This Month's Picks

The Columbia Years 1968-1969 (CD)

Betty Davis
Somehow this fabled session of soul/funk queen Betty Davis and Miles Davis, has never surfaced in official or bootleg form until now. Having written numerous songs for The Chambers Brothers and The Commodores, Betty flew to the UK, ingratiating herself with the royalty of British rock. In 1968 she briefly married Miles Davis, and was the one who introduced him to Jimi Hendrix. It was during this time that these recordings were cut. A decidedly poignant turning point in both Betty and Mile's careers, as well as for the junction of jazz, funk and rock, these Miles Davis and Teo Macero produced recordings feature Mitch Mitchell of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Larry Young, Harvey Brooks, Billy Cox (who would soon replace Noel Redding as Hendrix's bassist), and John McLaughlin, doing his best Jimi Hendrix impression. Funky, rockin' and fresh, these selections feature tracks written by Betty as well as covers of Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival. It's safe to say that this session would lay the foundation of Betty's oncoming funk career as well as Mile's Bitches Brew -era jazz/rock albums. Also included are selected tracks from Betty's 1968 session featuring trumpet legend Hugh Masekela. More
Genre: Soul

You Will Never Be One Of Us (CD)

Nails
The relentless power-violence trio from Oxnard, California are back with their longest album yet: 22 minutes. What this album may lack in length is made up for tenfold in the sheer manic power of each track. The double bass pedal, thrash metal riffs, and searing vocals never let up, yet somehow this cacophony is also catchy. The guitar harmonies on "Savage Intolerance" sound like Thin Lizzy going off the rails, while tracks like "Life Is a Death Sentence" and the titular "You Will Never Be One of Us" will have you screaming along. More
Genre: Rock

Rockisdead (CD)

Dorothy
When single "Raise Hell" popped up online last year, it was hard to not get excited about DOROTHY. Headed by vocalist Dorothy Martin, DOROTHY is a fusion of divergent flavors that works perfectly: gritty, soulful vocals against screechy, vintage blues rock riffs and drums that channel modern hip-hop. They bring back the kind of loud, aggressive rock that would upset your parents. The fact "Raise Hell" ended up in so many commercials and programs is just evidence of what an addictive soundworm of a single it was. And it's refreshing to hear that their debut, ROCKISDEAD , is contrary evidence to its title: it's plain and simple rock that feels right placed next to your Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton LPs. "Dark Knights" almost dips into noise rock with a stripped down production that has all the impact of dropping a pile of bricks on your head. The song feels like it's almost bleeding out of the mic as its pulsating rhythm doesn't give you a second to breathe and Dorothy screams at you about what kind of man is a real man and what she needs. "Wicked Ones" has foot-stomping rhythm that almost feels like an old country number filtered through a fuzz peddle. It's hard to not move or sing along when the song's beat knocks you hard against your skull. This is what rock should embody. It's good to know DOROTHY moved up from a local act to a major label atomic blast that is hopefully a sign of rock to come. More
Genre: Rock

California (CD)

blink-182
With the resurgence of pop punk and skater music in the indie world, Blink-182 feels as relevant as ever. In acts like FIDLAR, Title Fight, and Joyce Manor, you can still hear the effects of Enema of the State and Take Off Your Pants and Jacket vibrate in the druggy, lazy Cali vibes. But with the departure of Tom DeLonge, the band replaced his iconic, screechy voice with Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba who gives California an air of drama that hasn't been present in their last albums. Teaming up with Goldfinger's John Feldmann as their new producer, California sounds like the late-'90s sunshine sound of their hits while exploring new territory and ideas. Recorded over a few weeks on a spontaneous burst of creative energy, the album's sixteen tracks have a quick dynamic feel that passes by in a burst. Lead single "Bored To Death" channels a moodier, angsty atmosphere that is a surprisingly mature look at being old. Instead of just singing another song with ironic lyrics and gross ideas, "Bored To Death" is an emotional ballad drenched in teenage nostalgia. It hurts when Skiba cries out that "life isn't meant to last long" while he laments over his childish past. "Rabbit Hole" feels like old Blink-182 with a major chord, punk bravado and a more ironic head-pounder of a song being sang to his own brain. When you are stuck in your own mind and problems, "Rabbit Hole" feels like a big middle finger to self-loathing and sadness. But nothing feels more like Blink-182 than the sixteen second crass joke "Built This Pool." What starts off fierce quickly dissolves after a one-liner gag. In the current wave of '90s nostalgia, California doesn't stumble for one second and ranks comfortably with some of their best stuff. More
Genre: Rock

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. More

True Sadness (CD)

The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers took inspiration from such disparate influences as Queen, Nine Inch Nails, Tom Petty, and Gillian Welch on their Rick Rubin-produced ninth studio LP, True Sadness . Indeed, the record is eclectic, with polished Mumford & Sons style folk-pop melodies embellished by bluegrass strings and punk rock ebullience. In spite of its title, and the lyrical contents of songs like “Divorce Separation Blues” and “Satan Pulls the Strings,” the melodies are almost rebelliously upbeat. Because of this patchwork of styles, the album works as a crossover between alt. rock, indie pop, and country/folk, giving it a wide appeal. These are the sort of summer songs that seems destined to be blasted out of rolled down car windows, and shout-sung along to by enthusiastic fans on tour. More
Genre: Rock

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." More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

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. More
Genre: Rock

Johannesburg EP (CD)

Baaba Maal, Beatenberg, Mumford & Sons, The Very Best
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 . More
Genre: Rock