This Month's Picks

Skiptracing (CD)

The Mild High Club
Mild High Club’s Skiptracing sounds like ‘70s light rock radio on acid, complete with smooth jazz solos, psych flourishes, jangly guitar, and sunny harmonies. Thanks to the band’s eclectic influences, however, the songs never sound derivative, but instead feel like a breath of fresh air winding its way through Laurel Canyon. It’s a woozy, euphoric record that calls to mind a more mellowed out Ariel Pink or a psyched out Mac DeMarco — which makes sense because Mild High Club has toured with them both. Throw this record on if you still wish it was the Summer of Love, or if you just don’t want summer to end. More
Genre: Rock

I'm Alone, No You're Not (CD)

Joseph
Named after their grandfather, Joseph is a trio of Portland-based sisters whose work delves into country, folk, rock, and indie pop. Their sophomore LP, I’m Alone, No You’re Not impressively showcases their formidable musical skills — namely, their ability to compose tight, often heartbreaking harmonies. Album opener “Canyon” is a haunting, commanding Americana love song, “White Flag” is an ultra-catchy folk pop number, and final track “Sweet Dreams” is dark, lush, cinematic, and evocative. The album is rooted in raw, emotional power which is accentuated by the glimmering polish of producer Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes). More
Genre: Rock

Eleven Eleven (CD)

Dinosaur Pile-Up
Sludgy riffs and catchy vocals galore! British alt-rockers Dinosaur Pile-Up's third full-length is a driving, fuzzed-out testament to the power a good trio can derive from a guitar, a bass, a drum kit, and straight ahead vocals. "Red and Purple" has the attitude and tone of The Foo Fighters at their height, with a good does of Kyuss mixed in, while "Grim Valentine" sounds like a union between Nirvana and Hole. "Friend Of Mine" is reminiscent of Graham Coxon's solo work, but with a bit more distortion, and title track "11:11" could have been a Trent Reznor single, had he been living in Seattle in the early '90s. More
Genre: Rock

Never Asked For Heaven (CD)

Bent Life
From the humble Midwest town of Lincoln, Nebraska comes the queasiest, fiercest hardcore that's ready to rip off your face and make you eat it. Bent Life's Never Asked For Heaven is a boot kick to the crotch of a first album. The riffs of pure sonic destruction echo with fire and channel early Metallic or Pantera with 100mph rhythms that can make you barely move. "Thanks For Nothing" has shredding '80s guitar wailing, guttural vocals that collide with angry, violent lyrics and noisy guitar feedback swirls. But the heart of the track summons the energy of early Slayer with relentless power riffs that drill straight into your skull. "Stab Me" opens up instantly and blasts from your speaker before you can even think. Never giving you a chance to recover yourself, it pounds and pounds into hypnotic infinity fueled by rage. When you think hardcore is getting weak, Bent Life makes it threatening, scary, and dangerous again. Blast this and get crazy. More
Genre: Rock

Golden Sings That Have Been Sung (CD)

Ryley Walker
Chicago-based guitarist/singer Ryley Walker's latest album evokes finger-style pickers like Bert Jansch and Nick Drake while infusing them just the right amount of electric rock and jazz instrumentation. Walker's confident, clear, no-nonsense vocals give this mix of influences and styles an authority that makes them his own, especially on "The Roundabout," in which his musings paint vignettes of a rambling life, unencumbered yet contemplative. Album opener "The Halfwit in Me" features instrumentation reminiscent of both an English folk guitar festival and a trip to the sun, while the vocals have the attitude of an American alt-country group like Whiskeytown. More
Genre: Folk

Sweatbox Dynasty (CD)

Tobacco
Black Moth Super Rainbow's frontman Tobacco bridges the gap between adrenaline powered garage rock and the surreal energy of psychedelic electronic music. The vintage synth beats sound like they are breathing out of an overclocked Apple II using an early drum machine program, while the hypnotic vocals are delivered through a vocoder, an underused tool in today's music. With the amount of tape hiss on Sweatbox Dynasty (itself loud enough to be another musical element, not just an aesthetic), the album almost feels like a long lost, low-fi '80s oddity from an enthusiastic fan of Yellow Magic Orchestra. The opening track, "Human Om," starts with a simple enough melody before the drone of a sitar (or a digital approximation of one...?) pops in and disappears as quickly as it arrives. The unrecognizable lyrics, sung in the voice of an '80s robot, give the tracks the uncomfortable, unsettling mood of organic sounds being taking over by technology: the musical equivalent of the Japanese horror film  Tetsuo the Iron Man . "Gods in Heat" channels a dancier, Italo disco vibe that's heavy on the guitar distortion and minimal synths. The mantra vocals penetrate right through your skull as the music, straight out of a Giallo horror film soundtrack, has the spooky, atmospheric feel that can either get you sweating uncomfortably or sweating from dancing. Sweatbox Dynasty is a messy, psychedelic trip that drips with digital funk and low-res .jpg strangeness. Pop this in and get sucked down a strange wormhole. More
Genre: Rock

Fishing Blues (CD)

Atmosphere
On their seventh studio album, Fishing Blues , Minneapolis hip hop duo Atmosphere creates a mood that is looser, drunker, and more relaxed than ever before. They capture what it feels like to be an adult stuck in arrested development. Atmosphere's rapper, Slug, is resigned to the fact he is now an adult with kids and he relishes in it. The beats are goofy and rely on instruments that feel more at place on an indie rock album. Masterfully put together by producer Ant, guitars twang like Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western soundtracks, moog synths skip around on ska rhythms, and the drums are real drums, not drum machine samples. All distinctly weird choices considering the current state of hip hop. "Ringo" is steeped in adolescent restlessness as he makes a whole song about his own immaturity. He cracks jokes about getting too drunk, dealing with a beer belly, and getting too crazy to the point of self-destruction. And to drive the joke home, he repeats "Everyone loves seeing a falling star." As self-deprecating as music gets! "No Biggie," which feels like a lost P-Funk jam from the '80s with piercing synths and shredding guitar, is the yin to "Ringo's" yang. While "Ringo" relishes in immaturity, the criticism of his own navel-gazing behavior and the people who bring him down are as clear as day. If you feel like you are out of step with hip hop today, Fishing Blues might be the remedy. More
Genre: Hip Hop

And Then Like Lions (CD)

Blind Pilot
Blind Pilot’s And Then Like Lions is a reflective, tender folk rock album complete with country and south-of-the-border flourishes. At times nostalgic, at others hopeful and defiant, this is an album that reveals itself more and more over repeated listens. Standouts include “Umpqua Rushing,” a sweetly sad pop track about love and loss and “What Is Yet,” which starts with a lush orchestral swell before gradually fading into a stripped down, desperate ballad. Frontman Israel Nebeker is clearly wrestling with some difficult life changes on the band’s new LP; the result is a poignant chronicle of the dark times, as well as a reminder of the remarkable resiliency of the human spirit. More
Genre: Rock

Guidance (CD)

Russian Circles
Chicagoan trio Russian Circles continues to examine their multi-dimensional world full of musical and emotional dichotomies on their sixth album, Guidance . Their cinematic sound washes in like waves: simple one minute and staggeringly complex the next, or a guitar-driven swell followed by a quiet retreat into melody. Despite the extreme modulations, their music is intuitive more than constructed for effect. The songs on Guidance meander in the best of all possible ways, as if they are themselves searching for meaning and transcendence in a confusing world. More
Genre: Rock

Take Her Up To Monto (CD)

Roisin Murphy
Weird pop visionary Roisin Murphy returns with an innovative, surprising new LP with echoes of Brian Eno and Giorgio Moroder style production. Ever the chameleon, the Irish diva’s vocal stylings alternate between disco diva, ‘80s soul singer, unforgiving ice queen, and coy cabaret songstress. The album skips between genres, propelled forward at times by icy, stabbing synths, sometimes by spacey atmospherics, twinkling keys, and bossa nova beats. Murphy proves once again that she is the master of smart, ever-evolving dance music. More