Shakey Graves – And The War CameDualtone Music Group-out now3.5 / 5 Texan Alejandro Rose-Garcia isn’t a power-voice like Hozier or Rachael Price (of Lake Street Dive). He isn’t as poetic as Joe Pug or political as U2; but what he is on his second full-length is present, fully in command, a captain on his own ship. His off-kilter slashing folk songs anchor themselves less on lyrics or melody, so much as on his probing, coyote-howling vocals. Take “Hard Wired,” one of those unusual songs that just sticks with you for, well, unusual reasons. Build up with percussion and (somewhat) twangy guitar, it’s not aRead More →

Chain Gang of 1974 – Daydream ForeverWarner Brothers-out now3 / 5 We. Were. Stoked. To hear about the new Chain Gang album coming out. We still haven’t figured out the deal with White Guts (was it actually released? was it done piecemeal?), other than it was a top album of ours not too long ago. That one… that one brought a tear or two to our funkalicious hearts. And now, Kamtim Mohager (of the 3OH!3) dances his way back onto a major label to present: mind-melting dance beats. But, with a twist: it’s major label dance beats. Where once we had acerbic, rage-against-the-man vitriol, nowRead More →

Phox – Self-TitledPartisan Records-out now3.5 / 5 Baraboo, Wisconsinites  are known for… well, we’re not too sure what they’re known for. Cheese? Beer? Being close to Madison, we suppose. Though Madison is a nice Midwestern hub of the indie music world; and given that, here we have a nice indie band but a stone’s throw away from the capital. Who’d’ve thunk. Phox, despite borrowing a sense of spelling from Phish et al, is their own unpretentious pop sextet: gentle, lofty female vocals cast about light, almost ethereal-feeling instrumentation. Instrumentation that knows that singer Monica Martin is their honey drizzled-down-the-throat, come-lie-by-the-river-and-watch siren. The group is lightRead More →

Hozier – Self-TitledColumbia Records-out tomorrow4.5 / 5 Andrew Hozier-Byrne, the Irish soul singer/guitarist known simply as Hozier, is one of those rare acts who translates so well into studio and live and back. (Check out our much, much too brief blurb at the Newport Folk Festival.) It’s talent, pure and simple, that it boils down to, but more than that: the man can make a song about the infidelity of the heart bouncy and singable. His color reminds us a lot of the late band Morphine – dark, a bit smoky, somber – but at any turn, he can pull out such a playful sexinessRead More →

Bella Clava – Medicine for MelancholySelf-Released-out now3 / 5 Canadians do rock. These particular Canadians especially. And on Bella Clava’s second full-length hard rocker, the quartet fight melancholy with melancholic tracks: the self-explanatory “Broken Spirit” and the terribly sunshiney “Bitter Jaded and Dumb,” to name a couple. Toronto’s best kept secret here, however, do not present their best performances; they don’t strike that particular spark, don’t evince that faith in their songs that they certainly should. They come off perhaps a bit too melancholy, even, slogging at times. We’re going to single out lead singer Caitlin Dacey as the main culprit here, not singing toRead More →

My Brightest Diamond – This Is My HandAsthmatic Kitty Records -out tomorrow4 / 5 Shara Worden returns with a (drum roll please) drum roll. Marching band drum roll, to be more specific (care of the Detroit Party Band). Her fourth album as My Brightest Diamond has us reminiscing of St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, in that both ladies take counter-intuitive routes to accessible poppiness. And that’s the way we like to get there: the road less traveled. The anchor to these songs is, of course, Worden’s vocals – strong, feminine – but to say that’s why we like this album is to deny the underlying impetusRead More →

Roadkill Ghost Choir – In TonguesGreatest Hiss Records-out today 2.5 / 5 We invariably find albums like Roadkill Ghost Choir’s debut the toughest to judge. In Tongues is not particularly weak (it’s got good drive and direction) nor all that strong (not especially compelling, not brilliant), and the Floridian rock quintet certainly have their moments. But we always have to consider this: that we’re getting the album gratis, for review consideration, and you, dear readers, will either head out to buy this album or spend it on something else. In this case, certainly, save that ten bucks and spend it on something like White LighterRead More →

Sleeper Agent – About Last NightRCA-out now4 / 5 Sleeper Agent (with The ‘Mericans)Aug 1, 7pmWaterplace Park, Providence, RI(Free – all ages) There are few things we appreciate more than a burning beat that soothes our hungry dance-heart. And Sleeper Agent’s (hailing from Bowler Green, KY) pop-centricity pulls us right in, gets us singing through their sophomore. It’s not bass-heavy electronica (think *ahem* Chain Gang of 1974) or pure saccharine pop (a la Sondre Lerche), or lightning-storm-cloud electro-buzz (St. Vincent, we look at you) but it strikes a pleasant, palatable medium: easy to get into, easy to get through, and somehow, pure blissful joy. WeRead More →

Simone Felice – StrangersDualtone Music Group -out now3.5 / 5 Make no mistake: we are very biased toward Simone Felice. If you caught us in 2009 with The Duke and the King’s Nothing Gold Can Stay, then you’d understand. Personally, we consider that album a classic. Already. So if we come off over-appreciative of Felice’s post-Duke output, well, there’s a good reason for it. But let us say that his latest solo album, Strangers, gets there, but not much else. Alas. There are fantastic songs. Notably, the anthemic “Our Lady of the Gun” and “Running Through My Head.” Felice is a master at two things:Read More →

Glass Animals – ZabaHarvest-out June 103 / 5Contributed by Bera Dunau (@BeraDunau) ZABA, the debut album from alternative rock band Glass Animals, is a relentlessly smooth piece of work. Indeed, it is the perfect accompaniment for a peaceful a.m. drive on a deserted freeway, where the only company can be found in the streetlights passing overhead. Unfortunately, this very smoothness is also the album’s greatest weakness, as it is so consistent in tone that the tracks have a tendency to blur together. This makes it a bit of a one-note effort, although the one thing that ZABA does, it does well. Glass Animals’ sound isRead More →