Rock

Enter The Slasher House (CD)
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. Read more
Live At The Hideout (CD)

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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Doom Abuse (CD)
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. Read more
Midnight Sun (LP)
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. Read more
Sunbather (CD)

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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St. Vincent (CD)

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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AM (CD)

On their fifth album, seven years down the road from their initial and basically undeniable pop-punk razorblade "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor," the boys from Sheffield are back with an album that screams, or rather moans, "maturity." Maybe maturity is the wrong word - there's still the ageless teenage greasiness which made the band initially so appealing, but it's been refined and I simply refuse to believe that this refinement arrived coincidentally. Josh Homme, adult purveyor of timeless musical grease, makes an appearance on the record, and press materials surrounding both artists' current-events make a point of mentioning cross pollination. So what does this mean for said Monkeys? An opening track that sounds like Black Keys stompy bombast coupled with something like Spacemen 3 atmospheric tectonics, filthy wobbles and shimmer, lots of space both local and astral. This track, "Do I Wanna Know," is about as purposeful and narrative-establishing as an opening track can get, especially for a band known for exploding out in short bursts. It's a slow burner that paves the way for a record Homme has described as a "really cool, sexy, after-midnight record." This means Queens-style spooky grooving, melodic, laconic, druggy guitar solos, tired-drunk-guy crooning with falsetto doubling, and a shuffling, mid-tempo disco snark turned sneer in a nicer jacket a la someone like Jarvis Cocker's work with Pulp. In the words of Fatboy Slim "You've Come A Long Way, Baby."

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Defend Yourself (CD)

Amid the countless recent reunions of '90s bands, the timing seems perfect for the return of Sebadoh. While he's been toiling beneath the din of J Mascis' guitar heroics in the reunited Dinosaur Jr. for years, Lou Barlow's second-fiddle position in that band hasn't given enough of an outlet for Barlow's own songwriting. Thus Barlow sounds hungry on Defend Yourself, the first Sebadoh album since 1999. "Can you tell that I'm about to lose control?" he asks on the outset of the album on "I Will," over a serviceable melodic jangle. That statement proves true, as things get more interesting as Defend Yourself progresses. The stuttering "Beat" provides ample room for Barlow to shred both his guitars and vocals. It sounds as though Barlow's world is coming apart in the rumbling "Defend Yr Self"—an understandable position, given the end of his marriage, which provides bitter fuel for Barlow's fire on this album. Songs like "Oxygen," an upbeat indie pop-rocker, and "Once," a tentative instrumental, provide respite (though "Oxygen's" typically caustic lyrics remind us that even the shiniest apples from Barlow are laced with arsenic). But Barlow's at his manic best in songs like "Inquiries," which heaves into a nauseating (in a thrilling way) final portion, or "Final Days," which pairs headlong, full-band rush with world-doubting lyrics ("it's all made up and a waste of time" Barlow sings under his breath). With a mouthful of bile, Barlow spits out the songs of Defend Yourself. The resulting record feels as crucial and relevant as anything he's been a part of.

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Days Are Gone (CD)
L.A. sister trio HAIM have seemingly been around so long, it’s hard to believe Days Are Gone is only their debut LP. That’s due to the band trickling out singles throughout the year that that have gotten better and better, all of which are included here. “Falling” moves on an echoing drum pulse and middle sister Danielle Haim’s husky, breathy vocals, falling somewhere between Christine McVie and Fiona Apple, and careful, creeping guitar riffs. “Forever” moves on an ’80s R&B shuffle, while the sisters’ back-and-forth vocal aerobics and harmonies employed Este, Danielle and Alana Haim showcase their greatest strength—the inborn chemistry fostered by playing in a band together since childhood. Their best song yet, “The Wire,” is bold enough to get called a Shania Twain knockoff by Portishead’s Geoff Barrow—they must be doing something right. Its Gary Glitter strut allows Danielle to really vamp and play the relieved ex-lover with glee, while youngest sister Alana steals the show with her swaggery second verse. The rest of Days Are Gone isn’t as strong as that dynamite opening, but even when the songs feel overstuffed, the sisters’ boundless energy makes the entire thing such an entertaining ride that you won’t mind the occasional whiplash. The details really make it worthwhile—the way the guitars pulse like they’re emulating synthesizers on “If I Could Change Your Mind,” the crazy, warped Miami Sound Machine-style vocals on the title track. We haven’t had a pop band like this in years, one with both the smarts and technical capability to call to mind classic pop acts from Fleetwood Mac through Destiny’s Child in one feel swoop. And Days Are Gone will no doubt make young women everywhere ask for guitars and pull their sisters into jam sessions. For that alone, we’re thankful for Haim. Read more
Seasons of Your Day (CD)

It's no surprise that Mazzy Star guitarist David Roback says the band was always recording throughout its long hiatus since 1996's Among My Swan. They still sound like the band that bummed out a million teenagers in the '90s on Seasons of Your Day. Opener "In the Kingdom" seems to underline the influence the band has had on acts like Beach House, Roback's warbling country guitar, gentle organ and Hope Sandoval's airy vocals taking ownership of that particular combination of sounds. Dark strummer "California" steers them into darker territory—Cali. ain't all sunshine and palm trees, Sandoval seems to remind us as she wistfully sings "it's so far, far away." "I've Gotta Stop" sounds like the Rolling Stones circa "Wild Horses" if they did even more heroin—no easy feat. That narcotic haze only occasionally gets lulling, though, as it has on some of their other releases. For the most part, Seasons of Your Day is more grabbing than anything the band has done to this point. Previously released songs "Common Burn" and "Lay Myself Down" are included here, sounding even better within the context of the album. They bookend one of Mazzy Star's best songs yet, the title track, capturing the mystery and subtle eroticism of Mazzy Star classics like "Into Dust" with just two fingerpicked acoustic guitar chords, some light strings and keys, and Sandoval's impossibly alluring voice, singing simple lines like "won't you let me come inside ... I know you've been missing me" that somehow evoke an entire relationship's worth of details. The band makes it easy to let them back inside with the stunning Seasons of Your Day.

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