Rock

Voyager (CD)

For 311's eclectic thirteenth album, the group merges the pop/reggae/rock they invented in the '90s – influencing newer acts like Twenty-One Pilots – with some updated pop soundscapes, aided by John Feldmann (Blink-182, Panic! At the Disco) who produced four of the tracks. “Good Feeling” is an infectious summer party jam, in the vein of The Black-Eyed Peas' “I Gotta Feeling.” “Don't You Worry” brings back the band's distinctive grungy ska guitar sound with some spaced-out soloing, while “What The?!” revels in some psychedelic funk. “Crossfire,” in turn, is a high-energy rock song with rapping vocals that ought to appeal to fans of Linkin Park.

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Amoeba Gig (CD)

Paul McCartney's incredible in-store performance at Amoeba Hollywood on June 27, 2007 was a magical moment shared by the seven hundred lucky people who made it in, along with a handful of celebrities including Ringo Starr himself. For those who missed it – and for those who want to revisit it and reminisce – the full concert is now available for the first time! The 21 song set includes energetic renditions of hits from across McCartney's legendary career, such as “Drive My Car” and “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” as well as a solo acoustic version of “Here Today.” It's an absolute must-have for Beatles fans everywhere.

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III (CD)

Jillian Banks continues her obfuscation of R&B with III, which is, all things considered, easily her most out-there production yet. That might be a striking description for an album that would release the crowd pleasing, tried-and-true gospel satisfaction of “Look What You’re Doing To Me” as a single. Sure, Banks’ work is not as uncanny valley pop as others who tread in similar territory (whether that be serpentwithfeet or Jessy Lanza), but nevertheless she prefers to coat sunny and unabashedly accessible songwriting in surreal sonic manipulations which leave plenty of lingering abstract angles to revisit. There’s her inscrutable voice, for one, frequently electronically treated and digitally distorted to a degree that would make Jai Paul proud. Those classic Daft Punk songs where you can’t tell whether it’s a guitar, synth, or some weird vocoder hitting that sweet spot? Shades of that are all over a bold production that isn’t afraid to play with timbre and texture mid-song.

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III (CD)

It has been awhile since we heard from the ever-surprising Bad Books. Seven years, in fact, but woo boy is III worth the wait. While recording these lightly psychedelic lo-fi ballads the band focused on their in-studio mantra of “Simon and Garfunkel in space,” which is a pretty good touchpoint — just multiply the trippy, lo-fi factor several times what said description would call to mind and you’ll have a decent concept of what this album sounds like. Top-notch songwriting and storytelling combine with cosmic vibes and minimalist melodies to create a truly compelling album that’s worth a careful listen.

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Black Pumas (CD)

Austin, Texas soulsters Black Pumas serve up luscious, psychedelic soul on their intriguing self-titled debut album. The band features the enviable talents of Grammy-winning guitarist/producer Adrian Quesada (Grupo Fantasma, Brownout) and songwriter Eric Burton, who met Quesada in Austin after starting out in LA and busking his way across the country. Together, the two serve up fresh, urgent, ultra vibrant tunes that have been described as “Ghostface Killah and Motown in equal measure.” It’s a pretty apt summation of where Black Pumas draw inspiration from but their sound is 100% all their own. Few records this year sound as vital and important as this one. Crank it.

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Rise [Deluxe Edition] (CD)

Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, and Johnny Depp serve up their second album as the Hollywood Vampires, this time with mostly original songs. Cooper is at the helm for the most part and tracks like the opening stomper, “I Want My Now,” bear his obvious stamp. Perry lends heartfelt lead vocals to the Johnny Thunders song, “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory,” and Depp impresses as the frontman for Bowie's “Heroes” and Jim Carroll's “People Who Died.” The single, “Who's Laughing Now,” is a fun, dark rocker with a chanting chorus and freewheeling guitar solos in the bridge, while “We Gotta Rise” is a bawdy drinking song mocking political rhetoric.

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Help Us Stranger (CD)

Finally back after a decade long hiatus, The Raconteurs are ready to roll with their third studio release, Help Us Stranger. The band's heady mix of rock and blues continues to flourish, this time with a touch of psychedelia (à la the Beatles-esque bridge in single "Sunday Driver") and a fuzzy cover of Donovan b-side "Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)" that nicely displays drummer Patrick Keeler's chops. Jack White and Brendan Benson's singing and songwriting skills continue to bounce off each other nicely, and with a set of tunes this strong it's obvious why Stranger is one of the more anticipated releases of the year. Welcome back, fellas.

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Turn Off The News (Build A Garden) (CD)

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real have a message on their latest, Turn Off the News (Build a Garden). The likable title track implores listeners to do just that. Give people something to believe in. Endow your way of life with hope. It’s a standout moment on an album filled with top-notch tracks, with high-profile collaborators like Kesha, Sheryl Crow, Neil Young, and Lukas’ father, Willie. The younger Nelson has created a strong showcase for his songwriting chops, with songs that effortlessly segue from country to folk to rock to soul. Impassioned and brilliant, there’s lots to love about this album.

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Servants Of The Sun (CD)

Chris Robinson Brotherhood starts their latest album, Servants of the Sun, on an uptempo note. The good times are rolling, with a few heart-worn ballads sprinkled into the mix. “Some Earthly Delights” starts the journey off with a psychedelic groove and “The Chauffeur’s Daughter” features ultra catchy licks with lyrics that feel like a future classic. Album closer “A Smiling Epitaph” is a stunner all on its own but it’s made even more poignant by the fact that the band has announced they’ll be taking a hiatus for an undisclosed period of time and that founding member Adam MacDougall has moved on from the CRB. Fortunately, this excellent LP should be in heavy rotation long enough to scratch the CRB itch for quite some time — Servants of the Sun is all killer, no filler.

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Erotic Reruns (CD)

Yeasayer take on smooth AM Gold style rock on their sunny and slightly woozy new album, Erotic Reruns. The band fuses influences ranging from the expected indie pop to more off-the-wall psychedelia to krautrock on this smart collection of love-lorn numbers. It comes as no surprise, perhaps, based on the album’s title, that there’s also a playful rock ’n’ roll sleaziness to some of the band’s more sensually-oriented tunes — Yeasayer seems to be luxuriating in all the over-the-top-ness of the traditional rockstar persona while giving a knowing indie rock wink to their audience. It’s pure indie pop listening pleasure and pure fun.

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