Rock

False Readings On (CD)

Matthew Cooper's Eluvium project defies categorization. The Portland-based musician could easily fall into the post-rock category with the likes of Jim O'Rourke, Tortoise, Sigur Ros, and Slint, but it's too strange to be called "rock." The diverse knowledge of musical history up to this point can be heard in the modular synth progressions, operatic samples, Lynchian drone, and the heaviest reverb this side of My Bloody Valentine. False Readings On is Eluvium's first album in three years and is needed more than ever in a world that surrounds you with media noise every second. The gentle wave formations he creates feel like the perfect antidote to tinny drum machine samples, over done vocals and generic anthem rock. Songs float in and out and disappear before you even expect it. The opening track, "Strangeworks," starts off with white noise that suddenly explodes into lush organ chords that wrap around you. The shoegazey guitars hum in the background while unknown strings are plucked delicately in ethereal fashion. "Drowning Tone" recalls some of Jim O'Rourke's experiments in the '90s by creating a dark, moody atmosphere and drawing light and new sounds from it. What starts off as being a drone piece that sounds sculpted from worn tape (a William Basinski type touch) suddenly goes into the more dramatic "Washer Logistics." And though it's calm and beautiful, the guitar feedback might have it closer to the electric guitar experiments of Loren Connors or Keiji Haino. When artists drop art rockers of the past as a lazy point of reference, Eluvium actually continues and refines on the early albums of Fripp and Eno. He takes the elements of rock and makes some of the most beautiful and haunting music you've ever heard.

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Skiptracing (CD)

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.

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

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).

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Eleven Eleven (CD)

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.

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Never Asked For Heaven (CD)

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.

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Sweatbox Dynasty (CD)

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.

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And Then Like Lions (CD)

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.

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Guidance (CD)

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.

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Scour (CD)

Scour is furious destruction pushed to new extremes. You don't just listen to it. It rips your ear opens and slams right into your brain. This black metal super group is led by Philip Anselmo of Pantera and features John Jarvis (Pig Destroyer), Chase Fraser (Animosity), Derek Engemann (Cattle Decapitation), and Jesse Schobel (Strong Intention). The intense vocal atomic blast that comes straight from Anselmo's gut gives you chills against the polyrhythmic, otherworldly drums, and violent guitar riffs that can shred the air like a hot knife. With six tracks that never go beyond a few minutes each, it's a short EP, but as dense and heavy as it gets. It makes most new metal albums look like a puny, anemic joke. It's real musicians showing you how metal is done. Their single "Dispatch" is just a taste of the insanity. Inhuman drums furiously bang like you are entering battle with static-laced guitars swirling all around. Anselmo grabs your face and gives a performance that matches up with the best of Pantera's albums. This is far from easy-listening: this is pure sonic power. Spin this on your turntable and feel the raw energy and barbarity of Scour. Their first EP is a great sign of things to come.

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Dirty Heads (CD)

Huntington Beach, CA's Dirty Heads capture the mood of hot Orange County days on their self-titled fifth album. It feels like it takes less risks and strange directions, choosing instead to go for a much cooler, relaxed atmosphere covered in a haze of LA smog, the smell of the salt in the water, and good weed. Recorded in Los Angeles, a thirty minute drive north from their home, the easy-going feel fuses the verbal prowess of hip-hop with the stoned in flip-flops feel of ska like a perfect cocktail. Smooth organ riffs bounce against tinny snares, dub bass and snappy guitar lines offset the aggressively catchy rap rhymes that distance themselves from the harsh vibes of life and goes for pop fun. The nostalgic first single, "That's All I Need," is a love-letter to SoCal twenty years ago. Spitting a laundry list of memories, people, and even the musical feel of California beaches, nothing captures the spirit of Los Angeles' summers quite the same way. "Too Cruel" has the minimal rock spaciness of early Coldplay that suddenly gets real trippy when the track turns off and the bass gets real sensual with raunchy, tongue in cheek humor that's close to a teenage sunburnt fantasy. "Oxygen" is dub spun through techno synths and scratchy vinyl samples. The dramatic lyrics and groove of "Oxygen" culminates in a catchy crescendo of synthesized that horns that can easily get stuck in your ear. For fans of OC '90s ska, Dirty Heads doesn't recapture that sound. It keeps the spirit alive. Pour a lemonade, mix it with some booze, and chill to this.

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