This Month's Picks

Hardwired...To Self-Destruct (CD)

Though Metallica might have influenced generations of punk, grunge, thrash, and metal bands, they're surprisingly unprolific. And so each new Metallica release isn't just hotly anticipated, but comes like a cataclysmic event of shrieking guitars, banging bass drums, furious rhythms, and guttural yelps. Their first album in eight years,  Hardwired...To Self- Destruct  is a return to form. And not a return of form to Load or St. Anger . It's a return to the form of Kill 'Em All and Master of Puppets . The slow, brooding, and portentous style of their late-career is mixed in with classic, clean, clear, and furious thrash that's so intense and technical, it will get your adrenaline pumping. Metallica themselves are treating it like a behemoth of an album, with special concerts, promos, and a music video for EACH song on the album.   "Hardwired" opens with a precision sharp riff that explodes with sweat and fury. The bitter, ironic track feels apt for these chaotic times as James Hetfield unleashes into the microphone in a cathartic rant. The fury of the track feels closer in spirit to "Whiplash" than to anything they've done on their last few albums. "Moth Into Flames" is far closer to the post-'80s Metallica of long, steady ballads that build and build on short, technical riffs until the song kicks it into 100mph. When the guitar solo comes in a minute and a half into the song, it almost dissolves into a modern skate punk track before going back to classic Metallica intensity. It also shows off Lars Ulrich's endless energy and showcases some of his most powerful drumming on the album. Being a Metallica fan can be a real trial sometimes when they take unexpected directions while simultaneously trying to please fans, but Hardwired is probably the closest they've gotten to something that should appease the die-hards, the casual listeners, and even those new to metal. The most brutally intense album of 2016. More
Genre: Rock

The Book Of Souls (CD)

Iron Maiden
In their 40 year career, Iron Maiden still feels like Iron Maiden. Instead of taking diversions into other sub-genres and styles, their unique and very theatrical take on heavy metal is still embraced. The Book of Souls doesn't just feel like a new Iron Maiden album, but like a visit from an old friend. Their first album in five years is a triumph of sorts, especially in the wake of Bruce Dickinson's battle with cancer. Instead of going for technical and studio-level perfection, the songs were all written and recorded quickly to give the feeling of Iron Maiden's dramatic live performances. Nothing sounds perfectly manipulated, mixed to an edgeless sheen or mic'ed to an isolated sound. Things sound messy, intense, and raw, especially in Dickinson's operatic voice which is showing its age in the best way possible. The self-titled track is classic Iron Maiden. Opening with an acoustic riff that sounds almost like flamenco, it suddenly erupts into a classic metal powerhouse riff and metallic drums with vocals that lead the charge. Eventually, the song marches into a middle-section with a guitar solo and rhythm that is reminiscent of the early days of English metal with a wah-wah pedaled guitar solo that shreds into psych oblivion. The mercilessly epic "Empire of the Clouds" opens with a Hollywood-like coda of dramatic strings that makes it hard not to get emotional. But half-way through the eighteen minute track, the guitars and drums start to kick off into a melody that recalls the post-colonial vibe that Iron Maiden seems to riff on and criticize in a way that uniquely characterizes their sound. It eventually culminates in a cut-time melody with a beautiful and tragic vibe that is the perfect way to end this cinematic track. The Book of Sounds is classic Iron Maiden, through and through. They're truly one of a kind and will forever be unique. More
Genre: Rock

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). More
Genre: Rock

Slow Knife (CD)

Slow Knife , Kuedo’s second full-length album, provides an atmospherically icy synth soundtrack to a non-existent film. Although the film may be an invention, the imagery conjured by Kuedo’s electro sorcery is vividly suspenseful as it follows hunted prey through perilous night terrain. At times the music is dark enough to incorporate hints of occult knowledge just beyond the shadows. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Kuedo admits the album is inspired by the soundtracks for Manhunter , Angel Heart , and Night of the Hunter , as well as by the moody and esoteric TV series True Detective . A few surprise guests appear within the universe of Slow Knife , including Hayden Thorpe from the British indie band Wild Beasts, whose vocals are diffused into the spooky tapestry of layered sound on “In Your Sleep.” Also, listen for sound designer Koenraad Ecker’s chill-inducing cello on the most experimental of Slow Knife ’s tracks, “Broken Fox - Black Hole.” More

Almost Christmas [OST] (CD)

John Paesano
Likely to be a popular gift this season is John Paesano’s soundtrack for the 2016 holiday family mayhem romp Almost Christmas . Most recently renowned for his sober compositions of The Maze Runner franchise and Netflix’s Daredevil , Paesano’s string work can be at times heavy-handed for a comedy about a grandpa (Walter, played by Danny Glover) wanting his family to get along for Christmas. While a track like “Walter In Bed” is more apt for Matt Murdock rising like a phoenix once again as his indestructible alter ego Daredevil, perhaps Paesano and the film’s director David E. Talbert are making a statement about the heroics of this elder window. Otherwise, the majority of Paesano’s compositions here are mostly full of funky fun, such as “Shatow!” and “You Don’t Want Her To Get Grandma,” which easily could have oozed out of a ‘70’s exploitation flick. His infectious version of “Oh Christmas Tree,” with its cool Jimmy Smith organ riffs, almost blows Vince Guaraldi’s “O Tannenbaum” out of the water. Almost. Additional popular music used in the film also appears on this soundtrack, including the funk of The Dazz Band to the soul of The Four Tops to the schlock of Force MD’s, and some well-placed Slick Rick. More
Genre: Soundtracks

Woman (CD)

French electronic duo Justice are back with another ‘80s funk, house, and disco-inspired album guaranteed to put a smile on your face and your feet on the dance floor. Woman is vibrant, alive, and glittering; it’s a tribute to the power of dance music to improve our lives. “Safe and Sound” is shimmering with an uplifting disco diva chorus. “Alakazam!” is propulsive and hypnotic, and “Randy” is a throwback to the French Touch scene of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. This is life-affirming, hands-in-the-air electronic music. Do something good for yourself and turn it up loud. More

Lodestar (CD)

Shirley Collins
Lodestar is English folk singer Shirley Collins’ first album in 38 years and it’s well worth the wait. These are traditional English, American, and Cajun folk songs — songs from a different world, from a different time. They’re spare and simple, occasionally macabre and cruel, sometimes pastoral and lovely. Eighty-one-year-old Collins’ voice is perfect for the material; it’s the voice of someone who has seen it all, who’s a vessel for these (in many cases) ancient tales from a forgotten place, where Morris dancers’ bells jingle in the village green and pagan rites and beliefs are woven into the fabric of everyday Judeo-Christian life. Fun fact: Collins is backed on this record by Ian Kearey (Oysterband) and Ossian Brown and Stephen Thrower (Cyclobe, Coil). More
Genre: Folk

Complete Third (CD)

Big Star
For Big Star fans, the release of Complete Third is like discovering a hidden treasure trove of demos, rough mixes, and alternate takes of beloved songs. This sixty-nine track box set features twenty-nine previously unreleased recordings that will have you hearing classic tracks in a whole new light. The newly available tracks are rawer, more emotional, and sometimes even more powerful than the original takes — definitely worth checking out, if only to reassess the meaning and the force behind songs you’ve loved for years. It’s a fitting tribute to the work and genius of the dearly departed Mr. Chilton. More
Genre: Rock

American Band (CD)

Drive-By Truckers
Drive-By Truckers, the American South’s biggest celebrant and critic, unleashes their most political and righteously indignant album of their long career with American Band . Amid the current haze of the baffling election, rampant poverty, police brutality, senseless shootings, the opioid abuse epidemic, widespread xenophobia, and racial tensions, singers/songwriters/guitarists and band founders Mike Cooley and Patterson Hood sharpened their skills for critique, creating this year’s most provocative protest album. Their form of socio-political criticism is straightforward; their words are aimed for the jugular because, let’s face it, we don’t have a lot of time to play with poetics as the country goes up in flames before our eyes. In “What It Means," they take on the tragic collective moral implications of the deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin: "We're living in an age where limitations are forgotten/The outer edges move and dazzle us/But the core is something rotten." While sonically honoring their roots in all-American Southern rock, Drive-By Truckers remind us that it is truly American to think, question, critique, and to protest. More
Genre: Rock

City Club (CD)

The Growlers
If you think the title track off The Growlers' new album sounds a bit Strokes-y, there's a good reason for that: not only is City Club co-produced by Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, but it's being released on Casablancas' label, Cult Records. With a disco-a-la-Blondie strutting beat and angular, staccato guitar, the song becomes a buzzing-streetlamp lit, urban playground for Brooks Nielsen's fuzzy vocals. The funky "I'll Be Around" sounds like it was recorded over an old Jamaican cassette tape, while steady rocker "Night Ride" is perfect for just that, a spin through the city as the final oranges and reds fade from the sky and are replaced by the speckling of artificial light. More
Genre: Rock