Fuego (CD)

Already, Fuego is being hailed as the best Phish album since Billy Breathes, which is a unique distinction. When BB came out in 1996, it was the band's most concise, pop-oriented album. Short songs and hooky focus that made a lot of new fans but potentially alienated some old ones who were looking for more long-form progressive folk-reggae-jazz-rock of the kind they were used to. After BB the band generally continued in that poppier direction, still turning those concise songs into lengthy workouts on stage but the studio-Phish was, from that point on, a different animal. Fuego is unique because it's a crossover more than a throwback. It incorporates the bands mature hookiness and focus as well as the live stretching out their fans follow them around the country for. Elements of classic progressive rock are everywhere here, so it's great to see Bob Ezrin, the legendary producer of Pink Floyd's The Wall and Lou Reed's Berlin, behind the boards here, acting also as studio adviser, encouraging the band to make the record a closer representation of their live show. This record should certainly grow a large garden of new Phish fans while supplying the die hards with more fodder for live improvisation and more classics to sing along to.

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Amour & Attrition (CD)

Casey Crescenzo is one of those uniquely active and ambitious musical minds who is also growing and challenging himself, usually beyond the confines of any one musical project. Getting his start in progressive post-hardcore/screamo outfit The Receiving End of Sirens, when his ambitions became too large to be contained by that group, he founded The Dear Hunter, an intense complex progressive rock band with folk and orchestral tendencies that crosses over with the Arcade Fire or Decemberists, albeit from a decidedly post-hxc background. Now, on this latest release under his own name, he's written an instrumental symphony which, on this recording, is being performed by the Brno Philharmonic. Recorded in Brno, Czech Republic, the album is decidedly American, with lilting Gershwinian melodies and a tender cinematic ambience that plant its roots firmly stateside. While it's unclear how fans of Crescenzo's other projects will respond, fans of The Dear Hunter are no strangers to his symphonic tendencies and I'd imagine there are more than a few who have been waiting for precisely something just like this. Those fans and any fans of thoughtful, emotional, melodic composition for symphony orchestra should be very pleased.

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Noise (CD)

When a band like Boris releases an album called Noise, you’re expecting just that—piercing, screeching, glorious guitar noise from a difficult-to-pigeonhole band that trades in stoner rock, sludgey doom metal and shoegaze. And to an extent, that’s true, but Noise is actually one of the most traditional rock albums the band has produced, amidst its many releases and collaborations. The first song is called “Melody,” and true to that promise, it’s a melodic rocker in the vein of forefathers like Swervedriver or Smashing Pumpkins, full of searching, psychedelic verses and pummeling, volcanic choruses. Much of Noise can be tender, though. “Ghost of Romance” allows the band to explore spacious, moaning guitar tones, and singer/bassist Takeshi’s affecting falsetto makes the song feel a little like early Radiohead or Sigur Ros, before a pulverizing, fuzzed-out solo blows that comparison out of the water. Guitarist/singer Wata crawls through the creepy doomgaze of “Heavy Rain,” sounding like the last survivor in a Japanese horror film. But Boris are most shocking here when completely breaking rank with their previous work, on “Taiyo No Baka,” which begins with a lo-fi, thumping little tune before moving into what sounds like the follow-up to “1979” that the Pumpkins never wrote—surprise, surprise, Boris are great at writing pop songs. But not to worry, Boris fans—the band you’ve come to know and love still roars back on songs like “Quicksilver,” a pure melodic metal tune among the band’s best. Though Noise changes the game a bit for Boris, the band’s focus on tunefulness is welcome, especially since they still haven’t abandoned the destructive sound on which they’ve made their name.

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Favorite Waitress (CD)

End-of-the-night alt-country/folk-rock from upstate NY, produced by real life brothers, and sung with a winkingly erudite Dylanism that recalls the southern-tinged power-pop tendencies of the early No Depression crowd. Truly caught somewhere between rock and folk, the album is chock full of fiddles and accordions but also covered in a layer of filth and occasionally fuzz. Drunk, romantic, pining, cynical but in a uniquely countrified warm way, this, their tenth album, should appeal to fans of driving in trucks and wearing jean jackets.

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The Jazz Age (CD)

Bryan Ferry is always up there at the country house cooking up some new way of delivering you the lush life, and this time he literally blows the roof off! Here are thirteen songs from the breadth of his career, from Roxy Music to recent solo albums, arranged and interpreted by a hard-swingin' 1920s style jazz orchestra, and presented in gloriously crackly mono. At first hearing tunes like "Do the Strand" come at you as a vigorous Dixieland stomp practically makes you laugh out loud -- then you realize the guy is serious. From "Love Is the Drug" to "Avalon," these tunes get sent back in the way-back machine, only to return with plenty of trombone charts, clarinet solos, muted trumpets and even coconut percussion fills. Members of the Pasadena Roof Orchestra execute this vintage fantasia, with some arranging help from UK TV composer Colin Good. Each reinterpretation is imaginatively and slyly suited to the original, whether bringing out a latent samba shuffle or hinting at the original darkness of tone behind a zany rhythm. Of course, Bryan Ferry has always been besotted with the Jazz Age, going back to his first solo album, These Foolish Things, in which he crooned classic 1930s ballads in his proto-new wave style. Even then he had a true knack for classic sounds (a knack not shared by just anybody, as one notices whenever Rod Stewart barfs up "It Had to be You"). So jump on this magic carpet with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra and soar back in time to the Roaring Twenties!

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Lonerism (LP)

If Jeff Magnum (Neutral Milk Hotel) had been born 10 years later and became obsessed with tape loops, this is sort of what it would sound like. Stellar effort, even better than their first LP. Get on it, people.  

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