**Akron/Family _ S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT
Brooklyn/Portland hipsters mix the weird-electro of Animal Collective with the backing vocals and guitars of the Flaming Lips with interesting results.
And You Will Know Us By The Trail of the Dead _ Tao of the Dead
The Austin, TX outfit retain their guitar heavy approach and sneered vocals.
Belphegor _ Blood Magick Necromance
Metal: black as hell. Named after a demon.
Crowbar _ Sever the Wicked Hand
Sludge-metal from long time New Orleans crew.
Cut Copy _ Zonoscope
Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) _ Resolutions
Fast-paced folk-rock sharing many qualities with Brian Fallon's solo work.
**Emily Arin _ Patch of Land
Debut LP from a golden voiced native of NY’s Finger Lakes. Beautifully written and delicately produced nostalgic folk.
Esben & the Witch _ Violent Cries
Eerie female-fronted indie guitar Brits are haunting in their best moments, dreary/kitschy at their worst.
LBC Crew _ Haven’t You Heard..
Classic West-Coast rap gets a welcome update.
Lionize _ Destruction Manual
Self described as groove heavy stoner-rock meets dark reggae.
**Miles Davis Bitches Brew (Live)
One of the greatest jazz albums of all time, live.
Motorhead _ The World Is Yours
Lemmy and Co are as heavy as ever.
Nicole Atkins _ Mondo Amore
Singer-songriter ranges from mainstream rock to alt/country. RIYL Sheryl Crow.
**Over the Rhine _ The Long Surrender
Slaughterhouse _Slaughterhouse: The EP
Shady/Interscope's latest make a bid for mainstream success after years on the underground scene.
Teddy Thompson _ Bella
Son of legendary folk duo Richard and Linda Thompson seems to write pop-country tunes with his genes. See “Looking For a Girl.”
Thompson Square _ Thompson Square
Waylon Jennings _ The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings
Good country music.
Yanni _ Truth of Touch
The legendary Greek spices things up with a more rhythmic, electronic approach.
Over the Rhine _ The Long Surrender (4.0/5.0)
Great Speckled Dog
This husband/wife duo is one hard working couple. The Long Surrender, their fourteenth studio album since their '91 debut shows off years and years of dedication to the craft. 2011 finds Over the Rhine with a well-deserved confidence following the critical success of 2007's The Trumpet Child and a rapidly growing fan-base.
This album opens with "The Laugh of Recognition," gentle folk propelled by a chugging mandolin and shrouded in ominous swells of slide guitar. As always the finely nuanced vocals of Karin Bergquist are front and center, and her tone is steadily accurate and constantly intriguing. The gorgeous ballads "Sharpest Blade," and "Soon" are built on minor chord structures and artfully accented with carefully placed violin and mandolin.
When Lucinda Williams interjects into the refrain of "Undamned" the two singers trade lines seamlessly, although a more impressive vocal performance is on-deck in yet another eerie ballad "Infamous Love Songs." The darkness is then peeled back beautifully with the classic sounding "Only God Can Save Us," and "Oh Yeah By The Way," but the sunshine doesn't last for long.
The album then hits it's dark pinnacle with "The King Knows How," an atmospheric march, and when Karin sings "I think I need a little something to tide me over," we believe it. The band then calms the listener, so as not to part in a frenzy, and within the soothing warmth of "Days Like This" it's hard to not feel comforted.
This is a band that has been working tirelessly for 20 years to get where they are, and this album alone proves their journey was worthwhile. Fans of Iron & Wine, Glen Hansard, and the Kings of Convenience will not want to miss this record.
Highlights: "Rave On," "Oh Yeah By the Way," "The King Knows How"
Cut Copy _ Zonoscope (2.0/5.0)
When Cut Copy exploded onto the world scene with their 2004 debut Bright Like Neon Love they were at the forefront of the dance/punk/electro/pop scene. Fast forward to 2011 and Zonoscope, the band’s third release enters into a music world saturated with synth-heavy, eighties inspired acts. Cut Copy have described their sonic mission as integrating elements of traditional songwriting with elements of techno/dance music, exactly where Zonoscope fails.
From the first notes of "Need You Now" the music lacks the dynamics, complexity, and the huge hooks we've come to expect from Cut Copy. The second track brings a much needed hook after the six-minute plus opener, but the track reeks of its influences and plays a bit too much like Men At Work's "Land Down Under" for my tastes. The following track "Where I'm Going" begins as a decent effort, but the lack of any sort of dynamics and a clear hook make it almost unlistenable.
"Pharaohs and Pyramids" is the album's early highlight; there is space to breathe and the track is constructed around the interesting and inventive synths. The band attempts to keep the fun going with "Blink and You'll Miss a Revolution" and features the albums first vocal and instrumental hooks (a catchy marimba part). Unfortunately the hooks don't last for very long and the band strays from their comfort zone into several reverb-soaked, guitar-centered disasters.
"Hanging Onto Every Heartbeat" finds the band back in their comfort zone, but their dance-electro seems to be lacking the power and charm of their previous albums. "Corner of the Sky" has some of the huge synth lines and catchy melodies that make Cut Copy a great band, but it's far too little, far too late. In the crowded world of contemporary electro-rock this is a record that lacks the clear artistic vision of previous albums and falls way short of this band's great potential.
Highlights: "Pharaohs and Pyramids," "Blink and You'll Miss A Revolution," "Corner of The Sky"