This Month's Picks

Glitterbug (CD)

The Wombats
This Liverpool indie-pop band's third album emits exuberance from every angle. Bright electronics, dreamy distorted guitars, and Matthew Murphy's charming, engaging vocals come together for festival-ready singalong anthems like "Emoticons." "Give Me a Try's" gleaming synth strut suggests they're successors to The Killers—smarter, but just as hooky. On "Greek Tragedy," the band proves they're more than just a party band, delivering a convincing pop power-ballad about knowing it's time to walk away. The band has said  Glitterbug  was written with an L.A. mindset, and it's easy to see The Wombats fitting in with the many electro-pop bands of Los Angeles. With  Glitterbug , The Wombats are ready for their close-up. More
Genre: Rock

Joy, Departed (CD)

Sorority Noise
It's been a while since we've had a great emo band. Sorority Noise reminds us of what we loved about acts like The Promise Ring and Sunny Day Real Estate with their loud, melodic guitars and sweet vocals. "All I wanna be is the one you sometime miss," they sing on "Corrigan" among some truly Corgan-ish guitar theatrics—how can you resist? Not all of Sorority Noise's lyrics are bummers—"Using" is an ode to getting your mojo back, with terrific shout-along vocals. When you're feeling like some heart-on-sleeve action, Sorority Noise has got your number.More
Genre: Rock

Boxed In (CD)

Boxed In
British producer Oli Bayston crafts compositions that'll tickle your brainstem and get your booty shaking at the same time. Bayston borrows the best bits from alternative disco, house, and post-punk for catchy tunes like "Mystery," its off-time piano hits and disco beat creating infectious positive energy. "All Your Love is Gone" rides a simple groove into five minutes of krautrock-pop bliss, its chorus-effected guitars and driving beat building and building ecstatically. Any fan of bands like LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip or Tanlines should be in heaven here. Despite his moniker of choice, Boxed In makes you want to jump out of your seat and get moving—so do it! More
Genre: Rock

Peter And The Wolf In Hollywood (CD)

Alice Cooper, Sergei Prokofiev
The story and orchestral piece  Peter and the Wolf  is reimagined, placing the boy Peter with a cool, hippie grandfather in Hollywood. Narrated by the one and only Alice Cooper, it's a fresh take on a familiar children's classic, appropriately (and expertly) played by Germany's National Youth Orchestra and conducted by young Alexander Shelley. With Cooper's dramatic retelling and the orchestra's beautifully recorded rendition, you'll become rapt in this funny, surreal retelling. Will Peter make friends at school? What will Peter do with a giant robot? Will he ever catch the wolf who's escaped from a local zoo? Listen and find out! More
Genre: Classical

Shadow Of A Doubt (CD)

Freddie Gibbs
We’ve been waiting for Freddie Gibbs’ new album since his gritty vocals graced last year’s  Pinata , his dynamite collaboration with Madlib. And he doesn’t disappoint—Gibbs’ latest is a contender for underground rap album of the year. Over a digital bounce, Gibbs establishes his powerful presence early on with “Fuckin’ Up the Count” (“Gangsta shit in my DNA, I just can’t explain that/Even if I die tell my enemies I remain that”). His collaboration with Black Thought proves inspired on “Extradite,” as Mikhail’s beat blends ’70s soul with “Twilight Zone” organs while Gibbs and Black Thought’s words spill out like rolling dice. Like similarly great albums released this year by Earl Sweatshirt and Vince Staples,  Shadow of a Doubt  is grim but enlivening—seek the hard-hitting “Packages” as proof. Gibbs is the quintessential thirtysomething rapper who’s toiled in the underground only to see younger guys get the glory—if there’s any justice,  Shadow of a Doubt  should make that a thing of the past. More
Genre: Hip Hop

Half Free (CD)

U.S. Girls
Meg Remy sings with a Sioux​sie sneer over Middle Eastern-flavored beats on her latest release, her best yet. She embodies various female perspectives in often bleak circumstances — the otherwise festive first single “Damn That Valley” sees Remy take on the role of a war widow, singing, “He promised me he’d come back alive/Where is my man?” in mock-girl group despair. Meanwhile, “Telephone Play No. 1” sees Remy talking to a friend on the phone about a disturbing dream and paternity, ending with the admission of being “just another woman with no self esteem” to creepy canned laughter. It may sound like difficult listening, but  Half Free  pairs its feminist critiques with snaking lo-fi beats by producer Onakabazien and Remy’s engaging, snarling delivery. Strangely addictive and affecting. More
Genre: Rock

The Light Princess [Original Cast Recording] (CD)

Samuel Adamson, Tori Amos
A major hit for the National Theater since it opened in 2013, Tori Amos'  The Light Princess  finally releases a cast recording. Based on the Scottish fairytale of the same name, the music elevates the fantasy to painfully human levels of grief and beauty. Sublime! More
Genre: Soundtracks

Cranekiss (CD)

Tamaryn’s addictive new album finds the Bay Area shoegazers going new wave, but in their own insular way. The title track’s syncopated drum machine pulse and layers of floating vocals by frontwoman Tamaryn Brown call to mind turn-of-the-’90s fantasy pop from the likes of Cocteau Twins, Shakespear’s Sister and even a bit of Tori Amos. The band replicates its groaning My Bloody Valentine-style chords as synth blasts on the glittering “Hands All Over Me, while Brown’s vocals go from maximum ethereal on “Collection” to high and engaging on standout “Last,” which sounds pulled from the closing credits to an unmade  Top Gun  sequel. Lest you think Tamaryn have gone fully soft though, a track like “Softcore” introduces some menace, albeit in the chewed up industrial bubblegum style of Garbage or Curve. Though they lose a bit of the depressive allure that made their last few albums so appealing,  Cranekiss ’ playful hookiness is a welcome development from the band. Dream pop afficionados, rejoice — you won’t be able to stop spinning  Cranekiss . More
Genre: Rock

Star Wars (CD)

After years of settling into adulthood as a band, Wilco feel suddenly restless on  Star Wars , their best album in years. It feels like an album they needed to get out of their system, sounding quickly bashed out in the best way possible. This is not to say the songs aren’t great. A somewhat shocking, taut noise-rock opener (“Ekg”) opens the album and prepares you for something closer to their classic mid-career albums,  Yankee Hotel Foxtrot  and  A Ghost Is Born . Guitar freakouts tangle around Beatlesque melodies on “More…” and “Random Name Generator” and add fireworks to country-rockers like “The Joke Explained,” displaying how the addition of Nels Cline on guitar has reshaped Wilco’s sound over the past years. It’s a great guitar record, but the best songs here find Jeff Tweedy taking center stage — “You Satellite” builds slowly with Sonic Youth-esque atmospherics, but it’s Tweedy’s intense, muttered performance that keeps the song centered and gives it its beating heart, and the mostly stripped-down, Replacements-ish “Where Do I Begin” has the album’s best melody. It’s not a perfect record — you won’t find many single-worthy songs here, aside from the bluesy “Cold Slope,” but that’s kind of the point. Wilco sound ready to tear it up again, and for that alone,  Star Wars  is a welcome left turn. More
Genre: Rock

Art Angels (CD)

After three years and a false start, Grimes aka Claire Boucher has returned with the follow-up to her breakthrough,  Visions , and it’s a brightly colored collection of artpop magical realism. The drumline beats and sunny guitars and melodies of “California” and the title track could almost pass for something on mainstream radio, if not for Boucher’s clarion voice cutting through. Similarly, the nimble “Flesh Without Blood” might not be the most original song Grimes has put to tape, but it’s the catchiest and is damn near irresistible. Yet in between those songs we get “Scream,” which has none of the safety of her more accessible tunes, between Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes’ twisting flow and Boucher’s curdled screech. The previously released “REALiTi” throws fans of her more straightforward electro-pop a bone, though it continues with the posi vibes and influences of K-pop and early ’90s house that flow through the rest of the album. Meanwhile, “Venus Fly,” her spacey hip hop duet with Janelle Monae, is a pure delight, coming off like a futuristic art-school spin on the Spice Girls, and “Kill vs. Maim” has the feel of the drama kids taking over a pep rally with Boucher’s yelp simultaneously spirited and demented. Boucher has no use for genre boundaries and is seemingly allergic to negativity, all of which gives  Art Angels  an unbeatable all-embracing energy. The biggest change from  Visions  is that Boucher’s personality is more front-and-center; whereas that album could be more cold and cerebral in its in-between tracks,  Art Angels  is entirely engaging, and even its most digitized moments are stained with blood.  More
Genre: Rock