This Month's Picks

Two Mics & The Truth: Unplugged & Unhinged In America (CD)

Violent Femmes
The Violent Femmes have been around long enough to get played on oldies radio, but their punk rhythms, sardonic lyrics, and new wave attitude makes them harder to pin down than most other bands from the '80s. Their latest album further adds to the band's mystique. Though they just co-headlined a tour with Echo and the Bunnymen,  2 Mics & The Truth is the opposite of a crowded venue with guitars amplified to ear popping levels. Instead, the album is an acoustic take on their catalog featuring live radio performances they did across the nation while promoting their tour. The acoustic versions of songs like "Blister in the Sun" and "Gone Daddy Gone" are more akin to a deconstruction than a cover. They play around with the song structure, using it as a guideline instead of holy musical scripture, and the result is playful and often silly, altering our expectations of the original songs and highlighting frontman Gordon Gano's skill as a writer. Even the instrumentation is playful, including guitars, bass, banjos, and a barbecue grill used as a drum set!  2 Mics & The Truth feels less like a nostalgia trip and more like a visit from an old friend who's gotten shaggier... and weirder. More
Genre: Rock

A Walk With Love & Death (CD)

Melvins
The Melvins don't take it easy. And I'm not talking musically, though they definitely don't take it easy on that front. But they're not known for taking much time off. Between albums, side projects, EPs and other odds and ends, the Melvins are among the most prolific bands of the last 50 years. So it's almost a shock that their newest release is their first double-album - it's both an original studio album and a soundtrack for a new film. Split beautifully between love and death, their latest is pure psychedelic frenzy made for fans of the freaked out Japanese psych scene of the '90s and the angry noise rock of the '80s. If "What's Wrong With You?" was recorded with old mics and into quarter-inch magnetic tape, the song could've come right out of the bad vibes of 1969. It has the energy of MC5, but a post-modernist, ironic streak that's classic Melvins. The lyrics are bitter, but surprisingly funny and always far from mean-spirited. The heavy "Christ Hammer" thuds along in a way that's closer to their metal and grunge roots. The vocals chant with layers of distorted audio that sound like the voices are fortresses made of stone. It's heavy and poetically impenetrable, but the riff is catchy enough to cross over to normies unaccustomed to Melvins' level of experimentation. The show stopping solo toward the end might be the best part as the song catches on fire with distortion and feedback that would make Japanese rockers High Rise blush. A Walk With Love & Death sees Melvins at their most ambitious, and it works. It never feels like they stumble. Instead the deliver a real rock album in a sea of mediocre, soulless, and half-hearted efforts. More
Genre: Rock

Every Valley (CD)

Public Service Broadcasting
Public Service Broadcasting’s Every Valley is a finely-polished collage album featuring clips from old newsreels and archival interviews layered atop atmospheric electronica, prog, and indie rock melodies. On this album, the band tells the story of the decline of the Welsh coal-mining industry, with the sampled voices of the miners describing the loss of their way of life, their work, and their community. The impact of the album is bolstered even further by a pair of excellent guest appearances; the Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield gives a bold, angry performance while Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell taps into a haunting sense of grief over a displaced lifestyle and all its memories and hopes. As the voices reach out from across distances of time and space, the effect is poignant, stirring, and timely. More
Genre: Rock

Plump: Chapters 1 & 2 (CD)

Twiddle
Vermont collective Twiddle are no strangers to the college jam band circuit, constantly touring campuses around the country since forming in 2004. However, in that time they have only put out a handful of official releases. Plump is their latest and most ambitious to date: a two part album, collecting 2015’s Chapter 1 and pairing it with Chapter 2 , released earlier this year. This is 21st century jam band music, where Phish riffs and the Grateful Dead songbook are no longer the simple algorithm that drives the endless boogie. Sure, there is the ever-present bluegrass and folk overtones to Twiddle’s sound, but there is also a very prominent reggae-funk aspect, along with some serious Dave Matthews and John Mayer influenced songwriting. Party on, bros. More
Genre: Rock

The Singles (CD)

Can
Can — The Singles is an excellent overview for those new to the pioneering Krautrockers’ oeuvre as well as a killer collection of favorites for longtime fans. This is the first time the band’s singles have been compiled and released together; listening to the band’s evolution is a fascinating journey from more straightforward rock/funk/soul numbers to some of their deepest, weirdest cuts. You’ll find classic tracks “Vitamin C,” “Halleluwah,” and “I Want More” here, along with more obscure gems like “Turtles Have Short Legs,” a 1971 7” that never appeared on a studio LP, despite being a pretty rad little tune. Can — The Singles is a well-curated document of what made Can such an influential, enduring band. More
Genre: Rock

TLC (CD)

TLC
The ‘90s might not seem so far away, but the ladies of TLC are definitely R&B icons in their own right. That’s why the tracks on their latest LP are so interesting; with only one guest appearance (from the mighty Snoop) and melodies that draw heavily from classic funk and soul, the focus here is squarely on the women, their legacy, and how they defined R&B. (There’s even a well-placed Earth, Wind & Fire sample on standout track “It’s Sunny,” just in case you need a reminder of how their work fits in with some of the biggest names in urban music.) Other memorable tracks include “Way Back;” nostalgic, infectious, and just straight up fun, it’s the perfect summer song while “Haters” is cool, confident, and laidback. Their new album is T-Boz and Chilli’s final release as a group, but TLC will leave you wanting more. More
Genre: Soul

On The Echoing Green (CD)

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma
On the Echoing Green finds Jefre Cantu-Ledesma exploring the realms of shoegaze, dream pop, and ambient music with the help of guest vocalists Honey Owens, Maxwell August Croy, and Sobrenadar. Slowdive and Cocteau Twins are readily apparent influences here, but the compositions are all very much the work of Cantu-Ledesma.The result is a shimmering, gorgeous, haunting LP that lingers in the mind long after the last note has sounded. Vivid, engaging, and lovely, this latest release comes highly recommended. More
Genre: Experimental

City Music (CD)

Kevin Morby
Kevin Morby’s easygoing, dreamy new LP, City Music , is the perfect soundtrack for lonely urban nights. The songs are contemplative, wistful, and gentle in their exploration of the griefs and delights of city living. There’s a sense of solitude behind the tracks here, with Morby’s Dylan-esque vocals rising above his gentle melodies like a friend recounting a familiar tale. The former Woods bassist also puts his distinctive spin on a couple excellent covers: the Germs’ “Caught in My Eye” and Leonard Cohen’s “Downtown’s Lights.” An introspective, moody rainy day (or night) album. More
Genre: Rock

Iteration (CD)

Com Truise
After a six year wait, Com Truise is back with Iteration , a lush, funk-inflected odyssey into electro. Cinematic in scope, the album draws inspiration from the synth-filled soundtracks of the 1980s; listening is a transportive experience to a world of city nights, black leather, and neon lights. Make no mistake — Iteration is a toe-tapper, a definite dancefloor-filler, but this smart, emotive album is also pretty moving. Atmosphere is all here, and there’s a real sense of feeling beneath the hypnotic rhythms, technicolor melodies, and pulsating synths. If you dig evocative, dark dance music, this moody LP sets the scene. More

Weather Diaries (CD)

Ride
Weather Diaries is Ride’s first new album since 1996 and fortunately it’s worth the wait. Produced by Erol Alkan, the band sounds as intriguing and tripped out as ever; this fresh batch of songs shows them moving forward as a band but still retaining many of the elements that made them a hallmark of shoegaze. Lead single “Charm Assault” is surprisingly catchy, fusing Britpop with Paisley Underground and Ride’s signature blissed out vocals and hazy melodies. The title track is melancholy and grand with a swelling, lush contemporary shoegaze vibe. There’s definitely a nostalgia inherent in these new tracks, but Ride isn’t coasting on their reputation. Weather Diaries is like coming home. More
Genre: Rock