Rock

Cosmic Logic (CD)

Psych pop duo Peaking Lights get somehow both more personal and further out there on their latest release. “Telephone Call” sees singer Indra Dunis leading an alien dance party, singing “telephone call from space, calling all the human race” over a fat, dubby groove, while “Hypnotic Hustle” seems to create a new, interdimensional dance. But, like Lucifer’s stunning “Beautiful Son,” about Dunis and bandmate/husband Aaron Coynes’ newborn, some of Cosmic Logic’s best tracks aim for the terrestrial. “Everyone and Us” hides quiet reflection in its funky synth bassline, and the irresistible “New Grrrls” tells of the struggles of being a working mom, from the perspective of an indie rock star (“Can’t stop to be just a mom/The choice to stay at home is gone/Worker, lover, mother, wife/Gotta do it all in this life”). Dunis’ untrained voice will be a barrier for some, but her plainspoken lack of affectation also helps ground these songs and keep them from drifting off into the ether. Listen to Cosmic Logic and enter an interstellar dance party with Peaking Lights.

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Deeper (CD)

Deeper finds Oakland’s Luis Vasquez doing what he does best, creating thrillingly nihilistic darkwave tracks like “Black” but also expanding his sound a bit with more melody (“Wasting”), IDM-fueled electro-pop (“Wrong”) and even balladry (“Without” calls to mind vintage Depeche Mode songs like “A Question of Lust”). While Vasquez has always been adept at creating bleak soundscapes, his songs feel more fully formed than ever on Deeper. The best Soft Moon album yet.

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Mended With Gold (CD)

With heartfelt lyrics, fetching melodies, and explosive percussion, Mended With Gold makes it clear that The RAA have reached the next level and composed the most fully-realized work of their career.

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Pe'ahi (CD)

Danish noise pop darlings the Raveonettes have lightened things up a bit with their latest release, Pe’ahi. Appropriately titled after a town on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii, you can see that Wagner and Foo have been using surf culture as their latest muse, both sonically and lyrically. Combining surf-pop, warm fuzz, and tropicana with the bright melodies and girl group harmonies they are best known for; this is their most dynamic and baroque work since 2008’s Lust Lust Lust. Tracks like “Endless Sleeper” and “Sisters” drown you in warm fuzz while dreamy songs like “Killer In The Streets” let you float through glorious waves of melancholy. The mood of the album is breezier and more upbeat than previous efforts and is set to be the definitive summer soundtrack.

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A Tribute To Michael Been (CD)

After 20 years, Santa Cruz rockers The Call reunited at The Troubador in Los Angeles to put on an incredible show while paying tribute to front-man, Michael Been, who died of a heart attack in 2010. Been’s son Robert Levon Been (bassist and singer of the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) led this emotional performance by stepping into his father’s role and playing along with surviving members Tom Ferrier, Jim Goodwin and Scott Musick. With fourteen songs and an unforgettable performance by Robert and the band, highlights include “Let The Day Begin,” “The Walls Came Down” and “I Still Believe.”

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Runners In The Nerved World (CD)

This band has a way of blending pop and punk without sounding like a pop-punk band. They have a knack for catchy music and a talent for writing a coherent record. It’s like The Beach Boys Plus! 

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Soused (CD)

When black metal/experimental band Sunn O))) team up with ’60s-pop-pinup-turned-avant-garde-vampire Scott Walker, you know the results are going to something special. Indeed, Soused makes good on its promise as each artist is in top form on these five extended sound pieces. Walker's disturbing imagery and bellowing vocals are a perfect match for Sunn O)))’s metallic sound waves on “Brando,” as Walker sings “A beating would do me a world of good” amid whipsmacks and Blade Runner synths. Walker leads us through the bleakness of “Herod 2014” with a relatively sweet, ghostly melody as the band’s groaning guitars and insect-like beats make us feel like we’re heading deeper into a dark cavern of sound. The aggressive “Bull” makes for the clearest entry point into the album, with Walker doing his campiest Count-Dracula-leading-a-metal-band vocals and Sunn O))) going for classic hard rock chords on recognizable choruses (but even then, they leave us in the wilderness for extended periods of creeping silence and warm drone). “Fetish” finds all participants at their nastiest, while “Lullaby” ends the album by luring us in with a few minutes of relative quietude before Walker sings some of his most terrifying vocals over the band’s metal riffs—it’s a lullaby for anyone who falls asleep too easily. Soused doesn’t make for easy listening, but it’s never dull, either. Walker, in particular, sounds reinvigorated by his involvement with Sunn O))). Hopefully Soused is just the beginning of a sick and beautiful partnership.

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Primus & The Chocolate Factory With the Fungi Ensemble (CD)

Les Claypool and the original mid '90s lineup of Primus reunite to take on childhood! More precisely Primus pays homage to Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. Primus & the Chocolate Factory is a terrifying psychedelic nightmare wrapped in childhood wonderment and sugar coated with joy, much like the 1971 masterpiece. To ring in 2014 Primus played a hometown show with a rollicking classic set followed by a cover set of the soundtrack of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The show featured Claypool donning full Wonka attire, a magical set of lollipops and mushrooms, Oompa Loompas and a Glass Elevator. They even sold limited chocolate bars all named after Primus tunes! Life changing. Now they have taken that magic and distilled it into the release Primus & the Chocolate Factory. The track listing is almost directly identical to the order the songs play out in the film. It opens with “Hello Wonkites” which is an introduction more fitting than the “Pure Imagination” medley. Aided by Critters Buggin percussionist Mike Dillon, the zip-bang drum work of Tim “Herb” Alexander gives the whole recording a topsy-turvy progressive feel. The guttural “Candy Man” begins and we get a full sense of what type of Wonka Claypool really is (imagine Gene Wilder fronting The Residents.) The freaky conductor on this boat ride fades in and out vocally through the “Oompa Loompa” refrains and the less than hopeful “Pure Imagination.” The whole journey leaves the listener like the proverbial Veruca Salt wanting More! Now!

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Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper (CD)

The new album by Panda Bear is perhaps his most accessible yet. This is not to say the music isn’t as strange and unique as anything he’s done. “Boys Latin’s” brilliant vocal pastiche gets stuck in your head but keeps your mind swimming. “Crossword” is heartfelt and gorgeous, along the lines of Animal Collective’s “My Girls.” “Come to Your Senses” swirls with slithering, shaking sounds, but percolating guitars and synths carry strong melodies to take you through it. “Principe Real” is like Wonderland funk, bouncing on handclaps and cartoonish organs. And “Tropic of Cancer” is a Beach Boys-inspired oceanic ode that crests on beautiful harp and digital whispers. While Panda Bear’s work has always been inspiring, Grim Reaper sheds any kind of shyness present in his previous releases. It’s a beautifully made, all-embracing piece of experimental pop music, and one of the best releases of early 2015.

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Strangers To Ourselves (CD)

It’s been eight years since the last Modest Mouse album, so forgive Modest Mouse if they have a lot to say. The sprawling, 15-song Strangers to Ourselves has a lot to offer both fans who’ve been with Modest Mouse’s since the ’90s and those newer to the fold. The soft opening of the title track actually feels quite revolutionary in the band’s catalog, wearily beautiful in its dreaminess. Single “Lampshades on Fire” feels closer to classic Modest Mouse, a stomping singalong that sounds downright gleeful in its cutting social commentary on how we’re screwing up our planet—“Well we’re the human race/We’re goin’ to party out of this place.” The more somber, mature-sounding tracks still pack snarls and growls and song titles like “Shit in Your Cut.” The band stretches into new territory on songs like “Pistol (A. Cunanan, Miami, FL. 1996),” whose digital beat, suggestive lyrics and vocal manipulation makes it sound like the band is collaborating with The Knife, or, more simply, on the ragtime-style “Sugar Boats” and new-wave ballad “Wicked Campaign.” Even when they’re being more predictable, Strangers to Ourselves is still a lot of fun to listen to, laying interesting percussive elements and spiderlike guitarwork into single-worthy post-punk jam “The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box,” while the more subdued songs, like “Pups to Dust,” are worthwhile for Isaac Brock’s ever-remarkable voice and lyrics, which move from folksy to obtuse and obscene at the drop of a hat. After such a long hiatus, it’s wonderful to hear them still in fine form and doing what they do best.

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