This Month's Picks

Pop Psychology (CD)

Neon Trees
It’s fitting that Neon Trees got their big break opening for The Killers. Everyone’s favorite guilty pleasure band is now a greatest-hits act that resembles the bands that initially inspired them, leaving a vacancy in our hearts for radio-ready, sugarcoated, synth-flavored neo-new wave. Neon Trees succeed in producing just that on their third album, Pop Psychology. The glittering synthesizers, driving bassline and confetti guitars of first single “Sleeping With a Friend” are entirely irresistible as the band comes across like the next Human League. However, Pop Psychology is no nostalgia fest, as its songs deal specifically with love in the Tinder age—indeed, the crackling “Love in the 21st Century” opens the album with cynical lyrics “I don’t believe a word that you say is true/I guess it’s love in the 21st century.” “Text Me in the Morning” is kind of a sad sentiment, delivered as a peppy singalong even as its funny lyrics hide a song that’s really about disconnected love (“All the other boys just want your sex/I just want your texts” is pretty good, even if you’re too young to remember George Michael). Neon Trees aims young, but they’re also smart enough to throw a bone to older listeners that grew up either on The Strokes or New Order, with songs like the punk-inspired “Teenager in Love.” And even while Pop Psychology directly aims for radio play with its blown-up choruses, it’s also one that refuses to be anonymous, with songs like “I love You (But I Hate Your Friends)” that stick in your mind as much for their wit as their hooks. It’s tough to do what Neon Trees do so well, but that’s no reason to begrudge the band for producing guilty-pleasure pop rock that isn’t so guilty after all on Pop Psychology. More
Genre: Rock

Aviation (CD)

Semi Precious Weapons
Lady Gaga affiliates and nu-glam prophets acquire a slick contempo-pop sheen with the aid of all star hitmaking producer Tricky Stewart, whose resume basically looks like a snapshot of a Billboard chart (Beyonce, Rihanna, Britney, etc.). The guitars are still present, with wailing complex solos that make good use of the band's multiple Berklee music school grads, but so are skittering digital hihats and trappy drops outs. The sass and angst are back in full effect, the mood of the music hasn't changed, but the sonic shift is fairly dramatic. While this sort of thing could potentially appear a crass commercial move, I fully believe SPW are a better band for sounding like this, it fits their attitude and their message more accurately, more glamorously. While they did a convincing proto-punk/hair metal/glam boogie, the new record does not need to convince, it just is, and it is forcefully and elegantly.More
Genre: Rock

Apache Relay (CD)

The Apache Relay
Buoyant, energetic indie-folkers from Nashville return with album two, having tucked under their belts a 0-60 period of recording and touring, making a name for themselves with well received sets at Bonnaroo and opening for Mumford & Sons. Following the old naysaying and occasionally-personal-growth-inspiring (Groucho) Marxist adage of not wanting to belong to any club that might have them as members, the Relays appear to be distancing themselves from the folk-rock of their booster community and trying on the sort of reverb drenched nu-anthemic sixties-isms of more rock'n'soul oriented contemporary indie rock. The songs are hopeful, romantic, with a tinge of country-twang-mope, executed by a group that sounds like they like playing together. Produced by Kevin Auguna at Fairfax Recording, this record should certainly appeal to fans of Auguna's other clients, the Cold War Kids or E. Sharpe & those Magnetic Zeroes.More
Genre: Rock

Enter The Slasher House (CD)

Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks
While Animal Collective takes a little break, its members are busy. Panda Bear will have a new release later this year, but first up is Avey Tare, who has previously released a solo album, a joint album with Kria Brekkan and now debuts this new group with former Dirty Projector Angela Deradoorian and former Ponytail member Jeremy Hyman. Far from a vanity project, Slasher Flicks is a full-blown band with a kickass debut album. Anyone familiar with the band’s pedigree will be right at home here, amid the tribal, Paul Simon-vibing “Blind Babe,” the dancey indie rock of “Little Fang” and the Animal Collective-ish and yes, infectious song “Catchy (Was Contagious).” But it’s not just the Avey Tare show, as Deradoorian’s ever-aerobic vocals bounce around the edges and give lovely shading to songs like “The Outlaw,” and anyone who got to witness Ponytail’s livewire act knows Hyman’s power as a drummer, which he displays on songs like the dynamic “That It Won’t Grow.” While we’ll always love Animal Collective, it’s obvious Avey Tare can create amazing work apart from that band, as he’s shown on the magical Enter the Slasher House. More
Genre: Rock

It's Album Time (CD)

Todd Terje

Following a string of brilliant singles, the Norwegian disco dude releases a full album of jammers to drink wine coolers, dance and twirl your moustache to.

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Live At The Hideout (CD)

Screaming Females

Some sort of smog blackened bastard child of stoned classic rock, '90s hole-in-amp filth-pop, and classic punk, the Females follow up 2012's Steve Albini-produced Ugly and a smattering of splits and singles released in 2013 with a full-length recorded live over the course of two performances at Chicago's Hideout bar/club. Recorded live by Steve Albini, Live At The Hideout showcases the band's live pummel and playfulness while never failing to spotlight Marissa Paternoster's remarkable post-Mascis guitar firepower.

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Genre: Rock

Doom Abuse (CD)

The Faint
I knew an older girl in high school who was a great painter and very mean in the casual unprovoked way that disaffected high schoolers often are. We had some art classes together and at some point, for some reason, she made me a mix of music that mostly scared me but also turned me on to the Faint. I wasn't a goth but that didn't stop me from being miserable and Todd Fink's sneering skater-brogue painting portraits of a world where everyone was bleeding and dying and had spinal injuries sprawled out in suburban pools and on kitchen tiles really resonated with me. On Doom Abuse, the snottiness has been toned down, replaced with a self-awareness that, if they had before, they didn't let on to. Overall, the songs are poppier, less bleak, but, oddly, peppered with harsher electronic glitch and noise than the band has ever used. The techno-interfaced image of suburban and urban teenage misery is relatively unchanged, tracking likes on Facebook and Instagram resulting in serotonin failures, disappointment, dejection, alienation; these emotions aren't going anywhere and though the technology has changed, they still need a voice. More
Genre: Rock

Midnight Sun (LP)

The Ghost Of A Saber Tooth Tiger
The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger gives a guided tour of bold, shape-shifting sonic murals and evocative lyrical panoramas. With an infectious sense of adventure akin to Beck and Flaming Lips, Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl have taken their creative and savvy approach to psychedelia to new extremes. More
Genre: Rock

Sunbather (CD)

Deafheaven

Screeching vocals and walls of noise are broken up by haunting, Smashing Pumpkins-esque, beautifully spare guitars. It’s an unusual trip and one you have to be willing to embark on, but Sunbather is intricately plotted, with great arrangements buried in the din and innovation in its threading together of disparate but connected genres (black metal, post-rock, indie rock and shoegaze). Some will shrug, others will feel like Deafheaven is one of the only bands speaking a language they understand.

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Genre: Rock

St. Vincent (CD)

St. Vincent

St. Vincent’s absolutely breathtaking new album begins, as Annie Clark’s previous albums have, like some unearthly musical. Clark seemingly touches down from another planet, asking “am I the only one in the world?” on opener “Rattlesnake” amid all manner of alien guitar and strange percussive squelches. “Birth in Reverse” similarly paints a vivid picture, starting with the lines “Oh what an ordinary day …  take out the garbage, masturbate.” “Birth in Reverse” explodes into an extraordinary, paranoid chorus of restless glee. Clark’s way with words has never been more cutting, as on “Prince Johnny,” which manages to be strikingly specific while keeping its deeper existential meaning vague (“Remember that time we snorted/That piece of the Berlin Wall you extorted?” is her best rhyming couplet yet.) Even her ballads bite—“I prefer your love to Jesus” is a thoroughly loaded line repeated on “I Prefer Your Love,” giving depth and conflict to what’s on the surface a beautiful, Kate Bush-inspired love song. Musically, Clark employs everything from decaying choruses (“Prince Johnny”) to hip-hop synths (“Huey Newton”) to Prince-esque atonal funk (“Digital Witness”), but it’s a remarkably cohesive listen, as though each element has been thoroughly considered and sanded down to perfection. As implied by naming her fourth album simply St. Vincent, it’s an album that seems to be about truly knowing oneself—or the thrilling discoveries that come with a lifetime of seeking that knowledge.

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Genre: Rock