This Month's Picks

Sorcerer (CD)

It's a special kind of feeling when you hear a band perfectly gel together to create something equal parts new, exciting, and undefinable. The close connectedness of Tonstartssbandht's (pronounced tahn-starts-bandit) bandmates and brothers, Andy and Edwin White, help create something than takes jam band psych into new and pure spiritual levels. Maybe through Andy White's time touring with Mac DeMarco, their songs often assume the form of jangly, low-fi pop that's easy, calm listening until it suddenly goes off the rails through unexpected experimental instrumental sections replete with distantly miked instruments and sudden tempo and key changes. Sorcerer is a little disorienting at first, but once you start to ride on its wavelength it's a great trip.   Tonstartssandht have spent the last eight years in the proverbial shadows releasing mostly cassette-only performances in limited, special edition quantities. But having perfected their craft of creating musical detours based around pop songs, their first proper album in years is magnificent sounding stuff that captures an intangible nostalgia and puts it into music with a cover right out of ECM's strange late-'60s/early-'70s stuff. "Breathe" starts up with a solo guitar riff and heavy hiss until the drums snap the semi-serious riff into low-fi funk. But two minutes in, the vocals are zapped into the stratosphere as things start to echo and the song speeds into a bongo-led delirium, spinning until the last two minutes of the song are transformed into ambient harmonics that feel like the perfect chaser to heavy duty rock. The album's title track is similarly structured in a way that recalls the best of Pink Floyd's early freak-outs. Behind these freeform moments, the song's original riff still manages to guide everything. Is this rock learning from the improvisations of jazz legends based around traditional songs? Either way, Sorcerer is a refreshing change needed in indie rock. It's weird and simultaneously catchy in a way that few bands ever attempt. More
Genre: Rock

Won't Let You Down (CD)

Bridget Kearney
Bridget Kearney, longtime member of the multi-genre group Lake Street Dive, has released her first solo album, and it may catch her fans pleasantly off guard. While known for her impressive upright bass playing in the rootsy quartet, her first solo single, "Wash Up," shimmers with layered synths, ethereal vocals, and an '80s inspired laid back rhythm. Delving, unhesitatingly, into pop Kearney has expertly crafted an homage to Stevie Nicks style anthems, but does so without a trace of nostalgia, or irony. More
Genre: Rock

Some Offcell Voices (CD)

San Diego's Pinback felt like a perfect reaction to the city's musical history. The hardcore bands coming out of San Diego, including Drive Like Jehu, Swing Kids, and The Locust, took punk to noisy, ear shredding, boundary breaking directions. Though Pinback were cut from the same cloth, they were calmer, more methodical and technical than their San Diego counterparts. Band members Rob Crow and Zach Smith stepped away from their other projects, combining their efforts to go into stranger directions that rejected their punk and metal roots. Instead of going for fast punk and anger, Pinback slowed it down with carefully crafted songs with spacey lyrics, ethereal electronic vibes, and prog-like key and tempo changes. Their early EPs were not only bedroom recorded experiments of things to come, but were great albums on their own. Some Offcell Voices is a compilation of their two long out-of-print EPs, Some Voices and Offcell , and is also the latter's first release on vinyl. Both have been footnotes to their full-length albums, but with this proper reissue they are getting the respect they deserve. "Microtonic Wave" gives you a perfect sense of what they were all about. Combing a funky electronic riff with early digital sounds and a catchy beat, the music captures the feel of our too connected world. The lyrics verge somewhere between sci-fi dystopia and a romance song in a weird cataclysm. This collection is a fresh reminder of one of the most unique indie rock bands of the early-2000s in the brief crest before indie rock became another brand label. Perfect for fans of Broadcast or Beck's funkier side. More
Genre: Rock

Paradise [EP] (CD)

Last year's Hopelessness was one of those albums that felt prescient to events that culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Between increasing discrimination and disgust toward minorities and genders in an era that also seems to be breaking barriers in identity, ANOHNI's debut felt like both a protest album and a fantasy vision of neo-civilization. And her first EP, Paradise , is a perfect extension of what she already started. Between the synth weirdness and lyrics that directly attack sexism and the tenets of capitalism, Paradise feels like 2017 frustration press onto one disc. Produced by Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) and Ross Birchard (Hudson Mohawke), they mix their tendencies perfectly to create digital landscapes crafted right out of their mind's eyes. Lopatin's avant-garde tendencies and Birchard's hip-hop / electro fusion create unsettling music that could have come out of a dance club for robots. But this doesn't undermine ANOHNI's voice and performance, which is somewhere between R&B diva and Bowie's crooning on "Heroes." ANOHNI switches between pure pop showiness straight into subdued sing-talking that can be a little jarring at first. The album's title track was written last year, but it feels like nothing has changed in the last twelve months. ANOHNI cries out lyrics attacking the patriarchal structure that seems to be reaffirmed by the powers that be more than ever with disturbing lyrics like "My mother's love/Her gentle touch/My father's hand/Rests on my throat." The harsh riff that accompanies it almost treads into industrial music if it wasn't for the drum machines going into a beat-driven frenzy. Despite the brief length of the EP, this quickly emerges as one of the best albums of the year and a perfect listen in a world that feels like it's headed straight down the toilet. More
Genre: Rock

Beauty And The Beast (2017) [OST] (CD)

Cast Recording [Film]
It's been more than 25 years since the original Beauty and the Beast hit movie screens. It was a return to full form for Disney as every single song seemed to become part of the great American songbook. Find someone under the age of 40 who can't hum the melodies to "Be Our Guest." It's one of those songs that transcend the film it's from to become a part of our culture. It's a delight to hear the updated rearranged versions for the new live-action remake. Using the original voices of its stars - Emma Watson, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, and Luke Evans - their performances are on par with some of the best musical singers of Broadway. Josh Gad's showstopping performance of "Gaston" brings a type of physicality and cheery comic book quality that reminds you why he crossed into the world of cinema. His voice is like a cartoon come to life! In homage to Celine Dion's initial take on the Beauty and the Beast theme, she returns with one the film's new songs, "How Does a Moment Last Forever." She embodies that classic spirit of pop vocal prowess that is currently missing (and wanted) in contemporary pop. There's this bravado that she has and few can ever touch. Similarly, Josh Groban gives a sensitive performance to the new ballad "Evermore." His operatic, deep voice has a depth and power that shows him off as a virtuoso always aiming for perfection. Between this and the songs of La La Land and Hamilton last year, hopefully the power of the American musical returns. Beauty and the Beast has a beautiful and lush soundtrack that most films currently shy away from, and these songs will be forever ageless. More
Genre: Soundtracks

Either / Or [Expanded Edition] (CD)

Elliott Smith
It's hard to believe Elliott Smith's classic album Either/Or , his last album for Kill Rock Stars before signing with major label DreamWorks, is 20 years old, but at least it means fans can now experience it in a remastered and expanded edition. Under the supervision of Larry Crane, archivist of the Estate of Elliott Smith, each track has been remastered from the original tapes and includes live recordings from the 1997 Yo Yo A Go Go Festival in Olympia, Washington, as well as the remastered B-Side "I Don't Think I'm Ever Gonna Figure It Out," and three, unreleased studio tracks, including "I Figured You Out," a great example of his intimate, melancholic, yet catchy and playful, songwriting. More
Genre: Rock

The Eternal Getdown (CD)

East LA band Quetzal’s seventh album, The Eternal Getdown , is a vibrant, resilient, very timely work of art. The band draws on a diverse range of musical traditions, including influences from Japanese taiko drumming, rock, rhythm ’n’ blues, Mexican son jarocho, and Afro-Cuban music. A fitting soundtrack to our times, Quetzal’s latest collection of songs is rooted in the band’s feminist and social activist practices. The Eternal Getdown is a powerful, brilliant statement from this quintessential Chicano musical collective. More
Genre: World

Yours Conditionally (CD)

Yours Conditionally is a soft focus, romantic dream of an album from the married Denver duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore. Without exception, the songs are exquisitely crafted, evoking a hazy ‘70s summer honeymoon - the perfect blend of throwback sunshine pop, contemporary indie, and timeless dream pop. (Fittingly, the album was written in part while the pair sailed the coast between San Diego and Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. The sights and sound of that journey seem to have inspired the lazy, lovely tone of the songs.) This swooning, pastel-hued album presents the listener with tunes that aren’t just pretty, but also pretty smart. More
Genre: Rock

Fierce Mercy (CD)

Colin Hay
The success of Australian band Men At Work's new wave hit "Down Under" all but ensured frontman Colin Hay would be associated with Australian imagery for the entirety of his career — never mind that he's a native Scot. But his latest solo album seeks to shake those associations, as Fierce Mercy is fiercely steeped in Americana — perhaps appropriately, as Hay became a U.S. citizen last year. Hay's latest draws on the cities in which it was recorded, L.A. and Nashville, with seeming influence from Randy Newman's orchestrated L.A. piano balladry and steel guitars aplenty. "Come Tumblin' Down" opens the album on a rollicking note, with country-fried licks punctuating Hay's down-on-his-luck lyricism ("Dropped a coin in the wishing well, but it's a long time dry," he sings). "Secret Love" follows suit, as Hay sings "I tried walking away my fear ... it follows and shadows me everywhere" over a beautifully arranged tune, replete with horns, key changes and Hay's wonderfully full voice. Meanwhile, "A Thousand Million Reasons" turns things around lyrically for a gorgeous love ballad that showcases the full power of Hay's voice as it has matured. With touches of gospel, folk, country and Hay's ever-evocative lyricism ("I'm going to get you stoned like it's 1997," he sings memorably in one tune), Fierce Mercy is one of Hay's best post-Men At Work albums yet. More
Genre: Rock


Minus The Bear
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from math-rock stalwarts Minus the Bear. The Seattle band released its fifth album, the well-received Infinity Overhead , back in 2012. Since then, the band released an EP and toured a bit, but the biggest news was a change in label, management, and the departure of founding drummer Erin Tate. Fear not — despite these changes, VOIDS is the best the band has sounded in a while, funneling their tricky time signatures, densely layered guitar taps, and Jake Snider’s high, soaring vocals into catchy tunes that keep up with the current crop of festival-friendly indie rock bands. First single “Invisible” is a pure distillation of the Minus the Bear sound that ranks as one of their best singles yet, an anthemic ode to not bowing out as Snider chants “you’re not invisible” like a rallying cry to his band and fans. All the while, Minus the Bear reflect the changes that come with maturation, on moody, evocative tunes like “What About the Boat?” (sample lyric: “I hit the bottle like a brick/Shatter it on my anxiety”), on which new drummer Kiefer Matthias more than proves his mettle, balancing the icy synths and exploratory guitars with a strong, tethered beat. Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing; on VOIDS , it seems to have reinvigorated Minus the Bear. More
Genre: Rock