Rock

Blood Bitch (CD)

Norwegian experimental singer/songwriter Jenny Hval teams up with noise producer Lasse Marhaug for her most focused album to date, Blood Bitch. As the title indicates, this is an album about blood, thematically incorporating all of its horrors and blessings. Lyrics in songs like “Period Piece,” “Female Vampire,” “In the Red,” and others conjure speculums, menstruation, and birth control in methods poetic and otherwise. To say that this is an intimate project is putting it mildly, but it is also a work of the collective feminine unconscious. Hval referred to the album as being about “the purest and most powerful, yet most trivial, and most terrifying blood: Menstruation. The white and red toilet roll chain which ties together the virgins, the whores, the mothers, the witches, the dreamers, and the lovers.” Both magical and mundane, menstrual blood has been a source of power and bother for women from time immemorial. Hval’s music reflects this duality distinctly; her pretty, ethereal voice rides just on top of repetitive, angular electro-pop instrumentation and highly-produced rhythms are juxtaposed with organic sounds like heavy breathing or pen on paper. Synth waves and base beats keep the songs balanced somewhere between electro dance music and high-concept avant-garde pop, grounded one minute and lofty the next. It can be difficult to pin Blood Bitch down, so just let it flow.

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22, A Million (CD)

There are certain things one expects from Bon Iver: sparse, wintry melodies, bare emotionality, and his lyrical, near-Appalachian croon. On 22, A Million, those facets remain the same, albeit embellished by an unexpected experimentation. The new songs feature samples, synths, and processed vocals; one gets the sense that all the time Bon Iver spent collaborating with the likes of Kanye and James Blake managed to influence his own work, as well. It’s an interesting evolution for the soft-voiced lo-fi folksinger — an album full of surprises whose low-key loveliness will get under your skin.

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American Band (CD)

Drive-By Truckers, the American South’s biggest celebrant and critic, unleashes their most political and righteously indignant album of their long career with American Band. Amid the current haze of the baffling election, rampant poverty, police brutality, senseless shootings, the opioid abuse epidemic, widespread xenophobia, and racial tensions, singers/songwriters/guitarists and band founders Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood sharpened their skills for critique, creating this year’s most provocative protest album. Their form of socio-political criticism is straightforward; their words are aimed for the jugular because, let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of time to play with poetics as the country goes up in flames before our eyes. In “What It Means," they take on the tragic collective moral implications of the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin: "We're living in an age where limitations are forgotten/The outer edges move and dazzle us/But the core is something rotten." While sonically honoring their roots in all-American Southern rock, Drive-By Truckers remind us that it is truly American to think, question, critique, and to protest.

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Dusk (CD)

Dusk, the third album by the London based duo Ultimate Painting finds a nice balance between wispy melancholia and cozy grooviness. Comprised of Jack Cooper of Mazes and James Hoare of Veronica Falls, Ultimate Painting's economical guitar dueling and sparse back beat evoke a sort-of looser Pinback, with touches of The Velvet Underground's self-titled album. Ironically, "I'm Set Free" is not a cover of VU's song off said album, but a vibrato-y original, while "Who Is Your Next Target?" should land well with fans of Kill The Moonlight-era Spoon. The shimmery guitar plinking on "Song For Brian Jones" is particularly hypnotic.

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Live At The Greek Theatre (CD)

On Live at the Greek Theatre, Joe Bonamassa celebrates his musical heroes Freddie, Albert, and B.B. King in style. Bonamassa gives the Kings' classic work his own contemporary spin, without losing the heart, vitality, and power of the originals. The band, who also backed Bonamassa for his Muddy Wolf tribute shows, is excellent as expected, with an ebullient horn section, soulful backing vocalists, and powerful percussion. The recording itself is crisp, clean, and lively; it does an excellent job of conveying the excitement and intensity of the blues rocker's stage shows. These uplifting, dynamic cover versions are a fitting nod to the lasting legacy of the blues.

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Bad Vibrations (CD)

Florida metalcore band A Day to Remember refuse to be boxed into genre trappings on their sixth album. From the first song (the title track), pummeling beats and chugging guitars suggest the rhythmic attack of a metal band, while emotional outpouring and melodic smarts call to mind a more traditional rock or emo band. “Paranoia” is reminiscent of Foo Fighters, but with a lot more bite, as the lyrics paint a horror-movie scenario happening only in the speaker’s head. “Naivety” is more straightforward and melodic, as palm-muted guitars move like electricity and Smashing Pumpkins-esque octaves dart around. Meanwhile, the drop-D metal riffs and demon shrieks of “Exposed” sit rather comfortably next to the stunning acoustic outro of “Reassemble” and ascendant melodies “Justified.” It’s rare when a band can successfully provide something for everyone on a heavy rock album, but on Bad Vibrations, that’s just what A Day to Remember does.

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Fires Within Fires (CD)

Underground metal heroes Neurosis continue to evolve on their Steve Albini-produced 11th album and first in four years. Indie metalheads will thrill at the album's expansive sound, combining textured atmospheric portions with explosive, searing crescendos. Perfect for fans of bands like Deafheaven, Mastodon, and Isis.

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Young As The Morning, Old As The Sea (CD)

The eighth studio album from Mike Rosenberg, the Brighton-born singer/songwriter better known as Passenger, is a panoramic album dealing with themes of relationships and the passing of time that are at once personal and universal.

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Secret City Records 10th Anniversary Compilation (CD)

Quebec's Secret City Records has been one of the most exciting and revealing indie labels from Canada. Tapping deep into the indie and outsider music scene of Montreal, Secret City Records has proudly released albums by Patrick Watson, Thus Owls, Own Pallett, Suuns, Plants and Animals, and The Barr Brothers. To celebrate their 10th anniversary, they're doing a series of commemorative concerts around the world and are releasing a behemoth of a compilation. Chronologically spanning 34 tracks over two CDs, it's a perfect sampler of a unique sound curated by a one-of-a-kind label. Opening with a bonus track from Patrick Watson's Close To Paradise, "Interference From The Sky" picks up from the avant pop world of Jim O'Rourke. Powered up noise guitars shred over a minimal piano piece and free drumming that recalls Michael Nyman. And it builds and builds until it just disintegrates into nothing. Plants and Animals' "Bye Bye Bye" takes a different route. Instead of going for dramatic grit, this feels closer in spirit to to The Kinks' power pop masterpieces that just exude good vibes. The rich arrangement has a mix of mandolins, pianos, and a loud chorus that sounds more like 1967 than 2016. Suuns is a whole other beast. "Infinity" starts off like a lost Suicide track as ugly drum-machine riffs trot along vocals that are perfectly unsettling. Without ever being sleazy or gross, there's something about the song that makes you feel like you need to take a shower after listening to it. Along with Merge Records and Drag City, Secret City Records' diverse artists are completely unique in the world of indie rock. After listening to this, you'll want to hear it all.

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What One Becomes (CD)

On their new epic double album, What One Becomes, the trio walks the line between chaos and control. This sophomore album sees Sumac take a leap forward from their 2015 debut, The Deal, revealing a new side of Aaron Turner’s (Isis, Old Man Gloom, Mamiffer) combustible songwriting and guitar playing.

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