This Month's Picks

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. More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

Family Dinner Volume Two (CD)

Snarky Puppy
Grammy Award-winning, genre-spanning Jazz band Snarky Puppy recorded Family Dinner Volume Two  live in New Orleans with guest musicians and vocalists such as David Crosby, Charlie Hunter, Jason Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, and many more. The album is accompanied by a DVD featuring footage of the recording process, interviews, and behind-the-scenes action that brings you up close and personal with this amazing show. The DVD also includes footage of bonus tracks not included on the album. A portion of the proceeds from sales of Family Dinner Volume Two  will be donated to Roots of Music, an organization that empowers the youth of New Orleans through music education, academic support, and mentorship. More
Genre: Jazz

Culcha Vulcha (CD)

Snarky Puppy
Genre-busters for sure, the Grammy-winning outfit Snarky Puppy lands somewhere between an R&B-fueled garage band and a rangy jazz collective, but Culcha Vulcha  presents a darker, moodier Puppy with elements of Rock along with flourishes of Bossa Nova, electric Blues, R&B, Funk, Soul, Jazz, and more. Cultural influences collide and merge to make a thoroughly American sound. The album title may refer to the Western world’s obsession with pop culture and insatiable rate of consumption, but one can’t overlook the post-modern appeal of mixing it all up for one big, never-ending Snarky meal. More
Genre: Jazz

Light Upon The Lake (CD)

Whitney
Smith Westerns might not exist anymore, but Whitney is continuing what they started. Max Kakacek and James Ehrlich, both formerly of Smith Westerns, channel The Band at their drunkest and most stoned for a fun album that sounds like the '70s never ended. Coming from the break-up of their previous band, they used what could've been a moment of tragedy to renew their creative energy. The days of beautiful/sad albums by the likes of Jackson Browne, Harry Nilsson, and James Taylor have been long gone, but Whitney brings back that joyful feeling with songs that feel so earnest and simple that it's like hearing them in person. "No Woman" is a meticulously crafted song about emptiness that's perfectly accompanied by a gentle Gordon Lightfoot-ish guitar part and punctuated by horns that have the right amount of impact before disappearing. "Golden Days" is the opposite. Though the lyrics are about nostalgic aches for the past, the track is surprising and energetic, filled with optimism. As lonely as you get, there's the warmth of knowing that these memories still exist in some form. "No Matter Where We Go" is probably the happiest track on the album and duplicates the anything-goes attitude of mid-'60s Dylan where things are a little messy, but all the ardor of making rock is there. You listen to it and you know that band is having fun making a song as relaxed and natural as this. 2016 has been filled with plenty of great debut albums, but Whitney's Light Upon The Lake  has more finesse with a delicate, airy feeling that is fully formed and mature. Rich arrangements, unique voices, and brilliant lyrics make this the chill jam album of the year. Perfect for late-night drinking or quiet summer moments. More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

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 More
Genre: Hip Hop

Smoke + Mirrors Live [CD/DVD] (CD)

Imagine Dragons
To call Imagine Dragons "epic" is an understatement. Their songs are explosive and incredibly anthemic, digging right into the inner canal of your ear never to leave. Between the dramatic vocals, large productions, and songs that instantly grab you and demand you sing along, it's easy to understand the mega success of the group. To support their second studio album, they did an unprecedented 108 show world tour in a little under a year. To commemorate a feat of this magnitude, Imagine Dragons are bringing Smoke + Mirrors Live  as an album and concert film to forever document this event. Performing a number of hits from their first two albums, the concerts can easily get you emotional, making you cry one second and dance the next. It's rare when theatrics of this magnitude are captured correctly, but it's expertly created to make you feel like you are there while at home or in your car. The power and passion of the band's performance, as well as the huge displays of lights and imagery, are captured so perfectly it's as good as going to the actual show. Lead vocalist Dan Reynolds is in top form as he makes each track a power ballad with his mighty voice. The live version of "I Bet My Life" has more energy and fire than the album version as it sounds like he's on the verge of emotional collapse. After the tour, Imagine Dragons decided to take a short break following their nonstop cycle of touring and recording, so treasure this while they're away. More
Genre: Rock

Totally Stripped [CD/DVD] (CD)

The Rolling Stones
Totally Stripped  will transport you to November of 1995 when The Rolling Stones’ album  Stripped  was released. This new box set contains a revised version of the 1995 documentary originally made to coincide with the release of Stripped  and includes previously unseen footage and revealing behind-the-scenes moments with the Stones that can’t be missed. The CD features highlights from the live shows and stripped back versions of old favorites. More
Genre: Rock

Alice Through The Looking Glass [OST] (CD)

Danny Elfman
Danny Elfman never lets us down. Be it the bold and cold Batman and Batman Returns scores, the thrillingly heroic and silly Pee-wee's Big Adventure soundtrack, or the iconic and ubiquitous “The Simpsons Theme,” his music has been the soundtrack to the lives of the modern escapists. If you were born in the 1960s or later, Danny Elfman is your Erich Wolfgang Korngold, setting moods in exotic locals and freeing our minds to ridiculous adventure. Say what you will about this latest addition to the collection of Johnny Depp CGI and cosmetic fiascoes, but Elfman delivers in his dependable and effusive way for the Alice Through the Looking Glas s soundtrack. Themes and melodies twist and glide, from major key valleys down into minor key caverns and gullies, then resolve somewhere in between. The soundtrack also features Pink’s out-of-place but bumping “Just Like Fire.” More
Genre: Soundtracks