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Lost Loves (CD)

Minus The Bear

There are no real  Lost Loves  for Minus the Bear; songs which could've been B-sides or cutting floor scraps get their proper love on this EP of unreleased tracks from the last seven years of their career. From the opening track, "Electric Rainbow," you're confronted with ferocious crying guitars, 400-horsepower percussion and droning synths. This isn't just a curiosity for Minus the Bear fans, but a track that reverberates with a passion equal to their previous albums. Closer "The Lucky Ones" is one of their most bitterly ironic tracks of pure white-knuckle emotion. It's unflinching, angst-ridden post-prog pop that any lesser band would envy. For artists to reject tracks of this quality would been a Sophie's Choice, but they've found their home and are waiting for you to give them the respect they deserve.

Everything Will Be Alright In The End (CD)

Weezer

Weezer have had it up to here with Weezer. They make as much plain on “Back to the Shack,” the first single from  Everything Will Be Alright in the End , singing a mea culpa: “Sorry guys I didn’t realize that I needed you so much/I thought I’d get a new audience, I forgot that disco sucks.” So  Everything  is their bid to make things right, packing all of the catchy melodies they’d been neglecting as of late into one album. Songs like “Ain’t Got Nobody” bring back the pizza party power-pop and rocketship riffs of their early work, with “Happy Days” melodies aplenty in songs like “Eulogy for a Rock Band.” And Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino shows up to co-write and trade off vocals on the catchy “Go Away,” which could’ve easily fit on a Best Coast album as well and shows just how much Weezer remain influential. Their reverence to the same ol’ influences and lyrical territory is summed up by the intro to “Lonely Girl,” which just repeats a few chords and the words “My lonely girl” four times, before following with “so baby come on.” But it comes off as charming here for the first time in a while, sounding legitimately like a band of high school friends still in love with classic rock ‘n’ roll. Things get a little corny now and then, as they often do on Weezer albums—there’s a silly little pop song called “The British Are Coming”—but they pair those kind of sentiments with strong melodies. By the time we get to the album’s metal-inspired trilogy ending, it’s like, who cares, it’s Weezer and they’re doing their thing. With the solid  Everything Will Be Alright in the End , Weezer restore that kind of faith from their audience and probably will strike a chord with a few new young fans along the way, too.

...And Star Power (CD)

Foxygen

Foxygen’s new album is a sprawling double-length opus that packs as many great psych-rock melodies and eccentric ideas as will fit onto one album. Foxygen’s songwriters, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, turn their talent and rivalry into something truly strange and special. The album still relishes in turning classic rock on its head, with Bowie-esque loungey pop songs like “How Can You Really” that sound instantly memorable while still remaining idiosyncratic, coy even. There’s a real sweetness to tracks like “Coulda Been My Love” and its Stonesy whispered nothings, while “Cosmic Vibrations” reimagines The Beatles’ “Long, Long, Long” as a languid sungazing weed jam that explodes into a hippie romp. The band’s lyrics cut through the lazy cool with real emotions, asking “if you don’t love me anymore, how come you never say it to my face?” on “You & I” and finishing desperately with “Why doesn’t anybody help me? Why doesn’t anybody care?” From there, the album gets wilder, delving into piano-laden suites with beatnik delivery and Flaming Lips-ish psychedelic breakdowns (“Star Power I-III”). The album becomes like a hall of mirrors in both scope and sound, as songs fade in and out, turning from organ-fueled kraut pop to lo-fi synth ballads and everything in between, mixing Link Wray and Suicide and The Clean and whatever else until it sounds kind of like three mixtapes glued together with weird little melted intros and outros barely holding it together. It goes without saying that this is not an album that was made with the iPhone generation in mind. You miss a bit of their last album’s brevity and ease. But what would a Guided By Voices album be without its odds and ends, for instance? What  …And Star Power  is, is never boring. Lots of things pass for psychedelia these days, but this is the real deal, an album guided by unbridled thought and passion and dream logic rather than aged constraints.

Our Love (CD)

Caribou

Dan Snaith’s latest album moves his varying aliases closer together, utilizing some of the dancier aspects of his work as Daphni without sacrificing his core indie-electro-pop appeal as Caribou. The albums starts on a brilliant note with “Can’t Do Without You,” a sumptuous love song that circulates some of the psychedelic swirl of previous Caribou releases even as it taps into EDM culture’s builds and breaks. “Silver” is a sweet, dazzling digital tapestry of sound that tips its hat to ’80s synth pop while retaining its  now  cache. Snaith touches on many eras of dance music throughout  Our Love , on the freestyle-vibing “All I Ever Need” and the luxuriously banging title track, which ends in a nod to Chicago house classic “Good Life.” Yet Snaith’s work is still his own, as tracks like “Dive” feature wavering keyboards and breathy vocals that make you feel like you’re teetering. Some of the later tracks fail to distinguish themselves, but none sounds remotely bad.  Our Love  is a warm, inviting listen from start to finish. It’s yet another bit of perfection from Snaith.

Innerworld (CD)

Electric Youth

Electric Youth broke out in a big way with “A Real Hero,” a song that came to define the sound of the film Drive and its corresponding soundtrack. The duo double down on that impossibly romantic synth sound on Innerworld , their long-awaited debut album. That slow-burning pulse is back in songs like “Innocence,” perfectly capturing the romantic ideal of first love with synthesizers that at first sparkle like eyes being rubbed awake and then dazzle with gentle orchestration. Subtly enough referencing the soundtrackers of ’80s proms like Yaz and Alphaville, Bronwynn Griffin’s breathy voice sometimes floats by as a dream and other times catches onto a lighter-waving sentiment, like “we are the youth, we like to sing” (on “WeAreTheYouth”). Though Electric Youth may lack a bit for originality, Innerworld pretty skillfully avoids sameyness by appealing to current Europop-indebted dance music on tracks like “Runaway,” though they’re at their comfortable best on songs like “Without You,” building from their favored digital throb into a lovable freestyle couple. Griffin and her partner, Austin Garrick, have been a couple since the 8 th grade, and thus their ability to make every synth stab feel like a dizzying first crush rings authentic. It doesn’t matter if you’ve heard some of the sounds here before, or that they even include the three-year-old “Real Hero”; Innerworld ’s swoony romanticism makes you feel like it’s the first time.

And The War Came (CD)

Shakey Graves

Alejandro Rose-Garcia's second album under the name Shakey Graves is the kind of music that keeps Austin weird and retains its Texan flavor.  And the War Came  is a blissful late-night drive of FM country ballads buzzing out of the busted stereo of your old car. Surprisingly minimal, Shakey Graves, armed with his guitar, whiskey-pitched vocals and foot-stomping percussion, gives country-rock an edge of millennial hipness lacking from most contemporary acts, but without any of the ironic distance. His sincere approach comes through in the feelings of love and joy he has for the country culture around him. The album's single, a duet with Esmé Patterson called "Dearly Departed," recalls Bob Dylan and Emmylou Harris on the legendary album,  Desire . Shakey's voice drenched in whiskey and beer harmonizes in a swirl of Beauty and the Beast against Patterson's sweet, melodious twang. The sparseness of "If Not For You" with just a man and his guitar feels more like Depression Era hobo folk where someone pours out through the soul not for money or recognition, but because they know no way to keep it in. For those who think "country music isn't for me," they should blast some Shakey Graves in their car and see how he's keeping Texas the hub for interesting country.

Hold It In (CD)

Melvins

Massively influential sludge gods the Melvins get help from a couple of Butthole Surfers on their latest album,  Hold It In . Paul Leary and Jeff Pinkus back the band up on bass and guitar, respectively, together with longtime members Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover, but  Hold It In ’s sound is classic Melvins, full of heavy, drilling guitars and foreboding vocals on great tracks like “Bride of Crankenstein.” While the Melvins’ sonic repertoire hasn’t expanded too much over the years, songs like “Brass Cupcake” lean closer to new-wave, with palm-muted, Cars-esque guitars that explode into manic cries of “they’ve got a lot of mouths to feed!” and a more metallic second half. With  Hold It In , the Melvins have given their fans plenty more chunky riffs and piledriving rhythms to feast on. Hold it in and don’t let go!

Museum Of Love (CD)

Museum Of Love

Ye, what else hath risen from the fallen ashes of the LCD? Former LCD Soundsystem drummer Pat Mahoney and Dennis “Jee Day” McNany of The Juan Mclean release their eponymous debut,  Museum Of Love . The duo made themselves known last year when they released the darkly groove ridden “Down South” back in 2013 along with the repetitiously soulful “Monotronic.” The album is indeed a continuation of the beats set in motion with their pre-released singles. At the forefront and most apparent are the distinct vocals of now frontman Pat Mahoney. Having named the outfit after a Daniel Johnston song the vocals are surprisingly soulful. Uniquely placed between a sort of David Byrne / Bryan Ferry croon, the vocals are draped over Jee Day’s complex disco beats. The velvety vocals are employed remarkably well, comforting the listener as they groove through the eerie steely “Learned Helplessness in Rats (Disco Drummer).” The experience culminates in the closing track, “All The Winners (Fuck You Buddy),” which actually sounds like a closing credits tune complete with obligatory orchestral strings. The shadow of the inherent nepotism of DFA’s flagship group completely cast aside, let us welcome freshly  Museum of Love  in all its soul shaking glory. Thanks be.

Bestial Burden (CD)

Pharmakon

To listen to Pharmakon is to stare the beast straight in the mouth. Margaret Chardiet’s latest album starts with heavy breathing, panting and a buzzing synth that sounds more like an electroshock therapy machine. “Intent or Instinct” builds deliberately with an atonal loop gathering strength until she unleashes a nasty banshee wail. Free of too much digitized effect, it sounds truly bloodcurdling. It’s also immensely cathartic. And “Body Betrays Itself” feels like it takes over your very being, her most powerful musical statement to date. Not everything in such harsh surroundings works—“Primitive Struggle” is about as inviting as it sounds, full of coughing, spitting and heaving along to a digital heartbeat. But Chardiet can really surprise you, too. “Autoimmune” actually nudges closer to something resembling pop, like the dirtiest Trent Reznor would ever let himself get. And in the incantation of the title track, Chardiet’s actual, human voice can be heard, albeit echoed out into infinity, and the result is quite affecting, given how she shreds her voice across the rest of the record. So  Bestial Burden  isn’t for the faint of heart. Dismiss it and you might even get a laugh out of its relentless brutality. But give it your full attention, and it just might change you. So don’t be afraid. Dive in and let  Bestial Burden  swallow you whole.

Encyclopedia (CD)

The Drums

Conceived by its members as the fusion between a synth take on The Sound of Music and amelodic No Wave, The Drums craft compellingly tumultuous music on Encyclopedia. Thrilling opener “Magic Mountain” is about as far from The Drums’ first album and its sunny Cure-at-the-beach vibe as you could get, its highwire vocal doing battle against fraught guitars and theramin. You can hear that Sound of Music thing on songs like “I Hope Time Doesn’t Change Him,” a girl-group-style ode to drifting apart with shooting-star synthesizers and misery-laden guitars. “Kiss Me Again” feels a bit like The Drums’ earlier work, particularly the more frantic Portamento , but the newness comes in how adventurous founding members Jonathan Pierce and Jacob Graham allow themselves to be melodically while remembering how great they are at writing hooks like “kiss me again” sung out into infinity. Encyclopedia is definitely more of a bummer record, but there are some really nice classical melodies buried under the mopeyness and experimentation—“Break My Heart” is a great Brian Wilson-style lament, even as it slowly struts off the pier. And when they go full force on the “Face of God,” it’s like a surf song about a tidal wave, as its vocals suggest tragedy and its bassline and synths creep too far upward to tingle at the back of your neck. It’s like the aural equivalent of losing your innocence and becoming bitter, reminiscent of Weezer’s evolution from The Blue Album to Pinkerton , full of catchy tunes that are chewed and spit out. So Encylopedia stings a little, but in a good way.   

In A Dream (CD)

The Juan MacLean

Post hardcore guitarist turned electronic musician John Maclean teams up with post LCD Soundsystem vocalist Nancy Whang to release  In A Dream . The record has an immediate dancability indicative of any DFA release. However, the pedigree between these two lends a familiarity that gives the record a certain timelessness. During the last days of LCD System Nancy Whang was asserting herself as a creative force in that group. With the dissolving of LCD Soundsystem, Nancy has turned it way up as the prominent vocal feature on Maclean’s record. Maclean churns out some killer pop-disco synth bangers, while Whang keeps the hooks coming. The single “A Simple Design” highlights the partnership that Whang and Maclean have, and leaves hope for a new definitive duo for the DFA label.

Syro (CD)

Aphex Twin

In a rare double-blessing, the last two years have given us not only a new album by My Bloody Valentine but another artist iconic of the ’90s, Aphex Twin.  Syro  plays as a collection of just about everything Richard Davis James does best, fusing jungle beats to gorgeous ambient tapestries on stunning opener “Minipops 67 [120.2][Source Field Mix],” taking us through dense synth explorations on tracks like the 10-minute “Xmas_Evet10 [120][Thanaton3 Mix]” and vibing off hip-hop and synth funk on “Produk 29 [101].” Vocals appear now and then (from James and his family), offering skewed, incomprehensible chatter that adds to the liveliness of “Produk 29 [101]” and giving “Minipops 67 [120.2][Source Field Mix]” its grabbing human element, pulling you into the rest of the album. Though he used some 138 pieces of equipment and shifted his set up every few minutes while recording  Syro,  that seems to have had an energizing effect on James, and the result is a sharp, if varied piece of work that hangs together beautifully, flowing from scenic but heady pieces like “4 Bit 9d Api+E+6 [126.26]” to hard-hitting bass tracks such as “180db_ [130].” There aren’t many shocking moments on  Syro  like, say, “Come to Daddy’s” shrieking wail, nor does it push listeners to their extreme limit like the challenging  Drukqs  did, but accessibility doesn’t mar  Syro . Rather, even despite their straight-off-the-hard-drive titles, tracks like “Papat4 [155][Pineal Mix]” are really breathtaking pieces of music, designed for immersion rather than to filter listeners out. Just like  m b v , we had no right to expect  Syro  would be this good, much less that it would be released at all, which makes it all the better. Simply put, it’s one of the most instantly enjoyable collections of music James has ever released.

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In the early days of New Orleans jazz, string bands were popular purveyors of the form, but were rarely recorded at the time...