This Month's Picks

The Tourist (CD)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
While there is a full array of instrumental textures in The Tourist , Clap Your Hands Say Yeah's latest album, Alec Ounsworth's vocals seem to be the focus of the record; which makes sense since Ounsworth seems to be the only remaining member of the original lineup. In fact, he's the only member period. While this has changed certain elements of the band's original sound, it also gives the album a very focused precision. Less guitar driven, the backing tracks tend to be more ethereal and atmospheric, giving the vocals a distinct mood from which to emerge, like in "A Chance to Cure," an aural collage of electronic beats, synth, and sparse guitar. "Unfolding Above Celibate Moon (Lost Angeles Nursery Rhyme)," with its hard panned, staccato electric piano riff and irreverent, meandering melody sounds like a cross between Harry Nilsson and Thom Yorke. The album's lead single, "Fireproof," is a tensely cool dancer, with just the perfect blend of palm muted riffs, infectious shakers, and brief, inane guitar freak outs. More
Genre: Rock

Graveyard Whistling (CD)

Old 97's
You could almost define the term "Alt Country" with the latest single from Old 97's, "Good With God," which takes the sonic aesthetics and lyrical themes that are hallmarks of country music and, with a sense of reverent sincerity, subverts the form for a more modern, rockin' audience. The track is drenched with twangy guitars and a galloping rhythm, but the song has more crunch than your usual George Jones hit, and a more urgent bite than your typical Waylon Jennings track. And while the song deals with the much written about subject of God and redemption, lead singer Rhett Miller's take on the almighty, in this song's case, is presented as female, with Brandi Carlile doing her voice. With "All Who Wander" Rhett and the rest of the gang find themselves in a bit of a more traditional approach towards the genre with its ethereal lap steel guitar haunting the catchy power ballad. More
Genre: Rock

Book Of Changes (CD)

Entrance's first record in a decade shows miles and miles of growth that most artists never experience. Recalling the golden-era of the '60s and '70s, where guitar pluckers left-and-right seemed to craft musical poetry like nothing, Book of Changes is a ten song cycle that offers warm, nostalgic tunes that feel unique in today's musical climate. With a strange vibrato, his voice sings out over distinctly strange guitar playing, bells, and xylophones clanging, and background singers who have stepped out of a Kris Kristofferson track. Recorded in eleven different studios in Los Angeles and London, there's an audible quest for perfection and experimentation that channels Brian Wilson at his kookiest. "Always The Right Time" is structurally a simple, very sweet pop ballad, but is played around with enough that it never gets bland. Through the echoing drums, folk-guitar styling, and a gorgeous string arrangement, there's a real sense of love and joy that most musicians can't seem to get right. Nothing gets as close to contemporary comfy listening than this. Entrance's Book of Changes can almost make you forget the world is as crazy as it actually is. More
Genre: Rock

Roadhouse 01 (CD)

Allan Rayman
Toronto-based songwriter Allan Rayman’s Roadhouse 01 is unlike anything else you’ll hear this year. Rayman has made an indie folk record with blues, hip-hop, and soul influences — or is it the other way around? His sound is simultaneously novel and fresh, timeless and throwback. (It’s not hard to imagine Rayman prowling the backcountry roadhouses of the wild west or the deep south, either today or ninety years ago.) Hybrid genre albums can either tank or soar; fortunately,  Roadhouse 01 fits into the “soar” category. The songs here are potent, raw, and ultimately quite charming and intriguing. More
Genre: Rock

Crystal Fairy (CD)

Crystal Fairy
As far as supergroups go, it's hard to get a cooler posse together than Crystal Fairy. With Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover of the Melvins, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez of At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta, and Teri Gender Bender of Le Butcherettes, the band delivers a sound steeped in technical prowess and anchored down with a fresh personality and emotion that is often lacking in other superstar collaborations. The group's rhythm section delivers the punk/metal riff goods, while the vocals of Teri Gender Bender give the sludgy music a texture and sharpness often unheard in similar sounding outfits. The title track's main riff is pure stoner rock thickness, while sometimes hitting those sweet tones of Black Sabbath's more regal sounding songs. Album opener "Chiseler" is an aggressive chugger with vocals sometimes reminiscent of heavy metal arena rockers like Rob Halford and King Diamond, while "Drugs on the Bus" is a crunchy bad trip with tinges of psychedelia. More
Genre: Rock

Now That The Light Is Fading EP (CD)

Maggie Rogers
Maggie Rogers has one of those music industry dream stories; the young dance/pop singer’s excellent “Alaska” intrigued Pharrell Williams when he critiqued student work at NYU’s Tisch School of the Art and buzz ensued. And for good reason — Rogers’ Now That the Light Is Fading  EP delivers on the promise of that first single. The tracks are shimmering, sunny, and organic, a far cry from the manufactured, generic pop sheen that seems to be radio’s fodder of choice. Rogers is definitely an artist to watch, especially if you’re keen on catchy tunes with intelligence, beauty, and heart. More
Genre: Rock

Windy City (CD)

Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss alternates between Americana, bluegrass, and lounge-y torch songs on her latest, Windy City . The singer’s haunting, divine voice is complemented well by her very talented fellow travelers, which in the case of this album include her band Union Station, plus Hank Williams, Jr., and Richard Bennett (Mark Knopfler, Neil Diamond), among other equally skilled folks. The album is quietly beautiful, its strength in the hope and yearning Krauss’ lyrical turns and vocal stylings evoke. Windy City confirms yet again that Alison Krauss is one of the most consistently strong songstresses in contemporary music. More
Genre: Bluegrass

Hard Love (CD)

Strand Of Oaks
Continuing in the tradition of sentimentally hardened troubadours, Timothy Showalter's raw and candid songs on Hard Love paint vivid portraits of turmoil and introspection, while being served on a full course platter of sound. What starts with unbridled, chaotic noise soon turns into a dark syrup of a guitar melody in "Radio Kids," which combines the sonic textures of My Bloody Valentine with the upfront, nostalgic vocals of Bruce Springsteen. On "Rest Of It" Showalter infuses his beer-soaked, dive bar vocal chords with the glam sounds of Diamond Dogs Bowie and Electric Warrior T-Rex, while title track "Hard Love" starts with a more intimate and bare arrangement, showcasing his unabashed directness. More
Genre: Rock

Prisoner (CD)

Ryan Adams
With an opening track like "Do You Still Love Me?" it's hard not to make the connection between Ryan Adam's new album, Prisoner , and his recent, fairly public, divorce. But regardless of the gossipy context behind it, Adams has constructed a heartfelt and entrancing record, full of subtle production nuances and an undeniable earnestness. While breakup albums run the risk of becoming redundant and self-absorbed, Prisoner joins the successful ranks of records that show an artist laid bare, honest and trying to work through the confusion. Rather than asking for your pity, Adams essentially paints differently toned vignettes of the same subject matter. While the Springsteen-esque "Shiver and Shake" evokes the fragility and withdrawal of broken love, "To Be With You" brings to mind the somberly resilient honkey tonk, folky country tunes of the '60s and '70s. With the exception of the first track, which feels almost like a Pat Benatar power ballad, the album is even keeled, mid-tempo-ed, and filled with shimmery, watery, beautiful guitars that bring to mind the tones of Morrissey or The Stone Roses. More
Genre: Rock

Chalice Hymnal (CD)

Portland’s Grails continue to blur the hazy line between post-rock, world music, new age, and indie rock on their sixth album. The four-piece approach their songs as detailed tapestries, weaving in intricately detailed guitar lines, synthesizers, horns, and slow-burning beats, but with melodic intent, as the heaving melodies of songs like the title track burn into the back of your mind. Fans of gothy stuff like This Mortal Coil and the Twin Peaks soundtrack will groove to this just as well as fans of post-rock groups like Tortoise and world-blending rock acts like Calexico, especially on windswept, cinematic tracks like “After the Funeral.” Though vocal-free experimental rock might not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, Grails ensure their sound pieces are memorable, in the way the throbbing, deep synth of “Pelham” helps the band build to a satisfying climax, for instance. On Chalice Hymnal , Grails’ aching horns, swelling strings, and guitar crescendos do all the talking needed. More
Genre: Rock