Rock

Shadow Of The Sun (CD)

Moon Duo’s third album purrs with gripping bass grooves, organ drones and sterling solos that cut through the haze on tracks like “Wildling.” “Night Beat” starts a motorik dance party that rolls into the bluesy surge of “Free the Skull.” You might at first think you’ve heard this from Moon Duo before. But the twosome of singer/guitarist Ripley Johnson and singer/keyboardist Sanae Yamada have never sounded bad, nor better than they do here, continuing to mine influences like Suicide, Silver Apples, and krautrock to mesmerizing effect while proving they can be just as alluring when trying something different, slowing things down for space ballad “In a Cloud” or adding some new-wave synths to their primitive thump on standouts like “Zero” and “Animal.” Their awesome sound has been refined with a never-before-heard clarity and confidence on Shadow of the Sun, making it Moon Duo’s best album yet.

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another eternity (CD)

Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring push their dreamy sound outward on their second album, dialing up the hooks and production value for a more straightforward pop release. Songs like “push pull” sound cleaner than the booming tracks of their debut, Shrines, yet they’re still percussively fascinating, possessing the same kind of odd time meters, space, and layered percussive noise that make FKA Twigs such a hit. Megan James’ vocals move further from ethereal to real, particularly on “begin again,” a bass-heavy ode to breaking up and making up. James' lyrics aren’t the kind you parse for concrete detail—dream-R&B ballad “repetition” has lines that make your head spin, like “watchin’ me is like watching a fire take your eyes from you.” But it’s all part of the mesmerizing spell Purity Ring are so adept at casting, utilizing Cocteau Twins-style wordplay and vocal manipulation to seemingly set off digital sirens and synths that shoot like fireworks on “heartsight.” Other than the goth-tinged “dust hymn,” they’ve mostly ditched the witch house thing to dig into a more all-embracing sound. Despite its title, another eternity almost ends too soon, proving that adage that it’s better to leave fans wanting more. It’s a confident sophomore effort that plays up to the band’s melodic and percussive strengths while remaining just elusive enough to keep us as intrigued as ever.

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Complicated Game (CD)

Austin-based James McMurtry releases Complicated Game, his first album since 2008’s Just Us Kids. The album stands by the storytelling hallmark the Americana artist is known for but keeps it a bit more acoustic than his previous. He also keeps it a bit less baldly satirical than his previous couple records. Songs like “We Can’t Make It Here” or “Cheney’s Toy” are conspicuously missing in favor of the more lyrically and musically engaging like the opener “Copper Canteen” or the single “How’m I Gonna Find You Now.” Recorded in a New Orleans studio with producer C.C. Adcock Complicated Game has less of the rollicking sound you might expect on a midnight set from McMurtry’s Heartless Bastards (which he still performs on Wednesday nights at the Continental Club in Austin) and more of a methodical story-driven roots vibe. If there is anything that James McMurtry does well its lock the listener in with his spellbinding lyrics. Complicated Game is no exception.

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Mourn (CD)

Catalonian teen quartet Mourn makes a passionate racket on their debut album. Singer Jazz Rodriguez Bueno channels PJ Harvey with her raspy delivery and more cutting lyrics on tracks like “Dark Issues,” or a young Siouxsie, on the way she can play with emotions but still bring a smile to your face, on songs like galloping opener “Your Brain is Made of Candy.” Her band keeps things terse, inspired by the likes of Nirvana and The Ramones, yet their clean guitars and neat grooves on standouts like “Philliphius” and “Otitis” suggest wisdom beyond their years. A handful of tracks read as more juvenile alt-rock exercises, yet Mourn also never loses momentum, bashed out with a live-tracked, Steve Albini feel and the animated precision of off-the-cuff ideas rehearsed and captured in one raw take—Bueno’s wail at the end of bonus track “Boys Are Cunts” feels both visceral and well-timed. It’s an incredibly promising debut that puts our faith back in so-called wasted youth.

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Holding All The Roses (CD)

At first glance Atlanta’s Blackberry Smoke are a throwback Southern rock outfit. Ah, but there is more to Charlie Starr and company than meets the eye. After sharing the stage over the last 15 years with the likes of Skynyrd, ZZ Top, and Zac Brown Band (the latter whose label they just left,) Blackberry Smoke has honed their own unique voice. Holding All The Roses, their first release on Rounder, is a catchy southern rock record with tinges of bluegrass and Alt-'90s songcraft. Whether it’s the infectious Good Ole’ Boy Rock ’n’ Roll “Let Me Help You (Find the Door)” or the Chris Cornell influenced “Woman In The Moon,” the album flits back and forth between a Rock album and a contemporary country record. The band is obviously well versed in both genres. This is especially noticeable on tracks like “Randolph County Farewell” where the bluegrass acoustic work of Charlie Starr (Lead Vocals, Guitar) and Paul Jackson (Guitar, Vocals) leads directly into a heavy number aptly named “Payback’s a Bitch.” Ultimately a fun listen.

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Lost Themes (CD)

John Carpenter, known mostly for directing movies such as HalloweenEscape From New York and Big Trouble In Little China is releasing his first ever solo album (not accompanying a film). That’s right, not only is the man a landmark director he is also a pioneer in the minimalist synth genre. In collaboration with his son Cody (of the band Ludrium) and his godson Daniel Davies (who composed the songs for I, FrankensteinLost Themes is an excellent portrayal of Carpenter’s damn near trademark sound that we as moviegoers have unknowingly heard for decades. Without a celluloid backdrop with which to re-purpose these cinematic hypnotic synthesizers or erupting guitars, Carpenter’s compositions take on a narrative life of their own. The nine-track opus starts strong with the menacing “Vortex.” A track which immediately stands alongside any contemporary electronic musician out there today. It is not until you get to “Mystery” that the out and out epic horror feel of the work jumps out. “Night,” the final track on the album, is an atmospheric epilogue that fades out of view as somberly as the imaginary pictures that have danced in your head.

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Sky City (CD)

Amason, the side project formed in 2012 by various members of the Swedish musical elite, has proven yet again that the Swedes know pop music inside and out. A musical powerhouse of genre splitting talent Gustav Ejstes (from Dungen), Amanda Bergman (Idiot Wind), Petter Winnberg and Nils Törnqvist (Little Majorette), and Pontus Winnberg (Miike Snow) all bring their unique styles to an extremely well written and dynamically performed debut album. "Algen," the opening track to Sky City, presents itself as a blueprint for what all of these artists jumbled together might sound like. Electro-ish beats polished with psychedelic drone over a standard call and response pop tune. The rest of the album opts to showcase each of the individual artists’ talents without veering too far from the original blueprint. The only notable difference on the record is Ejstes and Bergman vocals. The mix however is perfect. “Elefanten” rings like a b-side from the Ta det lugnt sessions, whereas “Went To War” and “Velodrome” carry Amanda Bergman’s unmistakable voice to new heights. The highlight of Sky City is the nuance of the whole piece remaining listenable and cohesive. Each track maintains just slightly different production. Techniques which may seem too retro or forced had they not been exacted with the expert skill of a proper Swede's knowledge of pop. ABBA would be proud.

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No Cities To Love (CD)

It’s tough to come back after a nearly decade-long hiatus, especially after your band’s best album (the combustible The Woods). But Sleater-Kinney succeed with aplomb on No Cities to Love, which scales back on Woods’ volume without dialing down the ferocity. Cities roars right out of the gate on “Price Tag,” as Corin Tucker gives a scathing indictment of American greed over Carrie Brownstein’s tuff gnarled riffs. Janet Weiss also gives a typically dynamic performance, switching between off-kilter punk-funk and straightforward rawk on “Fangless” and giving “No Anthems” and “Gimme Love” their pounding swagger. There’s a sense that Tucker, Brownstein and Weiss are growing comfortable with one another again, and appropriately, No Cities to Love is curt at 10 songs (thankfully trimmed of any fat whatsoever, really). When the trio fits together perfectly, as on “Surface Envy,” it’s a marvel to behold, its acidic riffs swaying and bursting at the seams while Tucker gives her band a worthy rallying call (“We win, we lose, only together do we make the rules”). Decidedly, No Cities to Love is yet another win for the returning rock titans known as Sleater-Kinney. 

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Viet Cong (CD)

From the ashes of the band Women comes Viet Cong, including that band’s bassist and drummer. Like Women, Viet Cong trade in gleaming, clashing guitars and droning vocal harmonies that seem to hang in mid-air, on tracks like “Bunker Buster.” “Pointless Experience” whizzes around with rocketing guitar riffs that beg to be heard on headphones, while “Continental Shelf” surfs on a New Order-ish bassline and brown waves of grimy guitar noise and leaping vocals. Though Viet Cong can be plenty crowd-pleasing when they want to be, on the new wavey “Silhouettes,” for instance, they’re also unapologetically experimental, though usually with a purpose—if you make it through the punishing industrial pulse of the first half of “March of Progress,” you’re rewarded with a haunting multivocal séance and surprisingly upbeat ending. And on final track, “Death,” the band seems to pay tribute to fallen Women guitarist Chris Reimer, with the kind of expansive guitar exercise worthy of Reimer’s sorely missed talent. Like Women, Viet Cong prefer to say what they need to say and then get out, but it’s always better to leave listeners wanting more. And any post-punk fan will be left wanting a lot more Viet Cong after hearing their dynamic debut.

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Dark Side Of The Mule (CD)

Back in 2008, Gov’t Mule played an epic three-hour gig at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre on Halloween night. That night the jam band performed a setlist comprised entirely of Pink Floyd covers. Not that it is surprising that Warren Haynes and his cronies would do a tip of the hat to Floyd per se, but to set up archival releases showcasing those efforts? A whole new thing. As the first entry in a newly launched archival campaign, Gov’t Mule is releasing Dark Side of the Mule, the full show from 2008 in Boston, wonderfully mixed and mastered to capture the band's essence. It will be released on CD, as well as a deluxe three-CD/DVD combo and as a double-vinyl edition. These archival releases aim to highlight the band's evolution as well as a catalog of their influences. And with nearly 300 songs in their live repertoire alone, you can be sure there is a lot more where that came from.

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