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Sara Taylor and Ryan George of Youth Code shook the walls of our green room with a heavy set of new industrial tracks from their latest album,...

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Epoch (CD)


Is Tycho's Epoch the ambient feel-good album of the year? Are those words mutually exclusive? After giving Epoch a spin, it's clear that Tycho main dude Scott Hansen has created a vibrant, evocative work that's simultaneously vivid and alive and very, very chill. The San Francisco producer's beats and smooth production style are epic, conjuring whole worlds before effortlessly segueing into the next step of the journey. A very relaxed toe-tapper of a record.

Hardwired...To Self-Destruct (CD)


Though Metallica might have influenced generations of punk, grunge, thrash, and metal bands, they're surprisingly unprolific. And so each new Metallica release isn't just hotly anticipated, but comes like a cataclysmic event of shrieking guitars, banging bass drums, furious rhythms, and guttural yelps. Their first album in eight years,  Hardwired...To Self- Destruct  is a return to form. And not a return of form to Load or St. Anger . It's a return to the form of Kill 'Em All and Master of Puppets . The slow, brooding, and portentous style of their late-career is mixed in with classic, clean, clear, and furious thrash that's so intense and technical, it will get your adrenaline pumping. Metallica themselves are treating it like a behemoth of an album, with special concerts, promos, and a music video for EACH song on the album.   "Hardwired" opens with a precision sharp riff that explodes with sweat and fury. The bitter, ironic track feels apt for these chaotic times as James Hetfield unleashes into the microphone in a cathartic rant. The fury of the track feels closer in spirit to "Whiplash" than to anything they've done on their last few albums. "Moth Into Flames" is far closer to the post-'80s Metallica of long, steady ballads that build and build on short, technical riffs until the song kicks it into 100mph. When the guitar solo comes in a minute and a half into the song, it almost dissolves into a modern skate punk track before going back to classic Metallica intensity. It also shows off Lars Ulrich's endless energy and showcases some of his most powerful drumming on the album. Being a Metallica fan can be a real trial sometimes when they take unexpected directions while simultaneously trying to please fans, but Hardwired is probably the closest they've gotten to something that should appease the die-hards, the casual listeners, and even those new to metal. The most brutally intense album of 2016.

Awaken, My Love! (CD)

Childish Gambino

Things move fast in the internet age. Only three weeks ago did Childish Gambino announce his new album and now here it is. His second album, Because The Internet , was more complex and sensitive than any other hip hop album of 2013 as Gambino would jump moods from self-loathing to good humor to long passages of loneliness and 21st century angst. Now, at nearly three years since that album and at the end of the first season of his television show, Atlanta on FX, comes his hotly anticipated third album. In the wave of Kendrick Lamar's and Kamasi Washington's spiritual journey of African-American music that's simultaneously spiritual, retro, and futuristic, Awaken, My Love!  shows more influence from George Clinton, Prince, and even King Crimson than it does with the world of modern hip hop. The epic three-part track "Me and Your Mama" opens with a chorus crying out against some new agey rhythms that suddenly cut out amid a glut of drum machines and prog drums that turns the song into classic psych funk by way of gospel. Childish Gambino cries out with real pain "This is the end of us / Sleeping with the moon and the stars" as his voice distorts into a cacophonic echo of insanity. But the song mellows out by the end with a soft melody that feels right at home in the world of The Isley Brothers. "Redbone" is a smaller, less ambitious song that instantly catches you with a simple melody that trots along at a more leisurely mood. Channeling Prince, he turns up his falsetto into a screechy performance that shows off his chops as an R&B singer. The minimal funk gives him a chance to show off his real range that stretches beyond what he's shown on other albums. 2016 has been a great year for hip hop and Awaken, My Love  caps the year off beautifully with new directions and more far out ideas than anyone else.

57th & 9th (CD)


Since The Police dissolved in the mid '80s, Sting has continued on with an eclectic solo career ranging in genres from classical to jazz to Celtic folk music, all the while gaining a reputation less associated with rock 'n roll and more associated with terms like "progressive," "experimental," and "adult contemporary." 57th & 9th finds the veteran in perhaps his most raw and rockin' mode since his pre-solo days. The tense, staccato and dirty guitar on "Petrol Head" is propelled forward by the driving beat and Sting's urgent, tattered vocals. "I Can't Stop Thinking About You" channels the shimmery guitars, thumping bass, and catchy choruses of The Police, while still maintaining a unique sense of self, and "50,000" is a poignant look at mortality as we lose more and more of our, seemingly-immortal, musical heroes.

Dim Mak 20th Anniversary (CD)

Various Artists

Steve Aoki’s homegrown LA record label reaches the two decade mark this year, and to celebrate they’ve put out a comprehensive retrospective featuring 20 of their most seminal releases. Dim Mak first made its mark in the 2000s, releasing essential material from indie bands who would go on to immense success, such as Bloc Party and The Kills. They later positioned themselves at a forefront of the burgeoning EDM scene, as reflected in the album’s opening cut, the now-ubiquitous “Warp” by the Bloody Beetroots. Dim Mak’s eclectic approach is displayed in Aoki’s selections; this compilation pulls from a diverse pallet of sounds and attitudes, but congeals around its shared mission of releasing music that is energetic and impossible to ignore.

Reflection (CD)

Brian Eno

At 68, Brian Eno constantly takes incredible leaps and new experimental risks with every album. It only makes sense that one of the godfathers of electronic music has been making some of his most forward-looking music since signing to the similarly forward-looking Warp Records. The Ship 's structure was somewhere between dream pop and ambient poem and his collaborations with Underworld's Karl Hyde recalled the Afro-future sound of his experiments with David Byrne. Reflection continues his fascination with sculpting ambient music in surprising ways that feel like a completely different experience with each album. His previous ambient albums were created through various methods including tape loops, manipulation, and computers or through his famous "Oblique Strategies" cards. Reflection is the recorded version of his new ambient music and visual app for iOS and AppleTV that creates a constant stream of sound and sonic serenity. This version made for CD and vinyl represents one of the possibilities the app can create through various algorithms. This is all very heady and out-there stuff for one of the most peaceful and meditative albums in recent years. Unlike some of his prior ambient works that required you to almost not listen and to let it create an acoustic soundscape for you to inhabit, Reflection has a thicker, heavier sound that is like a thunderous wall of organ ambiance. It shifts somewhere between computerized drone and church organ as the heavy bass creates a zone of clear thoughts and angelic sound. It's anti-chaos that can make you stop and really calm down in our increasingly insane world. After the dire nightmare that was 2016, it's wonderful to have the first major album of the year be as contemplative and relaxing a listen as this.

Starboy (CD)

The Weeknd

The Weeknd's Starboy represents a further evolution in the alternative R&B singer/producer's sound. Featuring guest appearances from Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Lana Del Rey, and Future, the album is brighter, splashier, and more polished than his early, ultra underground mixtapes. Fortunately, it works and that's due to Mr. The Weeknd himself, Abel Tesfaye's impressive ability to merge pop culture into his own dark vision. Want to know what an album inspired equally by The Smiths, Prince, Bad Brains, DeBarge, David Lynch, and David Cronenberg sounds like? Take a listen to The Weeknd's latest LP of artfully produced dystopian afterparty jams.

Apocalipstick (CD)

Cherry Glazerr

When this trio of fresh faced weirdos popped into the scene four years ago with their first album, Haxel Princess , it felt like a fresh change from the garage sound of Burger Records. Their blend of psychedelic humor, punk attitude, and anime kawaii cuteness all wrapped in the feel of the '90s indie rock scene was unlike anything else. While band leader Clementine Creevy still writes the songs and leads the direction of her dreamy rock group, old bandmates Hannah Uribe and Sean Redman have split to pursue other projects. With the new addition of drummer Tabor Allen and synth guru Sasami Ashworth, Cherry Glazerr have lost the low-fi atmosphere and hit hard with a sophisticated, beautifully produced sophomore endeavor. Dropping the joyous, California rock expected from a group that emerged from its garage scene, Apocalipstick feels like the real Los Angeles: smoggy, bad trends, annoying strangers, and oppressive sunshine. It's a sponge soaked in tears, bad memories, and bad vibes that's represented perfectly with distorted guitars and drums right out of a skate punk track. From the opening dirge of "Told You I Would Be with the Guys," there's a sense of existential dread that was never apparent on their first album. It's a strange feminist manifesto about finding strength and solidarity with other women, but this comes with the uncomfortable realization that she has a dependency on men. "Nuclear Bomb" gives Ashworth, the synth player, a chance to show off some great harmonies as Creevy tears through the song. It fits perfectly with the self-loathing, destructive perspective of the song's fierceness. But Cherry Glazerr's new direction is embodied no better than on "Nurse Ratched." The track, named after the terrible nurse from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest , is bitter and almost violent, without a single ray of sunshine in this bleak landscape. If anything, Apocalipstick feels optimistic in the sense that the world of Los Angeles rock might be going into weirder directions. A perfect soundtrack for strange times.

Do Hollywood (CD)

The Lemon Twigs

Get ready for a surreal, collage of pop music past, present, and future. The duo of brothers Brian and Michael D'addario, and producer Jonathan Rado (of Foxygen), have mined the '60s and '70s pop-scape and created a Franken-sound that will, perhaps, remind you of the likes of Harry Nilsson, Pet Sounds -era Beach Boys, ELO, and the Beatles solo work, all squeezed into the erratic mold of Frank Zappa and the Mothers. The musicianship and interpretations of their influences are all expertly done, to an almost Tom Ripley level of impersonation, all while creating a unique sound for what's to come of baroque pop and indie rock.

Hang (CD)


On Foxygen's Hang , the Westlake Village duo dive into soul and sunshiney '70s rock to create complex yet catchy indie pop gems. Opener "Follow the Leader" will instantly transport you to a funkier time, with swelling strings, ebullient horns, and ultra-confident vocals. Four tracks into the album, the band swerves into lilting '60s crooner territory with "America." This is a polished, sophisticated, eclectic excursion you'll never want to take off your turntable.

The Wave [Deluxe Edition] (CD)

Tom Chaplin

Since Keane announced their hiatus in 2013, their brand of tragic pop has been missed. Try listening to their seminal hit "Somewhere Only We Know" without getting emotional with all its baroque beauty. Lead singer Tom Chaplin's first album, The Wave , comes from an emotional place itself. Famously, he battled a cocaine addiction in the mid-2000s, and relapsed in the anticipation leading up to his first solo album. But The Wave feels like a victory in the wake of that type of terror and horror. If you miss the forward-thinking and simultaneously nostalgic Brit-pop sound of 1995, this album sounds like a spiritual successor. The Wave has a lovely production with luscious string parts and drums that are as elegant as Hal Blaine's famous drumming on The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds . The lead single, "Quicksand," opens with a small orchestra playing thick harmonies against a twinkling piano. Chaplin sings about being beaten, worn and exhausted by the world, but sees optimism at the end of the tunnel. He smoothly croons that there's victory and happiness to be had in small failures, and that you can eventually find success, even in your darkest moments. "Hardened Heart" comes from a similarly optimistic viewpoint, unfortunately born out of sadness. In a quiet intro, he questions how he made it to this point and how he maintains his existence in this world, and then the song hits a crescendo that feels like happiness made into soundwaves. There's a type of fragility in his vocal bravado that is almost on par with similarly introspective albums like Frank Sinatra's famous September Of My Years . With his upcoming Los Angeles performance at the El Rey Theater in February, The Wave is a perfect way to feel the spiritual connection and power of his music.

Run The Jewels 3 (CD)

Run The Jewels

El-P and Killer Mike return with another gorgeous, hard-hitting turn as Run the Jewels. The beats are cinematic and distinctive; the lyrics are bold, political, and timely. The genius of the LP is in its seamless blend of thought-provoking lyrics, whip-smart production, and seriously catchy songwriting. Run the Jewels 3 is top notch work and features an equally excellent crew of guest artists, including Danny Brown, Kamasi Washington, Joi Gilliam, Trina, Boots, and Tunde Adebimpe.

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

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A list of events, protests, and actions happening in the Bay Area on Friday, 1/20 and Saturday, 1/21.