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Watch Whittier's Plague Vendor tear up Amoeba Hollywood with a raucous set of songs from their latest album, "Bloodsweat."

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Flux (CD)

Rich Robinson

The blues rock attitude of the sixties stays perfectly alive with Black Crowes' Rich Robinson. Head-throttling guitars slam your head with emotional solos that are powered up and amplified to shock. With his back catalog recently reissued, Robinson approached Flux differently than his prior efforts. Whereas he previously wrote tracks at home and then beefed them up in the studio with his large backing band, Flux was a bit more improvisational. Fragments of songs were taken into the studio and worked out with his band until they popped just right. You can hear the excitement in the way the loose, almost ramshackle way all the elements come together, just like Bob Dylan's mid-'60s period. There are more risks and strange choices done than in any of his other solo albums or with The Black Crowes that it creates the atmosphere of pure musical joy. "Sleepwalker," his Eagles-ish ballad, is about independent thought and dealing with human emotions. While society stigmatizes open thought and emotion, Robinson's blunt lyrics and spiritual guitar embody pure feeling so beautifully that it is painfully real and raw. "Which Way Your Wind Blows" channels the aggressive English-blues sound of Bad Company with a bass line that weighs a ton and a guitar solo distorted so it sounds almost like a synth. Robinson's scathing lyrics taunt and mock in such a weirdly, sloppy way that it reminds you of the missing attitude from modern rock. Crack open a beer and blast this one. Its hypnotic blues-rock blend will take you back to 1975.

Conscious (CD)

Broods

On Broods' startling debut album that came Lorde approved, the brother-sister managed to combine elements of symphonic pop with the polyphonic madness of modern electronica. Stripping it down to pure, addictive electronic minimalist pop, Conscious drops the more melodic, new wavy elements of their previous album and gives you what they call "a punch in the face." The pair from New Zealand uses neo-futuristic production and elements that cross a path between cyberpunk, pop, modern experimental electronics, and house. Songs have drum-machine disco beats and kicks with choral-like synths and power vocals that drip with emotion. The first single, "Free," gives you a feeling what they're about when Georgia Nott cries out, "I'd lose everything so I can sing/Hallelujah, I'm free." It's a gut-wrenching performance that leads to some of the most addictive dance-pop this year. Her mantra-like delivery resembles another synth line of heavy bass that rattles you to your bones. "Heartlines," their collaboration with Lorde, builds up with the dramatic flair she has mastered. The song takes unexpected silences, breaks, and moments of tranquility to explode with powerhouse vocals and layers of heavenly electronic sounds. "Couldn't Believe" shows off Georgia's distinctly Kiwi accent as she chants over and over against synths that almost replicate an audience singing along. Conscious might be a more commercial friendly step for their sophomore album, but it shows off their ability to create songs that get you moving.

Unlimited (CD)

Bassnectar

Bassnectar has been living high since the success of 2011's Divergent Spectrum . His melodic style of EDM has been filling massive venues, and it's easy to see why. Tracks build on steady rhythms which are slowly layered over polyrhythmic drums that go all over the place. One moment you are listening to New Age atmospherics right out of Jean Michel Jarre, glitch effects a la Aphex Twin, and wild dub drops and swirls that channel Skrillex. He builds a certain kind of song structure and it's shown off on the mellower and more outer spacey Unlimited . There's an amount of air the songs are given to breathe before they cascade into frenetic jams that get your blood pumping and your legs moving. And to keep the mood fresh, he brought in a huge team of collaborators and mix makers: The Glitch Mob, Hallo, Levitate, G. Jones, Gnar Gnar, and Lucid, all of whom bring their unique style to shake things up. "Level Up" is the perfect example of minds meeting. Bassnectar's collaboration with Levitate is one of the fiercer tracks that has a no holds barred aggressive attitude that perfectly combines EDM and trap with weird, weird elements of Bollywood rhythms. The optimistic and futuristic "Unlimited Combinations" is another beast that feels lighter and less intense with waves of positivity radiating from the track. Bassnectar himself said he constructed each song to have "multiple versions and special hidden meaning, and alternate endings" and you can hear it in just how delicately assembled the blasts of sound are. As spiritual as EDM gets.

Atomic [OST] (CD)

Mogwai

Mogwai – the Scottish purveyors of contemplative, swirling, cinematic instrumentals – have certainly found an extracurricular niche scoring diverse projects such as the documentary Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait , Darren Aronofsky's film The Fountain , and French TV series Les Revenants . Their latest album, Atomic , is a re-recording of their soundtrack to the Mark Cousins' Hiroshima documentary for the BBC, Storyville - Atomic: Living In Dread & Promise . More of an art-piece than a documentary, Storyville  deals with the horror, fear, innovation, and hope surrounding the events of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb with images and moods as opposed to a structured narrative. Mogwai’s  Atomic  matches the film’s contrasts at every turn with their trademark shifts from shimmering minimalism to grand noise-oriented rock, sometimes in a sinister vein. The dualities of the modern world – innovation and obliteration – are heard in these revelatory shifts. 

Pet Sounds [50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition] (CD)

The Beach Boys

When Pet Sounds was released May 16, 1966 its reception was mixed. The 11th album for the already popular group garnered little critical and commercial success in the States, while in England it was hailed by the music press and hit the number 2 spot on the Top 40 charts. One Mr. Paul McCartney was so impressed with it the album became the main influence on his band's next record, a little thing called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band .   While it may be a little hard to imagine today, the radical arrangements, un-rock-like orchestrations, and wildly inventive production coupled with subject matter that was less cheery and more introspective than your average pop album of the day, was a lot to take in for some who were just looking for the next fun surf track to dance to down at the beach shack. However Pet Sounds paved the way for the idea that a rock album could be more than a mere collection of singles, but a cohesive piece of art. Brian Wilson's production on the album would open up creative possibilities we take for granted now, would influence all kinds of musical genres, and would bring the concept of production into the mainstream consciousness as an essential part of an album.   By now the initial poor reception of the album has been more than made up for and Pet Sounds is considered by many to be one of the best and most influential albums ever. Tracks like "God Only Knows," "Caroline, No," and "Wouldn't It Be Nice" are now hallowed classics, while songs like "You Still Believe In Me", "I Know There's an Answer," and "Here Today" particularly exhibit its creative influence on the production process.

Basses Loaded (CD)

Melvins

Nobody keeps it weird the way the Melvins do. The usually ultra-prolific group took it a little slower in the last year and have finally come back with a new studio album designed to melt faces and rip off your head. Born out of a failed reunion with Nirvana's surviving members, the experimental weirdos jump somewhere between the uneasy schizophrenic territory of grunge, metal, and novelty. Their first studio album in two years features six bassists shredding like maniacs at glass-shattering volume. Tracks alternate between Nirvana's Krist Novoselic, Redd Kross' Steve McDonald, Butthole Surfers' Jeff Pinkus, Mr. Bungle's Trevor Dunn, Big Business' Jared Warren, and former Melvin Dale Clover. "Hideous Woman" crunches loud as it's a beautifully gooey song with lyrics that assault you and guitars that teeter so close to insanity they could go off the rails any second. The surprisingly faithful cover of The Beatles' ode-to-acid "I Want To Tell You" is like a nostalgic bar and grill cover band getting messed up on cheap beer and opioids and forgetting there's an audience in the room as they tear in. The bouncy synth line and a fuzzed version of George Harrison's guitar sound makes the spaciness of the original track feel quaint in comparison. The last track brings the punny title of the album full-circle with a "wtf?" cover of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" that starts out like an NES game before it explodes into a ramshackle cover that only copious amounts of booze could fuel. If you ever feel rock is dead when you stream weak stuff online, remember The Melvins can still freak 'em out like no one can.

Johannesburg EP (CD)

Mumford & Sons

Earlier this year Mumford & Sons toured South Africa with legendary Senegalese singer and guitarist Baaba Maal, South African pop group Beatenberg, and London-based afro-pop combo the Very Best. The shows were passionate and explosive, so they thought they would try to bottle some of that lightning with an off-the-cuff recording session at the South African Broadcasting Corporation. The resulting five song set is a big, glorious, emotional rush that takes Mumford's rollicking guitar-banjo stomp and adrenalizes it with African chants, percussion, and harmonies, recalling the magic of Paul Simon's Graceland .

Hot Hot Heat (CD)

Hot Hot Heat

Hot Hot Heat's self-proclaimed final album finds the band back in the territory that made them a hot, hot hit in 2002. Having gone more into an electronic realm on their previous album, Hot Hot Heat delivers the indie-dance-punk goods with their new self-titled record. If you miss the early 2000's garage band invasion this album will scratch that itch with songs like "Kid Who Stays In The Picture," "Mayor Of The City," and "Comeback Of The Century."

Terminal Cases (CD)

Matt Bennett

For the last few years, Matt Bennett has been one of those "Oh that guy!" actors from television and movies. Instantly recognizable with his distinct face and glasses, he's appeared in various movies and TV shows over the years, plus he hosts the famous This Show Is Your Show  at Meltdown. But aside from being an actor, he's an ace singer and songwriter who gives his latest album the same sense of humor that his acting has. Terminal Cases , his first solo album, is incredibly ambitious for a debut . Directly inspired by Robin Williams, each track takes its mood and style from a variety of Williams' films. Seeing the ageless comedian on stage coming to grips with his adulthood and failing romances, on top of experiencing his own parents' divorce, Bennett wrote his album to give it a similar feel. There's a certain type of darkness in the brevity of such a light album that makes sure the songs never delve into twee or cute territory and are solid songs. "Jumanji," a rightfully surreal track that deals with the man-child themes of the movie's protagonist, is a real joy. The song captures the mood and goofiness of the film, but there's still a sensitive element with the beautifully simple arrangement. And of course it couldn't end in any other way than with Matt Bennett crying out "David Alan Grier!" over and over again. "Fisher King," with its noisy guitar and spoken-word style of singing, is disjointed enough that it feels like a perfect parallel to Terry Gilliam's schizophrenic masterpiece. In the internet age of nonstop irony and cynicism, Terminal Cases  manages to straddle the line between great rock album and lunacy. This is the most fun you've had in a while.

Puberty 2 (CD)

Mitski

The humorously titled Puberty 2 perfectly packages what makes Mitski so great. Like her music, the title feels like an awkward joke directed at herself that is both funny and immediately too intimate, gawky, and painful. While PR and record companies have latched onto "indie" as an empty aesthetic to package and sell, Mitski's personal little chamber-rock albums are the perfect antidote. With the instrument duties split between her and producer Patrick Hyland, each track is whittled to the raw with songs using only guitars, synths, and industrial sounding drum-machines until the point of almost quiet ambiance and shoegazey reverb. But this isn't to undermine her songwriting. She perfectly embodies the navel-gazing, youth generation that found solace online with lyrics that walk the tightrope between tragedy, madness, and chuckling irony. "Your Best American Girl," her first single off the album, is probably the only time in rock that Asian-American angst is directly confronted. This ballad about lost American identity and ending a relationship because of immense cultural differences starts off quiet until it ends with guitars reminiscent of Weezer at their mid-'90s peak. "Happy" starts with a drum-machine blast right out of Suicide while her voice is gargling on white noise. But even the sad, lonely sounding track wears its emotions as clear as day as she sings in a whisper about a night of pleasure with a boy who slips out unbeknownst to her the next morning. Even a song like "A Loving Feeling" is less about the actual feeling of love, and more about how to deal with the pained feeling of having these emotions when you are alone. Though the brisk, anthem mood of the track makes you think it's more joyful than what it's actually about. Puberty 2  is a complicated bag of mixed emotions that will grab anyone with an iota of feeling. Mitski's blunt, laid out feelings combined with low-fi, spacey tracks make it as cathartic a lesson for the listener as it probably was for her to make it.

Best Day Ever (CD)

Mac Miller

Mac Miller's Best Day Ever *wasn't just another mixtape some rapper dropped online. It was a sonic boom. Since it's release five years ago, it's been downloaded over a million times and streamed nearly as much. For its fifth anniversary, Rostrum Records is re-releasing the megahit for the first time commercially. Newly mastered and having spent two years clearing the rights for all the samples, Best Day Ever returns as one of the decade's best party albums. Your ear instantly gets addicted to the choppy beats and Mac Miller's adolescent flow that is as raw as it is fun. Mega-single "Donald Trump," made in the days before he was the GOP candidate, is the teenage fantasy created to fuel parties. It's all a facetious romp about the wealth, the women, and the good times Donald Trump has that Mac Miller wants. "In The Air," with its minimal beat that feels like it was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, embodies what made Pittsburgh hip hop so unique at its time. Even a track like "She Said" has a great funk beat with a rap that comes out so naturally with all the raunchy attitude and crassness of youth. It's unpretentious fun that is all about just kicking back and enjoying yourself. It feels quaint now that he's signed to a major label and has been a huge part of the hip-hop scene, but Best Day Ever feels like the best capsule of earlier times that were as fun then as they are now. Light that joint, spin this record, and just chill

The Mountain Will Fall (CD)

DJ Shadow

On The Mountain Will Fall , DJ Shadow’s first album in five years, the groundbreaking hip-hop/electronica producer proves he’s still one of the most forward-thinking artists in the game. The atmospheric, instrumental title track opens the album with dreamy, futuristic vibes before launching into the funk-inflected “Nobody Speak,” which features Run the Jewels. German ambient/modern classical composer and producer Nils Frahm makes an appearance on “Bergschrund,” where spaced out washes of sound meet hyperactive textures and beats. The LP finds Shadow pushing the limits even further on his own original compositions, but of course half the fun is guest appearances from the previously mentioned artists, as well as avant grade electro dude Bleep Bloop, bass-heavy experimentalist G. Jones, and bright young UK jazz trumpeter Matthew Halsall.

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Three Dead Can Dance vinyl reissues are out July 8th on 4AD.

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