county. Lead single, "Night's On Fire," evokes the feelings and imagery of an August sunset, with its sense of calm at the end of a day, paired with the excitement and anticipation of the night to come. Title track "Fighter" is a sturdy and sweet ode to his wife. With a laid back groove and earnest vocal performance, Nail praises her strength and perseverance through troubled times.

Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (CD)

Ryley Walker

Chicago-based guitarist/singer Ryley Walker's latest album evokes finger-style pickers like Bert Jansch and Nick Drake while infusing them just the right amount of electric rock and jazz instrumentation. Walker's confident, clear, no-nonsense vocals give this mix of influences and styles an authority that makes them his own, especially on "The Roundabout," in which his musings paint vignettes of a rambling life, unencumbered yet contemplative. Album opener "The Halfwit in Me" features instrumentation reminiscent of both an English folk guitar festival and a trip to the sun, while the vocals have the attitude of an American alt-country group like Whiskeytown.

And Then Like Lions (CD)

Blind Pilot

Blind Pilot’s And Then Like Lions is a reflective, tender folk rock album complete with country and south-of-the-border flourishes. At times nostalgic, at others hopeful and defiant, this is an album that reveals itself more and more over repeated listens. Standouts include “Umpqua Rushing,” a sweetly sad pop track about love and loss and “What Is Yet,” which starts with a lush orchestral swell before gradually fading into a stripped down, desperate ballad. Frontman Israel Nebeker is clearly wrestling with some difficult life changes on the band’s new LP; the result is a poignant chronicle of the dark times, as well as a reminder of the remarkable resiliency of the human spirit.

Sweatbox Dynasty (CD)


Black Moth Super Rainbow's frontman Tobacco bridges the gap between adrenaline powered garage rock and the surreal energy of psychedelic electronic music. The vintage synth beats sound like they are breathing out of an overclocked Apple II using an early drum machine program, while the hypnotic vocals are delivered through a vocoder, an underused tool in today's music. With the amount of tape hiss on Sweatbox Dynasty (itself loud enough to be another musical element, not just an aesthetic), the album almost feels like a long lost, low-fi '80s oddity from an enthusiastic fan of Yellow Magic Orchestra. The opening track, "Human Om," starts with a simple enough melody before the drone of a sitar (or a digital approximation of one...?) pops in and disappears as quickly as it arrives. The unrecognizable lyrics, sung in the voice of an '80s robot, give the tracks the uncomfortable, unsettling mood of organic sounds being taking over by technology: the musical equivalent of the Japanese horror film  Tetsuo the Iron Man . "Gods in Heat" channels a dancier, Italo disco vibe that's heavy on the guitar distortion and minimal synths. The mantra vocals penetrate right through your skull as the music, straight out of a Giallo horror film soundtrack, has the spooky, atmospheric feel that can either get you sweating uncomfortably or sweating from dancing. Sweatbox Dynasty is a messy, psychedelic trip that drips with digital funk and low-res .jpg strangeness. Pop this in and get sucked down a strange wormhole.

True Sadness (CD)

The Avett Brothers

The Avett Brothers took inspiration from such disparate influences as Queen, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty, and Gillian Welch on their Rick Rubin-produced ninth studio LP, True Sadness . Indeed, the record is eclectic, with polished Mumford & Sons style folk-pop melodies embellished by bluegrass strings and punk rock ebullience. In spite of its title, and the lyrical contents of songs like “Divorce Separation Blues” and “Satan Pulls the Strings,” the melodies are almost rebelliously upbeat. Because of this patchwork of styles, the album works as a crossover between alt. rock, indie pop, and country/folk, giving it a wide appeal. These are the sort of summer songs that seems destined to be blasted out of rolled down car windows, and shout-sung along to by enthusiastic fans on tour.

Scour (CD)


Scour is furious destruction pushed to new extremes. You don't just listen to it. It rips your ear opens and slams right into your brain. This black metal super group is led by Philip Anselmo of Pantera and features John Jarvis (Pig Destroyer), Chase Fraser (Animosity), Derek Engemann (Cattle Decapitation), and Jesse Schobel (Strong Intention). The intense vocal atomic blast that comes straight from Anselmo's gut gives you chills against the polyrhythmic, otherworldly drums, and violent guitar riffs that can shred the air like a hot knife. With six tracks that never go beyond a few minutes each, it's a short EP, but as dense and heavy as it gets. It makes most new metal albums look like a puny, anemic joke. It's real musicians showing you how metal is done. Their single "Dispatch" is just a taste of the insanity. Inhuman drums furiously bang like you are entering battle with static-laced guitars swirling all around. Anselmo grabs your face and gives a performance that matches up with the best of Pantera's albums. This is far from easy-listening: this is pure sonic power. Spin this on your turntable and feel the raw energy and barbarity of Scour. Their first EP is a great sign of things to come.

Never Asked For Heaven (CD)

Bent Life

From the humble Midwest town of Lincoln, Nebraska comes the queasiest, fiercest hardcore that's ready to rip off your face and make you eat it. Bent Life's Never Asked For Heaven is a boot kick to the crotch of a first album. The riffs of pure sonic destruction echo with fire and channel early Metallic or Pantera with 100mph rhythms that can make you barely move. "Thanks For Nothing" has shredding '80s guitar wailing, guttural vocals that collide with angry, violent lyrics and noisy guitar feedback swirls. But the heart of the track summons the energy of early Slayer with relentless power riffs that drill straight into your skull. "Stab Me" opens up instantly and blasts from your speaker before you can even think. Never giving you a chance to recover yourself, it pounds and pounds into hypnotic infinity fueled by rage. When you think hardcore is getting weak, Bent Life makes it threatening, scary, and dangerous again. Blast this and get crazy.

Fishing Blues (CD)


On their seventh studio album, Fishing Blues , Minneapolis hip hop duo Atmosphere creates a mood that is looser, drunker, and more relaxed than ever before. They capture what it feels like to be an adult stuck in arrested development. Atmosphere's rapper, Slug, is resigned to the fact he is now an adult with kids and he relishes in it. The beats are goofy and rely on instruments that feel more at place on an indie rock album. Masterfully put together by producer Ant, guitars twang like Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks, moog synths skip around on ska rhythms, and the drums are real drums, not drum machine samples. All distinctly weird choices considering the current state of hip hop. "Ringo" is steeped in adolescent restlessness as he makes a whole song about his own immaturity. He cracks jokes about getting too drunk, dealing with a beer belly, and getting too crazy to the point of self-destruction. And to drive the joke home, he repeats "Everyone loves seeing a falling star." As self-deprecating as music gets! "No Biggie," which feels like a lost P-Funk jam from the '80s with piercing synths and shredding guitar, is the yin to "Ringo's" yang. While "Ringo" relishes in immaturity, the criticism of his own navel-gazing behavior and the people who bring him down are as clear as day. If you feel like you are out of step with hip hop today, Fishing Blues might be the remedy.

Amoeba Exclusive

Pre-order the new Allah-Las album, Calico Review on Amoeba Exclusive White Vinyl! Limited Edition of 500.


The first six albums by The Cure are being reissued on 180-gram vinyl September 6th.

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