Rock

You're Welcome (CD)

A brash title for the sixth full-length from Wavves and deservedly so, as Nathan Williams gives us the gift that keeps on giving in the form of sleek, poppy choruses over raucous garage rock. Continuing in the same vein of 2015’s V, Wavves adds a bit more sonic exploration this time around, emulating fractured versions of your favorite artists, whether it’s the mechanical glam stomp of “Million Enemies” coming on like a demented DEVO and Gary Glitter hybrid, or the title track that sounds like Weezer convened with mid-aughts Animal Collective. The most unique iteration of Wavves thus far, You’re Welcome might be the smartest punk album of 2017.

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Stubborn Persistent Illusions (CD)

Longtime Toronto-based collective Do Make Say Think continues to crescendo their place into the post-rock pantheon. In a genre that is most frequently described as “cinematic,” Stubborn Persistent Illusions definitely has its share of widescreen moments. “Bound” opens with twinkling arpeggiated guitars and bubbling synths over shuffling drums, continuously working up to a big, wordless refrain that radiates pure joy. It’s Explosions In The Sky by way of Neil Young’s ranch, a pastoral sound that sounds like it was captured in an open field with a billion stars blinking all around. However, it’s the diversions into farther, more abstract spaces that set DMST aside from the purely major-key histrionics of their contemporaries, as the very next track, “And Boundless,” changes course into jarring rhythms and sharp blasts of guitar and organ before settling into a sustained melancholia. It’s not quite pure dissonance, but an angular arrangement that’s closer to Swans than Sigur Rós. Elsewhere, “Her Eyes on the Horizon” is a folk jam heard from the other room, just before walking into the glorious sound of the band achieving critical mass and blasting off into the heavens. For those who might think there’s nothing left to be done in the world of instrumental rock, Stubborn Persistent Illusions widens the palette and raises the bar. A constantly engaging and evolving work of art.

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California [Deluxe Edition] (CD)

Blink-182's first album after Tom DeLonge's departure was a massive hit and reached number 1 on multiple charts, including the Billboard 200. Maybe Matt Skiba (formerly of Alkaline Trio) brought a new dynamism and style of singing to the band to freshen things up just enough. But this new deluxe edition isn't some cheap way to cash in on an already popular album. It's an expansion featuring songs that couldn't fit on the initial release and newly recorded material that compliments the album's narrative, so it's more of a "Director's Cut" of an already excellent album. "Wildfire" might be one of the best tracks they've made. Its frenetic and constant energy is barely contained in the classic pop punk style and it has the youthful recklessness that made us fall in love with them in the first place. If the production was a little rawer, you'd be convinced it came from Enema of the State. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the acoustic version of "Bored to Death." Instead of the 100mph, breakneck speed and force of the original, the acoustic version has a breathless, freer sound that feels like a complete re-imagining of the track. It's as close to coffee house folk as Blink-182 will ever get. "6/8," their most aggressive track to date, feels like it could have been from another band. Its anger, bitterness, and strange 6/8 time signature sounds like it fits closer in the world of proggy metal than pop punk. The deluxe edition of California is a perfect expansion of an already great album. The extra tracks add enough meat to make the album and turns it into a whole other beast. It ranks among the best of their entire catalog.

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Pollinator (CD)

Blondie are back and just as groovy and fun as ever! Filled with disco-punk attitude, catchy guitar hooks, and creamy keyboards, Pollinator finds the band in their fourth decade and giving all the downtown cool indie rockers that have come along since their debut a run for their money. Original members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, and Clem Burke have perhaps matured in perspective, as heard in "My Monster," which points to some of the trivial insecurities of youth, but the sonic sensibilities of the band haven't changed much from their original material. With its muted, funky rhythm guitar, pulsating bass line, and infectious vocals "Fun" captures the magic of classic Blondie, while still feeling fresh and contemporary. While Pollinator is certainly a heavily layered, highly produced album, Debbie Harry's vocals still feel pure and unaltered, and never masked or buried by the lavish backing track.

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This Old Dog (CD)

How does Mac DeMarco keep churning out such consistently likable albums? This Old Dog is one of his strongest releases yet; DeMarco may have a goofball persona but these songs are coming from a heartfelt, warmly intelligent, and emotional place. Sure, there are some sublime party tunes on here, but the highlights of the album are when DeMarco delves into dreamy, deeply romantic territory on tracks like “One More Love Song” and “Moonlight on the River.” This Old Dog has so many solid songs it's hard to single out even a few as essential listening. Instead, throw this record on and immerse yourself in Mac’s singular world.

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Slowdive (CD)

Legendary shoegazers Slowdive return with their first album in two decades. Sharing a name with their self-titled 1990 debut LP, this new self-titled full-length is a welcome homecoming. The band is as compelling as ever and the new Slowdive LP feels like it was recorded back at the height of the shoegaze era. In short, it’s already a classic. Expect swooning, hazy, mesmerizing, moody loud rock that sounds like it was channeled from outer space — or from a lovely daydream.

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Lost On You (CD)

When Laura Pergolizzi, who goes by the stage name LP, released the title track off her new record last year, it became an unexpected mega-hit in Europe. It also seemed to have laid the groundwork for the sound of the rest of the album. Starting with a sparsely built groove made of a catchy bass line and a relaxed acoustic guitar, the song builds with uncomplicated layers that work together to create a lush orchestration of texture and sound. Among these sounds are '60s exotica-esque bird calls, which give the track a subtle funkiness. "Other People" features a whistling melody that could have come straight from an Ennio Morricone soundtrack from the '70s, and "Tightrope" is a sort of equivalent to when bands like The Ronettes could successfully fuse rock 'n' roll, R&B and pop, only with indie-rock guitars and modern R&B sensibilities.

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30 Seconds To The Decline Of Planet Earth (CD)

Longtime friends Justin Broadrick of Jesu and Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon team up for another excellent collaboration, 30 Seconds to the Decline of Planet Earth. Kozelek is in prime confessional mode here, detailing his experiences of interacting with fans, getting hugged by Laurie Anderson, and going to Disney World with a heroin addict (this occurs on the haunting, painfully alive “Needles Disney”). It’s an intense listen, not because it’s abrasive or challenging, but because Kozelek expounds with such precision and care on the simple pleasures of life, the small, deep aches, and the weird yet beloved existence of a career spent on the road. Through the whole stream-of-consciousness flow, Jesu creates a fitting atmosphere through melodies that creep on you with the true depth and force of their impact. A raw, true, vulnerable record of life in these strange days.

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Gargoyle (CD)

Mark Lanegan is one of those musicians who seems to have been involved with so many projects, but is always just a few inches away from the spotlight himself. He was in the under-appreciated Screaming Trees, collaborated with Kurt Cobain, performed in the Queens of the Stone Age, and recorded three solid albums with Isobel Campbell of Belle and Sebastian. That isn't even mentioning the unreleased material and solo albums. As he's aged, his voice has gotten more gravely and heavier and he sounds closer to an aged blues or folk singer of the past. On Gargoyle, he uses his voice like an instrument of pain in an album that's halfway between psychedelic and industrial. Incorporating synths in a way he never has before, along with some straight out shoegazey endless guitar reverb, Mark Lanegan's latest resembles '80s art rock more than anything. "Beehive" opens up with buzzing (no pun intended) that turns into a '60s guitar riff dipped in toxic waste. His coarse voice comes in and is surprisingly melodic, unlike the worn voices of Captain Beefheart or Tom Waits. For a voice that sounds like it could rip his throat any second, he has a surprising range and harmonic sense over a borderline pop track. "Nocturne" is probably closer to the direction he's been heading in. With a quick, repetitive guitar belting out mostly one note, the synths get stuck in short rhythms that are just as brooding as they are dancey. Mark Lanegan somehow makes an album that's stuck in the forms of the past as they are in modern ideas to create something that gives a dystopian view of '60s pop. It doesn't pay off with catchy melodies, but offers rich textures, careful lyrics, and the right amount of strange experimentation that rock needs.

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Visuals (CD)

It is 2017 and Mew are still reaching for the stratosphere. The prog-pop Danish stargazers have released their first album since trimming back down to a trio following their 2015 release, +-. However, despite the departure of guitarist Bo Madsen, Visuals does not find Mew's sound growing any smaller. In fact, this might be their most cinematic release yet, featuring a greater embrace of synths and strings than ever before. One listen to album closer “Carry Me To Safety” should assuage any worries of austerity, as it encapsulates all of Mew's eccentricities onto one track: behold lush orchestration, gentle falsetto, proggy Radiohead-esque guitars, big ass drums, and a general sense of pomp and grandiosity filtered through an undeniable pop sensibility. This is space age music that splits the difference between Styx and M83; a dreamy, sweet toothed collection of songs that for all their unabashed lighter-in-the-air glory remain tasteful and inventive. Someone get Laserium on board, they have a real winner on their hands.

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