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April/May '04 Articles:
Building An Ecological Society
Editorial: IMPACT at 50
Notes from the Cultural Wasteland
Born to Die
The Muddlemarch: 1
The Muddlemarch: 2
USA: Home of the Hateful
(music reviews)

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CD Reviews | Label Addresses

These reviews represent the "best of" music that was reviewed for this issue by IMPACT Press music reviewers. Please visit our
staff page if you want to match a reviewer's initials with the name of the person who did a review.

Azeem with Variable Unit Mayhemystics Wide Hive Records • You take an introspective emcee and add a jazzy background band with two DJ's and an assortment of musical instruments, and you figure you got some pretty tight stuff right? Well, the groovy vibe that Variable provides and the in-depth and enlightening ideas that Azeem brings to the table turns this into a solid political and idealistic collection of songs. A lot along the lines of Common and the Roots, but more complex and musically loose like a Pink Floyd record, this release further expands the walls of the hip-hop sound. Lyrically, the poetic verses detail many stories to decipher with an awareness of the world revolving around us, and the creativity to inspire an opportunity to evolve. (JC)

Beauty Pill The Unsustainable Lifestyle Dischord Records • Beauty Pill is one of the best bands I've heard in a long time, actually I think they have become my new favorite band. The shared female and male vocals are great, perfectly dovetailed into the varied, intuitively complex instrumentation. The lyrical content is highly socio-political in nature, though never preachy, and yet, without sacrificing the urgency of the message. This is a perfect balancing act of content and entertainment, beautiful to behold. Deep in meaning, intricate in construction, and highly listenable, this album has completely blown me away. Hats off to Beauty Pill! (SJM)

Before Braille Cattle Punching On A Jack Rabbit EP Sunset Alliance Records • Goddamn, this is good! A level of infectiousness like this is scarcely reached by other bands. Starting with the opening track, this is a tour de force, a brilliant blend of indie rock rhythms, punk attitude and hyper-catchy hooks. The vocals, meanwhile, blend perfectly with the groove-infested rock, adding a passionate, but not overbearing, voice to the music. Fans of bands like Pilot To Gunner, Braid, Bear vs. Shark and Coheed & Cambria don't want to miss this one. My only complaint is that there are only seven tracks. Guess I'll have to patiently wait for their full length. (CM)

Billy Overton Faith of Steel Steel Water Records, Inc. • Everybody should own a steel drum album, and this is the one for me. It sounds so obviously homemade that you can't help but fall in love with its "Casio-keyboard-on-demo-mode" sound. Not to say that Overton is a poor steel drum player, quite the contrary. The songs are upbeat, and even inspirational, which I suspect is the whole point of Faith of Steel. (AL)

Blanche If We Canıt Trust The Doctors... Cass Records • Moods are created on this album that combine the bluegrass, folk, blues and country boundaries to form insightful masterpieces in song crafting. Dusty vocals on "Who's To Say" are greeted nicely by the soulful sounds of "Do You Trust Me?," which begins an album heavy on superstition, sadness, betrayal and redemption. Feels as if itıs in the spirit of Johnny Cash or Billy The Kid the way the pickin' and steady tone carries on. The pedal steel, banjo, guitar and drums sound is authentic to the deep woods loneliness and appreciation for the surroundings that only a true cowboy may know about. (JC)

Crosstops Truck and Disorderly Malt Soda Recordings • If you can imagine a meeting of the minds between Johnny Cash and FEAR, you have some idea of what these guys are cranking out. This is a really great disc, bursting at the seams with rockin' punk, catchy riffs, tight playing, and balls out fun-for-all. Poignant and touching songs like "White Trash Blue Ball" will have you crying in your 20 oz. Old Mil. (MK)

Eyedea & Abilities E & A Epitaph • The last time these two teamed up, the underground was just about to split the earth and let the world know what itıs been missing. If their first offering was considered to be a mellowed-out mind-trip of great storytelling and skill, the follow-up is a shared progression of the beats and turntablism brought on by Abilities and the rhymes delivered by Eyedea. Starting off with slamming snares, scratches and a hostile delivery of words on "Reintroducing," one can tell this will not be another First Born, and that's a good thing. Eyedea spits with a fury at times and bounces back and forth while calming down and almost speaking his thoughts, while Abilities takes more chances this time around with the one's-n-two's and lays out a soundscape that keeps the listener tuned in to this concept. (JC)

Mischief Brew Bakenal Fistolo Records • What really pisses me off is that there are only 5 songs on this disc. This is one of the best discs I've heard in a long time. Acoustic, folk type music is the best way to descibe this, but then it is a woefully inadequate description of this fun, quirky, catchy and wildly entertaining music. I really love this. It could only be improved by being about 2 hours longer. (MK)

MTX Yesterday Rules Lookout! • MTX is back with their tenth album! There are some lineup replacements, but the name MTX is still a punk rock icon, and they don't stray from their tried and true formula of super-intellectual, super-clever catchy pop punk. Front man Dr. Frank is a lyrical genius, and I could have just as much fun reading the album insert as I could listening to the record. The subject matter is the usual brilliant deconstruction of relationship dynamics, girl thought, and other philosophical musings. Fans will not be disappointed! (DP)

Old Time Relijun Lost Light K Records • Very groovy stuff here, cooler than the Stray Cats, looser than Velvet Underground, and more dangerous than old-school surf music, these guys carry on with a jam-band attitude and deep dynamic. Throughout the album, human struggles and vices are told of in tracks like "The Door I Came Through Has Been Closed," "Vampire Victim" and "The Rising Water, The Blinding Light." All of this is raw punk and garage rock that is mixed with great rhythms and beats, with lyrics tackling issues of the spiritual beings in our world. (JC)

Rasputina Frustration Plantation self-released • Such delicious ingenue – conjuring in equal amounts Beezlebub and Jehovah. Iıve been afflicted with a strange malady upon hearing this masterpiece of cello rock. I have been thoroughly charmed by these most beguiling purveyors of sculpted sound. Rasputina is an appropriate moniker indeed, relating as it does both to power of demonic scale, and depths of genius most insane. From the down and dirty saloon jaunts of "If Your Kisses..." to the emotional heights of "Girl's School" and "November 17dee" and on to the thoroughly sexy "High On Life," this is a masterpiece. My god, I could worship at the feet of Melora Creager – repeat this in public, though, I shall not. (SJM)

The Kite Eating Tree method: fail, repeat... Suburban Home Records • Forming from members of Sunday's Best and Hyphen (the first by the way is well worth a listen.) this CD screams catchy but with a large dose of that post punk sound that is all the rage. "The Burn of Tiles On Re-entry" is a great song with a catchy pre chorus that leads right into a huge sing-along-type chorus. The songıs are well thought out and have yet to leave my CD player since I got the CD to review. If their live show holds half the power that their album does, then I can't wait to catch them at a show. This is a great album and a promising band. If you are a fan of any of J. Robbins projects (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) or mid nineties bands like Quicksand, then you should definitely pick this CD up. (MC)

Tin Tin self-titled Sao Bento Music • Dynamic indie space-rock with soothing melodies. The beginning track, "Science Generals," was seven minutes of greatness. The bass drives some of the tracks, while the vocals capture the Hum we all miss so much. Some of the tracks take you here, there and everywhere. The guitar arpeggiates, the bass flows right along and it all mixes to make a melodic masterpiece. The chaotic, yet catchy, riffs come and go, giving enough relief to catch your breath and take in what just happened. While some of the tracks are longer, it flows from one song to the next, without recognition of length. "Alternate" creates the most dramatic build-up, but it is worth the wait. There seems to be an underlying sadness through some of the darker moments, but that just adds another layer to the eight atmospheric tracks. This entire album is beautifully rhythmic from start to finish. (MP)

Various Artists Anticon Label Sampler: 1999-2004 Anticon • Whether you're familiar with the Anticon label or not, fans of hip-hop take note: This may be the best compilation ever. Anticon is a collectively owned label that first formed in 1998. It's made up of eight hyper-creative individuals who donıt stick to any formula or plan and have no problem flipping everything on its head and seeing how it sounds. The end result, on this release in particular, is a collection of varied sounds, all original. Some are more lo-fi, others are melodic, rockin' cuts. Some feature a poetic flow that overpowers the music, yet others have musical production that simply can't be ignored. The fact is, this album is 80-minutes and 33 seamless tracks worth of groundbreaking hip-hop from Anticon (mixed together by Odd Nosdam), a label that has sparked a media/fan buzz in the last couple years, even though these cats have been breaking boundaries for over five years. So, either you're already along for the ride or you need to move your ass and hop on board. Regardless of where you're at, getting a hold of this compilation is where you need to be. (Bargain Alert: While I'd gladly pay more, the cool-ass folks at Anticon are selling this CD for only $8. I'm not kidding.) (CM)

Various Artists Blue Note Revisited Blue Note Records • Blue Note is not a label that wants to left behind as music evolves around them. They also acknowledge that much of today's music can be directly attributed to the work they have done throughout the decades. It is with these ideas in mind that they recruited some of today's most popular acts to rework some of their back catalog, including Madlib, Kyoto Jazz Massive, DJ Spinna, Jazzanova, DJ Cam, 4 Hero and others. Calling these songs remixes would be too simplistic. (AL)

Various Artists Zen CD-A Retrospective / Zen Rmx-Remix Retrospective Ninja Tune Recordings • For more then ten years, Ninja Tune has been cranking out excellent electronica from highly talented artists. In that time, they have released tons of compilations, but all were of unreleased material. This time, they went through their catalog and assembled 52 tracks in two double disc releases, one of remastered original tracks, and another or remixes. Unless you are a die-hard Ninja Tune fan, chances are you don't have all these tracks. Therefore you better go out and get them soon. Original tracks from DJ Food, Coldcut, Amon Tobin, Mr. Scruff, Wagon Christ, Luke Vibert, Kid Koala, Hexstatic, Cinematic Orchestra, Funki Porcini, and remixes by Squarepusher, Manitoba, Cornelius, Four Tet, Dr Rockit... you get the idea. (AL)

CD Reviews

1090 Club/The Forecast Split EP Thinker Thought Records • Three songs from each band on this split release. The Forecast proves to be the better of the two bands with a little more of an edge within the tightly wrapped pop-metal sound found on tracks like "This House Is Not A Home" and "After Winter." 1090 Club brings a soothe-based pop rock sound that stays isolated in emotion, such as on the track "Due Date" where an up and down tempo is driven by wrenching lyrics. If one half is somber and the other half is aggravated, this release provides the better of both worlds, per say. (JC)

20 Miles Life Doesn't Rhyme Fat Possum Records • Judah Bauer, guitarist for The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, is the man behind this project. With 20 Miles, Bauer writes the material, sings and plays guitar, while joined by an ever-changing cast of characters. The result is a guitar-heavy take on blues and rock and roll. Bauer's vocals are non-intrusive or overbearing, working in collaboration with the mesmerizing music. You don't even have to be a fan of the genre to appreciate what Bauer does with 20 Miles. (CM)

40 Watt Domain Short Wave Gaki Records • Southern California power-pop band 40 Watt Domain is chunky and spunky. Maybe too spunky. Their claim to fame is that their first gig was at a Keanu Reeves birthday bash, and it's appropriate. Keanu Reeves is Ted of Bill and Ted's fame, and he would love this stuff. Insipidly sexual, immature in message, but poppy and rocky, so's you can dance to it. Bleh. (SJM)

60 Channels Covert Movements Supa Crucial Recordings • 60 Channels is one of multiple musical personalities of The Angel. As 60 Channels, the music goes back and forth between dub, downtempo, drum'n'bass and trip hop. This is done effortlessly, with no break in continuity. Many artists lend their vocals, including Navigator (Freestylers), Angie Hart (Frente), Karen Hart (Andrew Tosh) and DJ Collage. (AL)

A Wilhelm Scream Mute Print Nitro Records • Formerly known as Smackin Issah, this Masschusettes five-piece has a four-year history, a new name and a new album. A Wilhelm Scream comes out blazing with this 11-track release, fusing elements of Strike Anywhere, Boy Sets Fire and Lawrence Arms. There's a perfect blend of hardcore aggression and power punk melodies, a balanced mix of screamed and sung vocals and enough tempo changes to keep the most attention-deficit rocker occupied. The guitar parts are incredible, intricately woven through each track and the pounding rhythms are infectious and intense, creating an irresistible result. (CM)

Abodox New Knife Of The Berserker self-released • I found myself thinking of The Locust and Fantômas as I listened to Abodox. They share The Locust's insane speed and high pitch screamed vocals, and Fantômas's sporadic vocal eruptions. Their music tends to devolve from whacked out grindcore into intense noise sessions. (AL)

Aceyalone All Balls Don't Bounce Revisited Project Blowed/Decon • After seven years, Aceyalone has re-released his first solo endeavor and has included an extensive bonus disc to commemorate the occasion. As one part of the force behind Freestyle Fellowship, this emcee has not lost his lyrical flow that has continued to keep the underground abuzz. Had this release been given the proper push in 1995 the world would have been introduced to the hidden musical gems of the underground much sooner than the new millennium explosion that has taken place. Beats are thumping with eerie background organs and instrumentation alongside tight flows that show off this emcees diversity and relevance. (JC)

Affront When Death Won't Kill You Inferno Recordings • Affront, still ripping it up! When I first became a member of the IMPACT family, I reviewed Affront's last release and was blown away. This release was no different, taking every song they cherished from their previous albums and reforming them to produce When Death Won't Kill You. Enough hardcore/punk to last you for ages. Currently resembling in my mind, strong similarities to AFI and With Honor. The solos, harmonies, and so forth are never forgotten and will haunt you past the period of when death won't kill you. (CMax)

Ahleuchatistas On The Culture Industry Angura Sound • This trio from western Carolina take their cues from the mathematical instrumentation of Don Caballero and infuse free-form jazz techniques into their sound. The result is twelve tracks of sometimes frenetic, sometimes aloof instrumental songs. After Don Caballero's unfortunate demise, only a band like Ahleuchatistas can take its place. (AL)

Akimbo Elephantine Dopamine • Akimbo are from Seattle but wouldn't be caught dead in a flannel and I'm not so sure that is a good thing. This album is meant to harsh the mellow of all the leftover grunge rockers in the northwest and they do a pretty good job of it, I think. Blending classic rock with today's best hardcore, Akimbo has managed to put together an album that any recovering post grunge hipster will love. Think Botch meets Black Sabbath backstage at a Led Zeppelin show to exchange riffage. If you're pickin' up what I'm putting down you might be into this. (RP)

Album Eureka Sön self-released • Don't let the Spanish lyrics turn you away from Album, for they are a solid rock band. They sometimes infuse electronic effects into their catchy sound, and process the vocals with an attitude that reminded me of Plastilina Mosh. (AL)

American Heritage / Foe / Art of Burning Water The Combined Stupidity of Spiteful Men House of Stairs • Three bands with awesome power on one album! American Heritage changed their sound a bit, adding a fourth member and incorporating lyrics into their sound. Foe blends chugging guitars into their math rock sound. Art of Burning Waters is the most experimental sounding band, but they keep things just as heavy as the others. (AL)

Amps For Christ The People At Large 5 Rue Christine • Amps For Christ is an odd listen. The mixture of folk style, often expert instrument ability with experimental electronics and, in some songs, thick fuzz, is quite disparate. I actually can't decide if I like it or not. This self-proclaimed "folkcore" band mixes Appalachian and British Isles folk with homemade instruments and "Caveman Electronics" to make a statement about America's leadership, and the experimentation is welcome. While making a broad following unlikely, I applaud their attempts to broaden the sounds of modern music. (SJM)

Anonymous A Day In The Life NYC Grounds • The intro to this release features a female voice praising the skills of this emcee, but only one track is worth checking out here. "No One Can Stop Us" is a prime example of using beef in hip-hop to gain notoriety. On this track, Anonymous bitch-slaps Nas while using his song and album titles to cleverly diss every aspect of his music career, though the corny hook sample is unnecessary. Apparently a run-in with Nas caused the ill will, no pun intended. As for the rest of this release, it is easily summed up by using one word –garbage. How can you put out a diss on one of the top emcees of all time as your opening track and fill the rest of your album with as much junk as is on this release? The production, especially the samples, are trash, not to mention the Anonymous flow. (JC)

Antelope Crowns/The Flock Dischord Records • The only complaint I have about this two-song CD is that it is far too short. The jagged, minor-chord post-punk puts me in mind of Gang Of Four, no faint praise in my book. I'll be waiting impatiently for more from this band. (SJM)

Arthur Yoria I'll Be Here Awake self-released • Yoria wrote and produced the entire album, playing guitar, bass, keyboards and handling the vocal duties. The result is a 10-track power pop album with plenty of fuzzed out guitars, simple keyboards and sticky sweet melodies. While Yoria is definitely talented, it's easy to hear how this could get lost in the mix. At the same time, he could be the lucky one and this guy could be huge in six months. There's plenty of potential for success, as the album is well crafted and showcases Yoria's solid musical abilities. (CM)

Ativin Night Mute SecretlyCanadian • Drawing influence from Horror literature and film, Ativin's mixture of heavy math rock and Tortoise-style meanderings is disturbing, and wonderfully so. The band is a trio: two guitars and a drummer, and this itself makes for an important differentiation. Creepy, sometimes oddly pretty, this band has achieved the difficult accomplishment of finding itself in heavy rotation in my car stereo. (SJM)

B.E. Mann Kaleidoscopes Prt.1 ŒThe Pop Songs' self-released • 16 reggae songs infused with pop elements. B.E. is credited for all instruments, which deserves a mention. Tracks like "Erotic City" capture the sound of an early '90s cheesy dance song with a guest appearance by Shaggy's twin. There's a guitar solo in between R&B beats and then horn accompaniment. So basically, this album is all over the place. It's a backbone of reggae with a plethora of styles on top. (MP)

Baby Dayliner High Heart & Low Estate Brassland • In the same style ad Har Mar Superstar and Atom & His Package, Baby Dayliner pre-records his music and sings along with it on stage. The songs could not sound more lo-fi, sounding like they were created entirely on cheap synths. His low, non-chalant voice and new wave leanings reminded me of early New Order. (AL)

Bagheera Twelves Asian Man • Bagheera are a delightful male-female partnership, featuring interwoven vocals reminiscent of Mates of State, with a more straight-up pop rock sound. Theodore Moll of MU300 is the male aspect. Both members round out all of the instrumentation tracks on the album, which is lush and varied, and they sing about "love, space/time travel, electronic redemption, and the promise and fear of scientific endeavor." The world can never have too much geekiness! A shining debut – I look forward to future releases. (DP)

Balboa self-titled Forgeagain • Balboa are a Philly hardcore screamo band along the same lines as Thursday and Hopesfall. I wish I had more to say about these guys, but I don't. This genre of music has been done so many times over. You can easily spot the recipe used to make each one of these songs and I have figured it out and am more than willing to share it with you. So here goes: start with one part melodic guitar, add one wussy singer with a dash of tough guy and don't forget two parts spoken word, then gently blend heavy guitar and gruff vocals. And there it is; repeat when necessary. (RP)

Beanfield Seek Compost Records • Beanfield is a band that fits perfectly at Compost Records: they create electronic music with a soulful edge, with references to jazz and funk. After a lineup change, the band is now composed by original member Jan Krause and Michael Mettke. They found a man and a woman to lend their voices to some of the tracks, completing the sound. (AL)

Black Cougar Shock Unit self-titled Newest Industry • Gainesville, FL has a tight punk band in Black Cougar Shock Unit. Much harder rocking than any of it's contemporaries, they are clearly drawing their influence closer to the source, unlike a particular punk-pop band that I refuse to mention by name. Occasionally, the vocals over-reach their range, but overall, these guys rock. (SJM)

Black Love self-titled EP self-released • I had no idea there were be political statements within a lo-fi production from this two man electronic band, but there sure was. Beyond some less than compelling lyrics, there is what sounds like a Casio beat driving some of the more monotonous tracks like "Burning Effigies." The album takes an upswing during "Heard" where an acoustic guitar and saxophone melody mix in for variety, but it still doesn't do them a lot of justice. It is strange, eclectic and experimental all at the same time. Not bad, but not good. (MP)

Blockhead Music By Cavelight Ninja Tune Records • The best thing about Blockhead's instrumental hip-hop tunes is the way they soothe your spirit while you simultaneously bob your head to the beat. His inner comedian comes out once In a while, as he uses comically slowed down or sped up vocal samples. If you had to compare his music to someone else's, DJ Shadow comes to mind. The limited version of this CD features an extra CD with tracks produced for Aesop Rock, but without any vocals. (AL)

Bones Brigade I Hate Myself When I'm Not Skateboarding Fight Fire With Fire • Ian Mackeye, you better watch your back, Bones Brigade have caught onto your revolution and will skate way into the dark abyss with the hardcore scene slowly entangled within its hands. Bones Brigade bring to the table what everyone needs, fun! This straight edge, straight ahead hardcore/punk band capture the sounds of Minor Threat, Youth Of Today, Gorilla Biscuits, Dead Kennedy's and the new reformed sounds of The Deal, Embrace Today and On Broken Wings to form this entertaining disc of "rip and shred" skate anthems, angst, more than four-chord bass lines, and infectious solos, leaving any hardcore fan on their death bed with amazement or busting some skulls on the dance floor. (CMax)

Books Lie Hall Of Fame Of Fire Level Plane • Books Lie will amaze you with some of the sounds they produce on Hall Of Fame Of Fire. There is an element of hardcore on this album, punk rock, and something a little fresher and edgier that most hardcore bands can't deliver. (NP)

Brad Postlethwaite Welcome To The Occupation Makeshift Music • Brad Postlethwaite, of the indie-pop group Snowglobe, has delivered an impassioned plea in behalf of victims of war, particularly in the Middle East, in this primarily acoustic album. It is very difficult to convey political messages in pop form, and he should be lauded for the effort. Much of the music itself is appealing, well constructed and played. When the passion for his subject takes over, his voice reaches for areas that it cannot go, which is a bit annoying, but forgivable. This dichotomy is most evident on "Empty Burning", where he is not quite up to the beautiful vocal idea, but still the song is enjoyable. With some more vocal work, this could be a great album. (SJM)

Brandon Patton Should Confusion self-released • This is essentially singer-songwriter music, but, it is good. Witty, well recorded, and friendly, this should appeal to anyone who hasn't let their cynicism overtake them. The often-clever lyrics are soulful, and the guitar playing is first-rate. I wish you luck, Mr. Patton. (SJM)

Break the Silence Near Life Experience Hopeless Records • I don't know, it's kinda cutesy for hardcore don't you think? Instead of being that emotional blend of sung lyrics and screams, it's more a car crash of genres. Sure to please the 14-something crowd and the cute college girls stuck in the midst of an SUV driven rebellion, which is sad cause there is some good music here, some really creative work. It does remind me a bit of Boys Night Out. (KM)

Broken Bottles In The Bottles TKO Records • TSOL, Social Distortion, and other legends come to the mind of any adolescent in the dawning stage of their pre-punk glory days. Nothing original, just four guys blending the sounds of four-chord punk with the vocals of a depressed cow. However, punk is founded under these frequent characteristics which makes me game! With plenty of sold out shows behind their belt, be sure to look out for Broken Bottles! (CMax)

Budhi Brown The Time or The Place Green Room Records • Showcasing the two-string slide bass and the baritone saxophone, this band sounds like a caffeine induced version of Morphine or the Stray Cats, with comparisons being made to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as well. Very groovy and horn heavy, the songs are full of lyrics that fit the late night, smoke-filed barroom atmosphere precisely. This album is refreshing, and well worth checking out, just a little to restricted in its sound. (JC)

Burns Out Bright Distance And Darkness Deep Elm Records • Energetic, nicely constructed, passionate, and tight are words that come to mind to describe this effort from Burns Out Bright. As an oldster I should probably recuse myself from this review, but it's too late for that. One who is still moved by this kind of emo-core should not listen to me when I say that it bores me now. (SJM)

CafFiends Fission, Fussion And Things Made Of Concrete Indianola • These guys are super fuckin' cool. Where they don't exactly sound like Snapcase, they do sound a lot like them, and I'm a big fan of them so I loved this album from the start. Angular guitars that'll kick your ass. The vocals are awesome, sounding like The Refused. If you're a fan of one or both of these bands then check out CafFiends. (NP)

Calliope Sounds Like Circles Feel Thick Records • This mature, interesting effort from East Lansing, Michigan's Calliope is a welcome beacon in a sea of smooth, overproduced indie-pop. The vocals are strong and assured, the sound is tight and sloppy all at once, the band is one of those where you are forced to ask why they are not better known. They certainly deserve to be, though if that were the salient criterion, the face of popular music would be unrecognizable. So here's to all the good and great bands out there doing what they do for the love of it. It shows, and I for one, appreciate it. (SJM)

Captain Yonder Mad Country Love Songs self-released • I'm not sure what to make of the back-story of this band, regarding a certain "aptain" Jack Yonder, who may or may not have bequeathed a trunk of folk songs to Ryan Pfeiffer after a long, adventurous life. What I am sure of is that this album is perfectly named – keep in mind that "Mad" in this context does not mean "Angry." Ryan Pfeiffer's voice harkens back to a different age; an earnest, manly, rural folk sound that is otherwise absent from modern music. Without the inclusion of the occasional discordant element, the songs themselves would feel as if they were in fact from another time in America. This is some deep, intriguing, impeccably constructed artwork. Kick back with some Old Style, think about a lost love, and weep. (SJM)

Cheval De Frise Fresques sur les parois secrètes du cråne Frenetic Records • It's hard to believe that two guys can make such a racket sometimes, yet be so subdued at other times. Hailing from the French post-rock scene, they decompose melodies with electro-acoustic guitars and drums and nothing else. Tempos change, but the quality remains the same. (AL)

Chez Stadium Freshman Slump Success Pool Records • There's no slump here, just some smart, catchy indie pop. Led by singer/songwriter/mastermind Randall Payton, the smartasses of Chez Stadium (and I mean that as a compliment) have a knack for clever hooks and offbeat lyrics. They take familiar elements like Tom Petty and Guided by Voices, and turn them into something new and original. Just check out "I Could Throw You"; the song's been stuck in my head for a week and I'm still not complaining. (CL)

Chromatics Plaster Hounds Gold Standard Labs • This is Chromatics second full-length album. Definitely an old New York punk sound on this album. A little bit deep and dark sounding at times. I liked the first track and then it kind of died off from there for me. (NP)

Conation Troubled Waters and Fortresses Deplorable Recordings • I'm a sucker for packaging, and damn if I don't love what Conation have done. The music is pretty well crafted as well. Great almost '90s style hardcore (Overcast, Outspoken, Endpoint, Ignite) with all sorts of complements. Accents of female vocals, violins, and acoustic guitars make for something nice and not cheesy, which can happen easier than some bands think. I'm pretty excited about this one, and recommend it pretty confidently. (KM)

Contrived Violence Cannibal Planet self-released • What the hell is this? The cover of this CD looks like a crust punk album. But to my dismay, I was sadly disappointed by what I heard. It sounded like Herbie Hancock remixing the Miami Vice soundtrack. If you're a fan of electro pop retro house music, check these guys out. (RP)

Crime In Choir The Hoop Frenetic Records • Prog rock is king in Crime in Choir's world. These instrumental tracks feature complicated drumming and always changing guitar lines, with layers of keyboards giving it a mood I hadn't heard since Return To Forever's Where Have I Known You Before. (AL)

Dani Siciliano Likes... !K7 Records • After teaming up with Matthew Herbert for some of his work, Dani Siciliano breaks out on her own with her debut, LikesŠ It is a slow-tempo affair, and features Siciliano's sensual vocals over tweaked minimalist beats. Her cover of Nirvana's "Come as you are" is both alluring and humorous. (AL)

Deadsure From Your Head to your Sacrum No Idea Records • Holy shit! It's the lead singer from Sparkmarker's new band! The world hasn't heard a peep from him in like 10 years, after fronting what has to be one of the most under appreciated bands in the 90's hardcore scene. This release is beautiful, with a sound that comes to the front of the room and tears out new windows and breaks out a few doors too. Unconventional hardcore (thank god) and brilliant all the way through. Not unlike At the Drive-In. (KM)

Deceased Rotten To The Core Malt Soda Recordings • Even though Deceased is usually lumped into the death metal genre, they decided to put out a record of punk songs that influenced them throughout their 19-year career. They pay homage to the Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, Angry Samoans, Bad Brains, an others for a total of 16 tracks of raw punk rock covers. (AL)

Deerhoof Milk Man Kill Rock Stars / 5 Rue Christine • Comparing Deerhoof to Blonde Redhead is inevitable. Both bands feature bold, forward looking rock music led by an Asian female singing in a falsetto voice that is unusual at first, but becomes irresistible within minutes, and sing in different languages. And both are excellent bands. (AL)

Desperate Measures Never Enough Time Youngblood • DM is a straight up hardcore band from Maryland. This is a pretty traditional hardcore album with not too many surprises. If you like Bouncing Souls, Sick Of It All and Agnostic Front, you will be happier than a pig in shit with Never Enough Time. (NP)

Destruction Unit Destruction Unit Empty Records • This Arizona trio relies on electronic beats and whirlwind guitar work to tangle with screaming vocals of death and destruction running from the western burning sun. Urgency runs rampant on this release as a new wave sound becomes meshed with gothic influences to tell tales in the forms of "Cancer," "So Shattered" and "Self Destruction Of A Man." While the emo kids are crying on one another's shoulder, these three are smashing up whatever is around them. (JC)

Devil To Pay Thirty Pieces of Silver Benchmark Records • Hell yeah! Devil To Pay is straight up stoner rock that does not rest. Think of Scene Killer or Men of Porn, but the tempo never slows down. These guys are here to kick your ass into submission, and they will not fail. (AL)

Diplomat The Divine and the Impure Nicenoise Records • There must be something in the air. I don't know what it is, but each month or two I pick up CD's to review and generally I can find one CD out of the 15 or so I think is decent enough to keep and listen to. Often times I will review a CD and it will hit the shelf not to return. This month, though, I have not found one but many CD's that are not only a refreshing listen but also worth putting back in the ol' CD player. Diplomat falls into this category with a lo-fi take on a very technical sound. Interesting time changes get led along with angular guitar parts. Some sounds are muddy and slow, reminiscent of overly melodic, early 90's Seattle bands, but there is a definite Dischord Records influence on these guys as well. Some of the parts could even be references to the pseudo dance/new wave movement in NY, that include bands like Interpol. The only bad thing I can say about this record is that it is only an EP and has a scant five tracks on it. It is enough to hold you over until they release a full length though. (MC)

Downset Universal Hawino Records • I'll be the first to admit I used to love Downset. In the earlier 90's they were the perfect underground hardcore rap core alternative to radio friendly Rage Against the Machine. I loved the political nature and the hard stances against racism and sexism. So it's with regret that I have to say this release is a completely worthless and horrible recording. Gone are the great raps, and in are the lame standard of the day of chorus repeated ad nausea, and the raps don't even save them. Slipknot fans might love it, which is just another sign of how bad it's gotten. (KM)

Ee Ramadan Asian Man • San Francisco based Ee is a foursome that creates peaceful, laid-back works of meditative pop. Their instrumentation is lush, with droning, layered movements forming an ethereal mood in one's mind. I was reminded of the band The Ocean Blue, but the feel is a bit more emotionally revealing. Some songs are soft and introspective, while others aren't afraid to rock. This is a re-release of a record originally pressed in 2000, which sold exclusively at the band's live shows. (DP)

Electric Lawnchair Double Platinum Smiley Jones • Why Electric Lawnchair decided to name their album after Kiss's Double Platinum is beyond me. In fact, they also copied the names of all 20 tracks on the album, even though these are not cover songs, and are in fact not even rock songs at all. This album features electronic, almost ambient tracks with some vocal samples that cut in here and there, but no obvious relationship to the legendary metal band. (AL)

Elefant Sunlight Makes Me Paranoid Kemado Records • I've said it before and I will say it again, these guys make me think of Duran Duran. They don't overly sound like the creators of Rio, but their visual style, i.e. makeup and 80's brit pop sound definitely remind me of them. I would actually put their sound somewhere closer to Bowie and the Smith's. It's a bit subdued and lacking in substance at times, but overall it's a pretty dancey record that you could have fun listening to. The standout track to me would have to be "Now That I Miss Her". A fun little song that keeps the beat bouncey and the lyrics are only slightly trite. (MC)

Elf Power Walking With The Beggar Boys Orange Twin Records • The restructuring of the band on this recording, with the addition of Olivia Tremor Control's Eric Harris, has marked somewhat of a shift to a more focused pop sound. Not lost is the pleasurable folk-rock qualities that help ease the pointedness of the lyrics. The title track features the guest vocals of folk-rock legend Vic Chesnutt, a nice addition indeed. In addition to making excellent albums such as this, Elf Power runs a record label / land conservation group called Orange Twin. Check out the website to see how you can contribute. (SJM)

Elizabeth Anka Vajagic Stand With The Stillness Of This Day Constellation Records • Elizabeth Anka Vajagic is one of those singers, Radiohead's Thom Yorke comes to mind, that sounds terribly melancholic every time they open their mouth. The somber music accompanying her doesn't brighten up the mood either. It is a bit folk, a bit goth, and quite appropriate. (AL)

Emilie Autumn Enchant Traitor Records • Emilie Autumn is a classically trained musician gone wild, with an amazing voice and electric violin skills. Her blending of styles is sometimes unusual, but some of the songs tend to feel flat, making her voice sound out of place. (AL)

Enemy From Space The Condition Of Music Smiley Jones Records • The tracks on this CD reminded me of Tangerine Dream and Ray Lynch at times, but most of the time The Condition Of Music sounded like the soundtrack to old school video games, somewhat in the same spirit as Aphex Twin's hard to find Melodies from Mars. (AL)

Erlend Øye DJ-Kicks !K7 • A relative newcomer to Djing, Erlend Øye has picked up the skill quite well, being featured on !K7 Records' latest DJ-Kicks compilation. What makes him this one stand out over other compilations is his propensity for singing verses from well-known songs over house or techno instrumentals. It took me a while to realize he was singing the lyrics to Bananarama's "Venus" on one track and The Pet Shop Boys's "Always On My Mind" on another." (AL)

Evening Other Victorians Lookout Records • I wish I could have captured my face when I looked down to see this band was on Lookout Records. From the label that got you into dirty East Bay punk rock here comes something downright indie. My look was quizzical at best, but hey evolution isn't so bad. At least they chose something pretty good. With driving guitars that sound just out of the south of England and the mid-nineties, and vocals that could lead any indie rock band with confidence, this one grows on you. It rocks pretty hard surprisingly. Not so bad at all. (KM)

For The Worse Couldn't Give Two Shits About The Kids Rodent Popsicle • For The Worse play old school hardcore sounding, at times, much like DRI and Suicidal Tendencies. At first, I wasn't to into this album; but after a few listens I really started to enjoy it. I recommend this band to anybody who likes their punk with a little thrash. So buy this album and go skate. (RP)

Foreign Legion Playtight Look Records • This is some solid indie hip-hop with bad-ass production. The entire album is crisp, an ass-shakin' 12-track collection that is the perfect soundtrack to a bangin' party. There's a bit of funk, jazz, soul and a whole lot of energy, keeping this album going from start to finish. The MC'ing is tight as hell, with Marc Stretch and Prozack holding it down while DJ Design keeps the beat bumpin'. This is some positive, party startin' hip-hop, but it sets itself apart with some untraditional musical orchestration and incredible vocalists. (CM)

Friends For Heroes Years In a Costume Blackhouse Records • With the popularity of Postal Service I assumed that there would be a rash of programming, open heart, indie rock kids. I haven't noticed too much, but Friends for Heroes are a definite stand out. Songs like the soaring, atmospheric "Come On Over" and the more upbeat "Storming" are catchy but maintain a melancholy feel to them all along. This is definitely a beautiful album but not so artsy that you couldn't dance around your room to it in your underwearŠI've said too much. (MC)

From Bubblegum to Sky Nothing Sadder than Lonely Queen Eenie Meenie • This is a solo project with a band name, as the name "Mario Fernandez" didn't really convey what the artist is all about. He having grown up in Japan, there is a lot of that kind of that super-happy cultural bizarreness thrown all about, a sort of sickly pop puffy-sticker feel to it. And that is the big joke –the record's strains are all happy and cheery and funny-pop Beatles/Bowie bubblegum, irresistibly catchy, and that is what you hear at first. But listen to the words, and they're completely hateful and spiteful. It's totally oddball creative. (DP)

Funkstörung Disconnected !K7 Records • During the past four years this duo has worked on a ton of remixes, but did not release any albums. The wait is over with Disconnected, and it comes as a bit of a surprise. They confess that they were bored with electronica, so they found some people to lend their voices to the album, which is decidedly slow to mid-tempo. If it weren't for the ever-present glitchiness that they have perfected over time, this would be a soul / hip-hop album. Thankfully, they did not abandon their sound entirely. (AL)

Furious Billy Sissyfoot Mungler Winslowe Records • This is a rather diverse album. While the entire release has a lo-fi sound, some tracks are melodic, jangly, indie pop, while other tracks are noise-infested, raucous, rock tunes and some are borderline country. All of the material is the work of one man, Casey Brandt. Maybe he's schizophrenic, because this album certainly feels that way. At times, it reminds me of Elliott Smith, Palace or The Pinehurst Kids, but when it gets feedback frenzied, it becomes a beast all its own with big, messy guitar riffs and spastic vocals –at times, like a mutated Modest Mouse. This is certainly a unique release. (CM)

Gauge Means Nothing The Absent Trail of an Echo and My Future Plagued Surrender I've Come For Your Children • I'm going to start this review by saying the title of this album is almost longer the album itself. Now that I have that out of the way, GMN are a hardcore band from Japan who play epic hardcore music. Imagine God Speed You Black Emperor meets Marakate at a Therion band practice. (RP)

Geheime Mission Brick Sand Sky Hydrogen Line Records • It's kind of all over the place. Heavy distortion and clunky beats, smooth sounds and clean rhythms. This disc has it all. There are several instrumental songs that seem as if they could be background music on a movie or a video game. Lots of long introductions to songs and winding rhythms and repetetive beats that don't seem to go anywhere. It's actually not a bad disc to sit through, but it doesn't seem to take you anyplace. (MK)

Get Fucked self-titled Level Plane • Get Fucked plays super aggressive hardcore with total disregard for your ears. I don't think I could take more than the 17 minutes on this disc, but not because the music was bad. Any more than that and I would have spontaneously combusted. (AL)

Grey Does Matter How To Make Millions In Real Estate JankoMatic Music • Using super slick melodies and solid vocals, this indie rock album sucks you in with infectious hooks and catchy tempo changes. But, while most would think this was a four-piece band rockin' out the tight tunes, it turns out that Jason Crawford wrote, performed, produced, recorded and mixed this entire 11-track release. The fuzzed out guitars and the wicked keyboard are what keeps this album so solid and its simplicity makes it easy to like. Fans of Weezer and Material Issue take note. (CM)

Harris New Morning Pulse Urinine Records • Indie-rock has yet another self-issued card-carrying member. The music is put together well, but the vocal is grating and mostly tuneless. "Lampost Lights Out" almost turned me forever against analog synth flourishes. It didn't help that the press kit included an asinine text written by a frat-boy friend of theirs whose opinion no one should respect. A better excerpt: "The first song rocks, and then there are a couple of emo songs that girls like on it, and this other one that sounds like Braid or something and you can't get it out of your head..." Yeah, great. (SJM)

Havergal Elettricita Secretly Canadian • This is very minimal pop under the influence of Brian Eno, without being derivative in the least. Also welcome is the straightforward, unashamed quality of the vocals - unlike Eno, who always seems to need to drape his singing beneath some kind of thick reverb. Apparently, Havergal's construction method utilizes multilayered simple tracks to build his meticulous songs, the effect of which is a pleasing thickness to the very simple tunes. Admirers of Eno and Erik Satie's work will enjoy this album very much. (SJM)

Haymarket Riot Mog Thick Records • This four-piece from Chicago captures post punk melodies with harmonies and dynamic guitar lines. Nine tracks of solid rock n' roll recorded by Steve Albini. "Uneasy Consequence" is a track that exemplifies their unconventional song structure. At their more dissident times, they are reminiscent of Fugazi. I was put in Fugazi mode during the track, "Plastic Bottle Kid." Other moments brought some Braid similarities with structure and vocals. They are a good representation of this genre and are well worth a listen. (MP)

Heidi Howe Give A Hootenanny self-released • I admire Heidi for her political and social activism, her desire to put out an album that benefits so many great organizations and her lyrics that are proactive, clever and informative. But Heidi's vocals are tough for me to get used to. They are a bit squeaky and, at times, sound off key. They remind me of the voice for Sandy, the squirrel on SpongeBobSquarePants, almost a bit chipmunk-like. While the musical mix of bluegrass, country and pop isn't that bad, Heidi's vocals have hit a sore spot for me. (CM)

Hidden Tracks The Sweet Sound of Excess Disposable Pop Revolution • OOOhhhh. I'm all moist and stuff. This is a great disc. Self described artsy-fartsy wuss rock. This is catchy and fun and a really great listen. These guys have played with groups from The Crash Test Dummies to The Mr. T Experience. One listen will be enough to tell you that they would go over well just about anywhere. It won't come out of your CD player for a long time. (MK)

Hor!zen self-titled self-released • Unmistakably influenced heavily by Sublime, this Orange County, Florida band brings the reggae, rock, hip-hop and dub flavor with style. Self described as "Herbfunk," you can bet there are a few bongs being fired up after scoring a bag on O.B.T and making your way to the coast to cruise I-95. Styles and songs on this release pay homage to the likes of Sublime and the Beastie Boys, and come across authentic enough to seem like their own. What you get here is the equivalent to a cover band jamming out at your favorite dive. (JC)

Hospital Grade Written Axe To Trigger Urinine Records • These Canadian lads produced a good punk rock album with hints of the "post-punk" sounds of greats like Jawbox and a little Jawbreaker as well. One can never get enough "jaw" bands I guess. The song "You Don't Want to Rust" is heavily Fugazi influenced and probably the best song on the CD. Overall the CD is worth a listen and if you want to see what our northern neighbors did with our D.C. heavyweights, Hospital Grade is a good example of just that. (MC)

Housewife Stretch to Fit self-released • There is a band called Shiner that has a song called "My Life as a Housewife," it's on Lula Divinia. The song is amazing, off time, heavy as hell, just great musicianship. Wait, that's not what I listened too, I listened to some other CDŠit sucked. They sing to a girl to "kill her boyfriend" in the first song, I zoned out on the second song and then they began to surprise me with the third when some actual good music starts it off and then they proceed to ruin all fragments of hope that were left by TALKING THROUGH FOUR MINUTES OF IT. I can't in good conscience recommend this CD, I'm sorry. (MC)

Humble Gods Born Free Suburban Noize Records • Humble Gods, soon gracing an over-polluted college radio station or, even better, mainstream, bring to the table what any other punk band does. Lyrics concerning freedom, or the lack thereof, pissed off at the government, let's play four chords, scream and shout! The artists themselves are fairly descent with the ever popular solo and bass line, and I love Rancid and Anti-Flag, but I don't need one out of every three punk bands resembling them. (CMax)

I Voted For Kodos self-titled self-released • This ska-punk band's name is a Simpson's reference, in case you weren't aware. The music is competent – par for the course for the genre – but the vocals are a little weak. Too young, trying too hard, I think. That said, I did really like the structure of "Where Are We Going To?", especially the first break. (SJM)

IfIHadAHiFi No More Music Contraphonic • Hailing from someplace in the woods of Wisconsin, IfIHadAHiFi have returned to the civilized world with another collection of jittery post-punk. Driven along by the propulsive drumming of Dr. Awkward, No More Music is a near perfect blend of dissonant, angular guitar rock and quirky melodic sense. And, there's a secret bonus track, a fucking bad ass cover of Stevie Wonder's "Uptight (Everything's Alright)" that will get even the most rhythmically-challenged (that would be me) shaking their ass. (CL)

Jesus And The Devil Destructive Music Resists the Oncoming Light Fudge Sickill Records • Getting right to the roots of rock and roll music, this band out of the south side of Chicago carries the aspects of the Stooges, At The Drive In and Fugazi to provide and energetic and sloppy offering. Their musical direction is apparent in tracks like "Bring Out The Guns" and "Virgin Cheerleader Brainwash" where a solid garage sound is only hurt by the sound recording quality. (JC)

John P Barton Does Not Play Well With Others self-released • Singer/songwriter pop rock. So one guy put together an album where he played nearly all the instruments and vocals, while acting as producer and engineer. I got to give him credit for that and for some of the "guitar licks" he throws down on tracks like "Faith." I call them "licks" in that 80s sense. You know the solos that come out of nowhere, almost like they were put there just to show you what the guitarist could do. "Sleep," a slow acoustic tune, is one of the better tracks, mostly because of the violin accompaniment. Barton isn't a bad musician, but this S/S isn't doing anything original. He may not play well with others, but these 15 songs don't play well with me. (MP)

John Vanderslice Cellar Door Barsuk Records • On his forth album, Vanderslice releases his inner confessions in the forms of loners, murderers, and a confused child at odds with his family, and does it all with great melody and musical experimentation. The autobiography type lyrics are detailed and deep, sung with a weary tone while a jazzy-pop sound helps balance the somber and joyful moods on tracks such as "Wild Strawberries" and "Heated Pool And Bar." This release finds the singer/songwriter getting back to his roots in a way, using the keyboard to add atmosphere to a guitar laden rock sound that journeys through one man's darkness just to see the light when all is over; turning something so serious into something so refreshing. (JC)

Joseph Patrick Moore's Drum N Bass Society Volume 1 Blue Canoe Records • Mixing jazz, world music, funk, and rock, this large group of musicians play excellent covers by Phish, Men at Work, Tony Williams, The Specials and the Fixx, plus some original tunes. I was reminded a lot of Groove Collective while listening to Volume 1. (AL)

Kieskagato You Are the One Who Can Iconic Rocket Records • Rock bands with trumpets usually piss me off; they're like, "Oh, we're so unique, we've got a trumpet." Assholes. Much to my surprise, and thankfully so, Kieskagato is not one of those bands. These guys mix together elements of indie rock, jazz, funk, and Latin music, and somehow manage to pull it off successfully. It doesn't feel forced, like so many bands that try to blend seemingly disparate styles of music. There's a bit of a Radiohead vibe as well, as Josh Vasby's vocals are reminiscent of the 'head's Thom Yorke. Don't let the trumpet scare ya, this is good stuff. (CL)

Kitchens & Bathrooms Vehicles Beyond Forge Again Records • The Hamilton, Ontario math rock trio Kitchens & Bathrooms is taut and heavy, an angular, jarring sound that is nonetheless appealing. The plain but fully-projected vocals, when they hit the mark, are awe-inspiring. This is a high-energy band that, while suffering from some inconsistency and non-functioning moments, are capable of some amazing heights. (SJM)

K-Line How You Gonna Scare Us Now? Does Everyone Stare? Records • Supposedly hailing from the roots of "British punk" and conducting the same, K-Line are definitely not. They combine the fun loving sounds of Motion City Soundtrack, Hot Water Music, with a touch of good ole fashion punk rock and a slight spray of Suicide Machines. K Line portrays teen crazed anthems of girls and all that jazz. Not bad, however, creativity is not something you can find within a band incorporating the styles of what's currently infesting the evil "M" word, the mainstream scene. (CMax)

Lali Puna Faking The Books Morr Music • 2003's Left Handed EP saw the addition of distorted electric guitars to Lali Puna's electronic sound. The follow-up full-length album, Faking The Books, is full of well-rounded space-pop songs, all featuring the whispery, relaxed vocals of Valeria Trebeljahr. (AL)

Languis The Four Walls Plug Research • Languis strikes a perfect balance between live instrumentation (drums, guitar, vocals) and electronic music. These pop songs are engaging, and the male vocals are smooth. Dome of the songs are more atmospheric soundscapes than songs, making the whole album extremely hypnotizing. (AL)

Lesser Birds Of Paradise String Of Bees Contraphonic • The Birds are a warm cup of cocoa on a cold day and a cool pool in the Florida sun. This is comfort music, part country jangle, part indie-rock smartness. The vocals are distinct and remind me a bit of John Sampson (The Weakerthans). The meandering acoustic tunes are compiled of a number of instruments (ukulele, banjo, musical saw, dulcimer, drums, guitar, etc.), woven together to create sincere, heartfelt tunes that can bring both joy and sadness. This is slow moving, clever music that can be appreciated by just about anyone. (CM)

Like Clockwork A Cross In The Ground self-released • Emotionally powerful, Like Clockwork couples heartfelt, passionate vocals (at times, reminiscent of the awkward, wavering Conor Oberst style) with intricate, creative indie rock and electro elements. The songs cover a variety of emotions, none seeming particularly positive, leaving the listener to experience what seems to be some troubling times for the songwriter. The multitude of stylistic influences keeps this 15-track album fresh. (CM)

Lion Fever Lustre Dim Mak • This 5-song EP is a powerfully rockin', female-fronted infusion of blues, Joan Jett rock, honky tonk, and punk, with heavy emphasis on the rock. Did I mention the rock? It is rock above all else. This is the kind of band that no doubt has a shrine to rock and roll gods past in their basement, because they are true believers, and they make you know it. It has that classic early rock sound, yet everything about it screams, "We are hardcore." (DP)

Local H Whatever Happened To P.J. Soles? Studio E Records • Amazing how this Chicago two-piece can sound so good and raw on a consistent basis. This album is named after the 70's/80's star of such movies as Rock and Roll High School, Carrie and Stripes. A heavy rock assault full of aggressive hooks and spontaneous tempo changes balances this noise with wrenching vocals on tracks like "California Songs," "Dick Jones," Everyone Alive" and "Buffalo Trace." Melding their classical and indie rock influences, Local H manages to provide an edgy sound that works once again. (JC)

Loch Lomond When We Were Mountains In Music We Trust • In addition to being the largest freshwater lake in Great Britain, Loch Lomond is also a band, sort of. Well, now they are. Here, lemme explain. Originally intended as a series of demos by songwriter Ritchie Young and friend Rob Oberdorfer of the Standard, the project gradually grew into a full-length album and full-fledged band with various members of the Portland music scene providing their talents. When We Were Mountains has a very grand, dramatic feel, with varied and rich instrumentation. The Loch certainly isn't afraid to take chances with arrangements, and they hit more often than they miss. This is a very creative and unique record that reveals more subtle nuances with each listen. (CL)

Lost On Purpose 1st EP and Rising Wildfires self-released • Wil Holland, the sole member of Lost On Purpose, should have a good backing band for his music. He's a far better writer and singer than the majority of the bands I've reviewed, full of good ideas and good songs. I hope to hear more of his work. (SJM)

Madvillian Madvillainy Stones Throw • (Curse these promo samples running over parts of each track. Maybe they help prevent piracy, but they also annoy the hell out of the reviewer, me!) That aside, this is a dope-ass album. Producer extraordinaire Madlib joins forces with MC superstar MF Doom. Together, they rock the mic and the speakers, droppin' funky basslines over smart beats and jazzed-up loops. But this isn't your standard formula stuff; these cats would never allow generic material to get their names put on it. As a result, the tunes are wicked original, exuding a '70s vibe, featuring some of the coolest samples ever and offering up a style that is swank as hell. (CM)

Major The Bliss Domestic Laughing Outlaw Records • Acoustic guitar and violin compliment the beautifully melodic vocals to create a symphony of folk music. At least the beginning starts off that way, but it explodes into jangly pop rock. This four piece from Australia even moves into the blues realm in some of their slower tracks. "Shake" is a power pop track that sounds like it was written for the radio. Some more Aussie guitar pop for your listening pleasure. (MP)

Martyr AD On Earth As It Is In Hell Victory Records • From the ashes of Disembodied and Holding On emerged the current lineup of Martyr AD, ready to take on the world. They bring forth unparalleled aggression to the metalcore genre, with comparisons to Converge and Meshuggah inevitable. (AL)

Mashlin The Process Of Automation self-released • This Orlando, FL band is populated with some really good musicians, unfortunately, the vocals are really breathy and out of key. Not to mention that I'm pretty sure the last thing the world needs is another overproduced-sounding heavy-alterna-pop band. (SJM)

Maylay Sparks Graymatter Rapster Records • With a number of beat makers and turntable techniques paving the way, Maylay manages to keep his first full-length flowing as one unit, with the soulful, funky sounds inspired by this Philly native's time in the game. One part founder of the Eastern Conference label and projects with Baby Blak, The Roots and others, this debut is one not to miss. Malik B appears on "Black Sheep," but you'd hardly notice it because Maylay manages to spit his stories of stick-ups on "Robin Hoodz" and being blunted on "The Method" and is clearly the star of his own matter. Tight flows and a musical backdrop of instruments, samples and consistent beats keep this together. (JC)

Meow Meow Snow Gas Bones Devil In The Woods • There is very heavy immediate resemblance in Meow Meow's music to The Flaming Lips. I should also mention the influence of Kevin Shield's (My Bloody Valentine) guitar work, though the influences do not degrade the music by tagging it as derivative. In fact, some of Kirk Hellie's super-effected guitar (and/or keyboard?) solos are groundbreaking, absolutely fucking amazing. There are a lot of secretly pretty melodies and harmonies as well, filling out this great album to the brim. Occasionally, the guitar work gets a little precocious, and should step away from center stage, but this is only rarely the case. Good luck, guys. (SJM)

MF DOOM Special Herbs Vol. 5 & 6 Nature Sounds • Volumes 5 & 6 in the Special Herbs series features tracks that have appeared in previous recordings by MF DOOM, KMD and King Ghidora, as well as brand new tracks to be added to future projects. These instrumental hip-hop tracks have a definite 1970's influence. (AL)

Minus Story The Captain Is Dead, Let The Drum Corpse Dance Jagjaguwar • This band's self-proclaimed "Wall Of Crap" sound is occasionally overwhelmingly overpopulated with instruments, often disturbing, and sometimes beautifully inspiring. There is an underlying strong pop element that connects the noisy dots, giving the chaos a purpose, that while unbeknownst to me, is imminently appealing nonetheless. If you like your pop crisp, clean, and unchallenging, go elsewhere. I, however, will be astride the beautiful wall of crap. (SJM)

Mirah C'mon Miracle K Records • Mirah makes some very heartfelt, pretty but somewhat melancholy music the likes of which is also crafted by Kristen Hersh and Cat Power. The excellent recording has an honest, DIY feel, and the soft tone of her voice belies a powerful range. Her meditations are punctuated with rollicking, rocking interludes that propel her songs forward. This is really some beautiful music. Go get it! (SJM)

Modern Income It's Rewinding Happenin' Records • This is mostly reworked material from the band's first album. The music is a lo-fi indie pop trip through melodic, jangly, head-bobbin' tracks with a bit of quirky weirdness. Nothing amazing, but not crap either. (CM)

Modern Life Is War My Love, My Way Martyr Records • My friend and I used to have a joke about how there wasn't life in Iowa. Simple point we'd never had any proof presented to argue against it. Years later we met a cute girl with a great record collection to prove us wrong since she was from Des Moines. (She was also the end of our friendship, but that's another story.) I might have to track that old friend down and turn him on to these guys, more proof of cultured folks from the land of corn. Great hardcore with just the right mix of emotion and power. Production from hardcore hit maker Dean Baltulonis doesn't hurt either. This band needs to stay together, tour a whole bunch, and kill everything in sight, because they could if this debut is any indication. (KM)

Molar The Time And Motion Studies False Walls Records • The Time And Motion Studies is really a study in improvisation. The only instruments are guitar, keyboards and a laptop. Though the guitar is played live, it gets an electronic feel due to the processing involved. Tracks blend into each other, and the lack of structure hypnotizes the listener from beginning to end. (AL)

Múm Summer Make Good Fat Cat Records • For Summer Make Good, Múm decided to use more live instrumentation and less electronics, even using old vintage amplifiers and gramophone speakers in their moody, slow compositions. The resulting sound is more lush and vibrant. The female vocals are barely there, slight whispers with a thick Icelandic accent only previously heard from Björk. (AL)

Natural Dreamers self-titled Frenetic Records • Including members of Deerhoof, The Curtains, Gorge Trio and Dilute, Natural Dreamers take two guitars and a drum set on a journey that sounds completely improvised. Gentle guitar picking leads to spastic drum breakdowns and back. Keyboards show themselves at inopportune times. In short, a masterpiece. (AL)

Never Surrender self-titled Fight Fire With Fire • Never Surrender blends heavy old school thrash with heavy emotional lyrics. Their self-titled EP was released in the summer of 2003 and can be found in your local record store. (NP)

Novi Split Keep Moving Sunset Alliance Records • Here are 15 melodic and infectious tunes that have sad undertones while contrasted with dance beats. What else does anyone need? Some of the slower tracks, like "You sleep, I drive," and "Me an Andy," are reminiscent of Death Cab For Cutie, while some of the dance tracks are more along the lines of The Postal Service. It's catchy indie pop rock featuring David J, a member of Kind of Like Spitting. Novi Split's press release puts its best when it says the band "almost makes you want to tap your foot at a funeral." (MP)

Now It's Overhead Fall Back Open Saddle Creek • Hypnotic and energetic in the tradition of bands like Information Society, this foursome creates a loop-based brand of dark pop, using audio wizardry as a backdrop for desperate, spacey, emotional vignettes. As an added bonus, this record features vocals by the wonderful female duo from the band Azure Ray. Make sure you listen to this with your levels turned up so you can appreciate the carefully placed nuances. (DP)

Onelinedrawing The Volunteers Jade Tree • Jonah Matranga is behind the second album from Onelinedrawing and he may have exceeded his previous accomplishments with this emo-rock release that includes the pulsating grunge of "We Had A Deal" and the melodic and simple poetry of "Superhero." Armed with his well-worn guitar and drum machine, Jonah creates a valiant release that is tightly wound together with changing sounds and atmospheric mood swings that captivate your attention in a way those emo songs on the radio can't. This offering deserves to be considered near the head of the line within its peers. (JC)

Paradise Boys The Young And The Guest List Princehouse Records • Combine 80's new wave with a more House-y element, and you've got one of the two bands to form from the ashes of The Calculators, also reviewed this month. Retaining the moodier aspect of new wave while adding the more upbeat elements and sounds of House, the vocals remind me of what happened to the Gang Of Four when the dance element killed their punkness. This is a weird subset of club electronica that I probably don't do enough cocaine or X to get, though it does provide one answer to the question I posed at the end of my review of The Calculators. (SJM)

Pepper In With The Old... Volcom Entertainment • Let the good times roll as you listen to Pepper's In With The Old... The vibe is much like 2002's Kona Town, with plenty of good times, surfer attitude and reggae inspired songs. They sound a lot like Sublime, especially the vocals. (AL)

Post-Haste "Untitled" Ionik Recordings • This is truly garage post-punk. It's crass and noisy, but somewhat endearing. Unfortunately, it suffers from the malady of too many bands out there - the vocals are awful. You know, I hate saying this, and I can imagine the rest of the band members, most likely being friends, are reluctant to say it also. But, it's true. Sorry. (SJM)

Rajiv Patel Obey The Cattle! Sunset Alliance • Obey The Cattle! is a short collection of mostly instrumental songs that inject middle eastern musical influences and instruments into slightly mathy compositions. Acoustic guitars are endlessly picked, creating a layered effect. There is some sporadic singing, which frankly seemed out of place among the instrumental tracks. (AL)

Red Eyed Legends The High I Feel When I'm Low Gold Standard Laboratories • First of all, thanks for the semi-nude pictures on the CD. Second, thanks for the remix of "Hamlicus", the "Super Indoor Version". This is some really raunchy punk, and I do mean punk – not the Unnameable pop-punk band that I detest so much with the guys in the underwear (wasn't fucking groundbreaking, by the way). Thank God I'm not to old to enjoy noisy crap like this! (SJM)

Reed Dickinson Ruby Flying Kite • Dickinson is a Boston-area native who plays a unique brand of lighthearted rock, extolling the virtues of living, in vibrant songs of sheer optimism. The musical prowess is quite advanced, many songs feature fantastic guitar solos that reinforce the inherent light of the vocals. His music has been compared to the Beatles, and I definitely sense Beatlesence in it. Truly a feelgood album –one could not logically listen to this record and then jump off a building, unless there was a serious chemical imbalance in one's brain. (DP)

Remembering Never Women And Children Die First Ferret Music • Leave it to Remembering Never to always deliver some of the most furious metalcore around, keeping the momentum built by their 2001 debut She Looks So Good In Red. The screams are just as powerful, the guitars just as fierce. (AL)

Rescue Volume Plus Volume Plus Forgeagain • Kind of an emo style with a lot of start-stop guitar work. Vocals are real good, too. Sometimes sounds like Cursive or a better Thursday. Not recommended to fans though, just cause it's usually better. (NP)

Retisonic Return To Me Silverthree Sound Recordings • Rock, baby, rock. This is pretty good stuff. Lots of diverse influences combine to create a sound that is easy to listen to and difficult to forget. This is a melodic and harmonic collection of songs that, for all their energy, doesn't resort to simply making noise. The talent is obvious here. (MK)

Richard Youngs River Through Howling Sky Jagjaguwar • On this installment from Youngs, he delves back into the transing, meditation drones of a few of his earlier releases. The opening track begins this morbid journey with wind-chime rings in the background and screeching guitars that accompany tribal drums and painful melodic vocals. Everything here is very emotionally charged, in a lonely and disgruntled way, not sure if the experience was a positive cleansing for him, or just a set-up to the project set to follow. (JC)

Ritter Six Degrees Of Variation Jumpstart Records • From the streets of Ritter, Pennsylvania, Ritter bring the ruckus to anyone who can appreciate the talent of four unbearably talented young men. Intertwining the high resolutions of volume currently residing with bands like Strung Out and Rufio, Ritter throw in pop punk, punk, rock, and even a little hardcore in their fresh bowl of genius, producing an album full of intricate song structures and melodies. Jumpstart, however, holds the key to success with this piece of artistic beauty they call Six Degrees Of Variation. Soon everyone will witness the variation face to face, and I will become a legend. Until then, pick this up! (CMax)

RJD2 Since We Last Spoke Definitive Jux Records • Fans of DJ Shadow and Dan the Automator will love this. RJD2 comes at you once again with mostly instrumental compositions that inject rock, funk, Latin, and downtempo into his hip hop beats. The songs are well-rounded enough that they don't feel like they were thrown together. (AL)

Rob Hornfeck How Do I Know You? self-released • Hey. One guy does it all. It must be pisser to see him live. Rob is obviously an excellent songwriter and a multi talented musician. These songs are well written and fun. A broad and occasionally disorienting array of styles and influences make this a very easy to listen to. Catchy riffs make it one you will want to listen to again and again. (MK)

Royce Da 5'9" Death Is Certain KOCH Records • After listening to the second release from Royce, you can't help but wonder what could have been for this former sidekick to Eminem. After falling out with Eminem's crew D12, sides were picked and Royce was left to seek out his own way. He sheds light on the situation on "I & Me," just one of many topics on a collection of tracks full of mental substance and rhyme skill, twisted by tight snapping production that complements his one-liner style storytelling technique. Overall, this album is a collage of Royce's ups and downs through troubles with his crew and his labels. "What I Know" and "Something's Wrong With Him" are a couple tracks worth checking out. (JC)

RPM Irrational Anthem 7940 • Like DMX, RPM is a single person –however, a female. This is her debut album, and it's a doozie. Armed with a Les Paul guitar, this self-proclaimed "patron saint of aggravation" makes her powerful presence and beliefs known through incisive, anthemic (it's not just a clever album title) attacks on religion, apathy, and selfishness. An activist in politics and charity, she truly takes angry, power pop to a higher level. If Alanis Morissette is Coca-Cola, RPM is Jolt Cola. (DP)

Salim Nourallah Polaroid Western Vinyl • Salim's slow, haunting vocals are emotionally charged and the result can be a mix of feelings, both happy and sad. The music, for the most part, is slow tempo, creating a rainy afternoon kind of feel. While the message of the album is not entirely depressing, it certainly made me feel that way. However, there's no doubt, this album is a passionate work of art and Salim is a very talented songwriter. (CM)

Sanford Arms The Twilight Era Blue Disguise Records • Sanford Arms isn't exactly what you'd expect from former Alcohol Funnycar frontman Ben London. Much like Eric Bachmann's post-Archers of Loaf efforts under the Crooked Fingers moniker, Ben London turns down the volume to reveal some well-crafted, alt-country influenced tunes. London's melancholy pop is reminiscent of Mark Eitzel and the Pernice Brothers. (CL)

Scoville Unit Everybody Knows Ernest Jenning Record Co. • This is sweet pop melodies with extremely catchy keyboard parts. Unfortunately, the singer could use a lesson or two. While not horrible, it just sounds like your friend who consistently sings along with his CD player in the car while you are driving with him, but he isn't quite sure of his range so he sings to low. It really is too bad too because minus that this is a good and catchy CD. Tracks like "Do Not Disturb" let us into a softer and more expressive side of the band, while "The Switch" hammers out a catchy riff that repeats until it is drilled into your brain. It shows good promise and the band could be good, just not yet. They are on the verge of maybe making that one song that changes it all. (MC)

Sheek the Shayk Hour of the 7th Moon Laughing Outlaw Records • Their promotional material says that the disc is "a 57 minute one-way trip into the blubber zone." I've got no fucking idea what that means. The disc, however, id a good rock and roll disc. Reminiscent almost immediately of old AC/DC with a slight psychedelic twist from the 60's thrown in. This disc has enough strangeness and straight up rock and roll to satisfy just about anyone. (MK)

Simon Joyner Lost With The Lights On Jagjaguwar • In the spirit of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the endless number of folk singer/songwriters comes yet another dreary and detailed journey through one mans jangly trials in life. Simon possesses a voice that soothes and a guitar that aches along emotional changes and atmospheric soundscapes on an album that carries on like a lonely afternoon that never seems to end. (JC)

Smogtown All Wiped Out TKO Records • It's the beach! It's new wave! It's punk! It's defunct. Smogtown is, in fact, no longer a band. This is too bad because these 8 tracks from their last 2 recording sessions are a good sampling of a band that obviously had a lot to offer. Catchy riffs and lots of rock and roll fun make this a good disc. (MK)

Some Girls All My Friends Are Going Death Deathwish • With members from American Nightmare, Unbroken and The Locust, you can imagine how aggressive Some Girls is. Their debut CD includes some new songs alongside tracks from their previous 7"s and some demos, all remixed and remastered for your listening displeasure. (AL)

Sounds Like Braille Right out of Left Field, Straight to the Middle of NowhereŠ Contraphonic • Sounds Like Braille have the ability to lull you into a trance with soothing guitars, only to jolt you to your feet after turning on the distortion, they turn it down again. They employ two drummers and two bass players, and a guitarist, creating a wall of sound that is as complex to the ears as Braille is to the eyes. (AL)

Sour Grapes Divine Grind self-released • How can you say anything bad about a band that just seems to love to play? This is an acoustic folk trio with 11 tracks that were recorded at three different locations, one being Orford's River Jam at The Pastures Campground. They give you Caribbean influenced hippy rock complete with conga drums, harmonica, male and female vocals and foot percussion (tap shoes on pine boards). (MP)

Spanish For 100 Newborn Driving self-released • This is up-tempo indie rock in the realm of Modest Mouse, mostly vocally. The title track seems to emulate bands like Built to Spill. It is a little too poppy to really fall into the same category as some of the aforementioned, but this four piece from Seattle does what they do well. The tingy guitars do seem to match well with their style and pop melodies. These ten tracks feel like the kind that will grow on you the more you listen. It's also the debut release from the band, so I'm very interested to hear from these guys in the future. (MP)

St. James The St. James Experience self-released • In the spirit of the onslaught of talented female artists comes the compelling St. James. Her multipurpose voice and sound is in the same realm as that of Nelly Furtado, Beyonce Knowles and the like. Many tracks on this release are radio and music video ready with a womanly attitude somewhere between comforting and independently strong. She combines the soulful, hip-hop and alternative rock elements of today's pop music to create engaging songs such as "Burnin' Inside Me," "The Truth" and "Trains Of Thought." With just enough of an edge to this release, the familiarity and catchiness found here should result in quite the experience. (JC)

Subhumans Live in a Dive Fat Wreck Chords • The next in the Live in a Dive series brings UK's Subhumans and 26 of their favorite tracks to a CD player near you. Even though they originally broke up in 1985, their never-ending popularity forced them to tour again in 1998 and other times since then. If you never got the chance of experiencing them live, here's your chance. (AL)

Sweet William Gone To Seed Zendevil Records • Hailing from the "backwoods of Brooklyn" comes Sweet Williams, a banjo pickin', mandolin and guitar strumming,' chime-playing kind of band too drunkin' happy for their own good. Musically this album is a superb mixture of country honky-tonk, beer soaked ballads, folk and rock songs that are ideal for any campfire. The liner notes give insight behind each track that comes backed by The Country Gentlemen with a refreshing approach and enlightening sound no matter how deep the sorrow, or how high the tide. (JC)

The Blithe Sons Arm of the Starfish Family Vineyard Records •The tracks on this album cannot really be called songs. No structure exists, and instead the songs follow more of a stream of consciousness path. These are minimalist folk atmospheres performed outdoors so the environment becomes part of the band. (AL)

The Bloody Lovelies Some Truth & A Little Money Cheap Lullaby Records • From the opening track on, high-energy, down-home rock-n-roll is conjured up by tales of "loneliness, liquor and femme fatales." "You Don't Love Me" is a piano laced track that comes off as a new century Doors rock song with the band building the suspense while Randy Wooten croons about his chaos of emotions. As things progress, hints of Billy Joel, The Police and pure raunchy rock music are blended well. What you get with this band is a combination of great songwriting and perfect musical execution. (JC)

The Building Press Young Money 54°40' or Fight • This was my first time hearing The Building Press and I loved every second of it. TBP play awesome angular northwest postcore rock reminiscent of bands like Faraquet, 31 Knots, and Rockets Red Glare. This album is a true gem. Everything this label touches turns to gold, I swear. Check for yourself. (RP)

The Calculators Circuit Breaking Silence / Simplicity And Style 10" Reissue Princehouse Records • This reissue of the now-defunct (1997-99) San Francisco band The Calculators is New Wave worship, pure and simple. If the singer isn't English, he's pulling an Alain Jorgensen on us. Too bad this band isn't still around, I'd love to hear how they would have mutated. (SJM)

The Casualties On The Front Line Side One Dummy Records • California's "Gods of Street Punk/Oi," The Casualties, have unleashed yet another album with On The Front Line, which is exactly where The Casualties stand when someone commits an act of blasphemy on anyone willing to denounce their faith in punk or the scene in which they so strongly represent. This album brings more angst, revolting and bloody carnage than any other album and, unlike the tendencies of most (selling out or slowing down), The Casualties are kicking faces in harder than every before. Take all those sing-a-longs, thrashy vocals, solos, and bass lines, multiply this by 10 and you're now On The Front Line. (CMax)

The Change self-titled Fight Fire With Fire • Wow! Sweden is so cool and they know how to make their hardcore bands sound just like ours. I think that is so rad when bands from other countries copy us; it's so flattering. I bet that Sick Of It All will be stoked to hear that they have a carbon copy of themselves in Sweden. (RP)

The Crumbs Last Exit TKO Records • Miami, FL and The Ramones? Totally antithesis of one another, however, The Crumbs can produce an efficient analogy between the two. Hailing from Miami, The Crumbs formed due to their love for The Ramones, Dead Boys, and the "old school sounds." Try The Ramones meets a little bits of Tim Armstrong, throw in The Hives, and you've put the crumbs together to form the foundation on which The Crumbs have built themselves and will forever reside. Not my favorite, however, any fan of The Ramones or any "old school" act prevailing dominantly in the '80s, this one is for you. (CMax)

The Eternals Out Of Proportion Discos Antifaz • Chicago based group The Eternals features ex members from Trenchmouth and Tortoise, and specialize in dub influenced music. The bass is deep, the groove heavy. Even though dub is an important part of the sound, they also add a bit of jazz and funk flavors, which set them apart from the rest. (AL)

The Everyothers The Everyothers Hautlab • "I'm working on my New York tan" says so much in the opening track of this 70's style rock album similar to the heyday of David Bowie and Iggy Pop, mixed with The Strokes and Queens of the Stones Age of today. The edginess in sound is complimented by the drug-induced (sounding) vocal duties of Owen McCarthy, who sings about a slut at a bar, intoxication, and death among other things. Their simple, and raw, approach brings their live show sound to disc with an energy that keeps this band tightly wound and jamming throughout. (JC)

The Faithfull Our Own Heroes Reason Y Records • The Faithfull play some emo-esque, anthemic rock, along the lines of Hot Water Music. While the songs are solid, there's the overwhelming sense that you've heard this somewhere before. The lyrics cover many of the same topics of girls and girls who don't love us/the band/insert someone's name here. There's nothing that really distinguishes them from the many bands mining this same territory. (CL)

The Fierce Lime and His Ponytail Assassins Modify The Engines Woosley Band • This is not what I expected. Always a good thing. This collection of mostly short songs is an eclectic mix of styles. This is radio rock that you could hear on any commercial radio station. Some of the longer, slower songs stand out as being examples of what this band is capable of. They are pretty good. (MK)

The Frequency self-titled NFI • Sebastian Thomson of Trans Am has announced with this first solo album that he "want[s] to make a record that could wake the shoegazers from their corpse-like sleep, breaking their habit of going to shows, standing in the corner, [and] nodding like human bobbleheads." If the intent of this music is to command me to dance, you're going to have to do better than rehash Gary Numan with a flourish of Miami bass. (SJM)

The Glass Concorde Makeshift Music • From the banks of the muddy waters of the mighty Mississippi, or some other cliché about being from Memphis, the Glass skillfully blend indie rock and Americana. Imagine Low's reverb-drenched slo-core spliced with alt-country, and some uneasy, quivering vocals like a distraught Jay Farrar. (CL)

The Good Brothers Project Blowed Presents Project Blowed • Headed by Aceyalone, this collection features underground hip-hop heavyweights from the west coast with beats coming from RJD2, Fat Jack, PMG, Boss Beats and Riddlore. Unfortunately there is just a bit too much tangled up within this release to make things flow easily. The sound comes off dated at times, sounding like it's been made in the late nineties, but the true-school hip-hop head will appreciate the diversity brought to the table by each emcee on a release that features a taste from everyone. Appearances are made by Abstract Rude, Bus Driver, 2Mex, Cypher 7 and Awol One to name a few. (JC)

The Hiss Mute Print Nitro Records • Formerly known as Smackin Issah, this Massachusetts five-piece has a four-year history, a new name and a new album. A Wilhelm Scream comes out blazing with this 11-track release, fusing elements of Strike Anywhere, Boy Sets Fire and Lawrence Arms. There's a perfect blend of hardcore aggression and power punk melodies, a balanced mix of screamed and sung vocals and enough tempo changes to keep the most attention-deficit rocker occupied. The guitar parts are incredible, intricately woven through each track and the pounding rhythms are infectious and intense, creating an irresistible result. (CM)

The Letter Press Input/Output Sunset Alliance Records • A three-piece band with no guitars? And they're good? Yes and yes. Two basses work together to create rhythmically beautiful melodies. Seven new songs of tight, very smooth indie rock that really can't be compared directly to another band. Each track sounds fuller than the last and it is easy to forget they are only a three piece. "Ember" reminded me of something that could have been on Jimmy Eat World's "Clarity," with its slow, driving melody and harmonies. Great musicianship with an original niche. (MP)

The Lift Road To Hana Little Red Records • Following in the tracks laid down by Radiohead, Coldplay and The Flaming Lips, this band has an edgy rock sound that tends to get intricate at times. Influenced by bands such as U2 and R.E.M. throughout growing-up, The Lift has put together an album that flows well from beginning to end. Touching on issues of war in "War Parade" and the attempts at removing ourselves from the world's problem in "Spaceman," the atmosphere on this album ranges from straight ahead rock songs to indie-pop emotions and carries a good groove throughout. (JC)

The Method and Result The Things You Miss The Losing Blueprint Records / KiraKira Disc Records • If you've liked Björk's last couple of albums, then you will like The Method and Result's The Things You Miss. In it, this duo combines female vocals beautifully singing over electronic beats created from regular instruments and random noises, including office supplies and the ambient noise from inside a cave. While the background music is pure electronic genius, and the vocals are superb, the combination of the two did not work for me. Megan Wendell would sound better singing over acoustic guitars. (AL)

The New Black self-titled Thick Records • These guys, and girls, have influences that are all over the map. Ranging from some of the old punk rock like Wire and some of the new wave bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees. Tracks like "Last Wave" even have a Dick Dale surf rock feel to them. This CD is good but not great. If they keep it up it will be interesting to see if they follow the path of the ever increasing popularity of bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeah's or if New Black will lead us down a brand new path. (MC)

The Nick Strange Group Ghost of Love self-released • I love it when I get a disc that I can't classify. This could be soft rock. It could be smooth pop. It could almost be contemporary jazz. The Nick Strange Group is a talented group of musicians who have managed to hammer out a unique sound in an increasingly homogenous music scene. Great licks and catchy riffs will keep you listening. (MK)

The Normans Dreams of Autocrashes India Records • Slow to mid tempo indie pop with soothing vocals. Distorted vocals over poppy guitar lines on the track, "Writing" threw the album off. Its slightly twangy feel on this song is contradicted with vocals that sound more reminiscent of a new wave band. These 16 tracks are for the indie pop new waver. (MP)

The Pubert Brown Fridge Occurence A Once And Future Thing Laughing Outlaw Records • That's some kind of name you got there, fellas. Sydney, Australia's music scene has produced a group capable of channeling the spirit of late 60's British Beat, psychedelia intact. The album opens with an appropriate cover of The Beatle's "Eight Days A Week", and then ambles through a group of fun, weird, weirdly fun, and funnily weird songs. Seriously, if you muddy the mix, fill it with some more vocal reverb, you could release it on LP and no one would know it wasn't from that time period. Silly stuff, indeed. (SJM)

The Sinister Quarter Pink Guillotine Exotic Fever Records • The Sinister Quarter's singer immediately reminds me simultaneously of Grace Slick and Björk, with an underlayment of Cher(!). The music is experimental, inspired angular indie math rock. It's not really possible to get an accurate feel for them from this explanation, though, and I would feel like a dick if I left it at that. It's really angry and powerful, and requires multiple listenings to get a feel for. That alone makes it worth a shot. (SJM)

The Slackers Close My Eyes Hellcat Records • Since 1991, the Slackers have been creating some of the best ska out there. Close My Eyes continues the trend, with twelve tracks of traditional ska. Only a band as good as this one can ride the waves of popularity that this genre has experienced, and come out unscathed. (AL)

The Sun + The Moon self-titled self-released • This self-released album is recorded perfectly on target, giving the songs a stronger impact than a squeaky clean production would have. Instrumentation is excellent, and the nice harmonies lend buoyancy to the already bouncy tracks. There is a strong hippie, folk element that I don't personally care for, but that is not to cast it as backwards-looking, nor should it dissuade anyone who likes this style of music. It's soulful and fun - give it a try. (SJM)

The Talk It's Like Magic In Reverse Morisen Records • From the get-go, this is a super, melodic, pop rock romp. The vocals led me to, initially, believe the band is from the UK. But, hark, wrong is me. They're from Charlotte, North Carolina. Regardless, this quartet's second full-length album is an impressively crafted bit of joy. Produced by Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, The Faint), his previous project involvement comes through on this release, with at least a few tracks sounding reminiscent of Bright Eyes and The Faint, as well as Conor Oberst's (Bright Eyes) side project, Desaparecidos. The resulting 12 tracks are a guitar rockfest with plenty of sweaty, feedback-happy pop. (CM)

The Vrooom In This Scene The Vrooom • Shades of The Police, certain structural elements of lounge jazz and 60's pop, and open two and three-part harmonies distinguish this self-released band. You can't fault these guys for not having a signature sound - they do - though listening to the album straight through can cause the songs to blur together. Many of these songs are really good; perhaps a little variation in sound could elevate them to excellent. (SJM)

Thomas and Sampson When the Lower Resembles the Higher Western Vinyl • I was starting to become a fan of this kind of lo-fi synth pop indie thing that's been happening lately. The pulsing pushing sounds kinda dig a groove into you like a greatly worn out record, and the sugar pop sweetness puts you under a giant oak on a spring dayŠ But the vocals ruin it for me, like a rain cloud catching you under that very same oak tree. (KM)

Tony Touch The Peace Maker II Koch Records • Another mix coming from Puerto Rico's finest Tony Touch, this follow-up may be a slight step-up from the original Peace Maker, because it comes off sounding like a solid collective, rather than half-hearted offerings. Right away, the English-Spanish dialogue is greeted swiftly with stellar thumping beats and a high-energy approach with a host of emcees flowing along for the ride. Much of this gives props to New York, Spaniards and street level bravado. "How You Want It" with Redman, Erick Sermon and Keith Murray, "Rock Steady" with Raekwon, Method Man and U-God, and "Trouble On The Westside Highway" with Slick Rick are just a few tracks that standout. Dead Prez, Nature, Fat Joe, Sean Paul and the Bad Boy camp also appear. (JC)

Toxic Narcotic Shoot People, Not Dope Rodent Popsicle Records • Coming strong with a scream core punk attitude and four new tracks on this release, Toxic raises more hell on tracks like "People Want To Kill Each Other" and the remix of "Cockroach." The downfall is that the chaotic musical approach is not mixed well, drowning out the hostile and aggressive vocals that make this worth the time. (JC)

Toys That Kill Flys Asian Man Records • This is fun, catchy punk rock from San Pedro, CA. This four-song EP is much more intelligent than your typical fare, with a bouncy, raunchy cover of Wire's "I Am The Fly". The vocals meet the highly snotty criteria of punk to a tee. Enjoy. (SJM)

Transistor,Transistor/Wolves split CD Level Plane • Transistor Transistor and Wolves are two loud, screamy hardcore punk bands from New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Transistor has a heavy rock sound with catchy guitars. Wolves have a more old sound, almost like G.B.H., Casualties or something along those lines. (NP)

T-Rivers Anytime-Anyplace Urban Ikon • Fresh from battle rapping in the streets of North Philadelphia, T-Rivers keeps it gutter and brings out his braggadocios demeanor on this release that shows him flaunting his O.G. status about cars, friends, ladies and Scarface admirations. Production is pretty basic, with thumping beats that have a slight southern bounce to them, but at times don't fit with the rhyme styles being displayed that mainly refabricate typical thugged-out releases of the past. (JC)

Tungsten74 Aleatory Element Technical Echo Records • As opposed to many instrumental bands out there who simply play a certain style for the entire disc, Tungsten74 keep things interesting by constantly changing what they are playing. What's amazing is that it was pretty much completely improvised. Some parts are acoustic, some electronic, and others delve into noise, but all are hypnotic and well worth a listen. (AL)

Tweaker 2 a.m. Wakeup Call IMusic • For his second venture as Tweaker, Nine-Inch-Nails founding member Chris Vrenna changes his sound a bit, adding more live instrumentation, including drums and guitars. The album revolves around insomnia and what it makes you feel, so the atmosphere is quite creepy and moody. Guest singers include Robert Smith, Mellowdrone, Nick Young and Jennifer Charles. (AL)

Ty Upwards Big Dada • Self-produced with the help of Drew from Psychic Phenomena and Doze Guys, Ty spits his British, Reggae accent around tightly combined funky, soulful, dance hall beats. "Ha Ha" gets things started in style but things turn a bit soft by the end. This emcee often rhymes of the fun and heartfelt times with his lady alongside melodic hooks throughout much of this. Ty shines on tracks such as "Oh You Want More?" and "The Willing" with great musical direction, but much of this comes off undecided. (JC)

U.N.I.T. UNTITLED Urban Ikon • Comprised of emcees Baff and Sinis, with the majority of beats provided by Stoutamire, this release is packed with radio versions and sub par songs. Baff brings a street level approach lyrically and Sinis provides a little wordplay with his rhymes. But it's mostly full of Œmoney this,' Œdrink that,' Œfreak this,' Œrunnin' that,' type of flows. Production wise, this crew is a few steps behind, with a thumping sound and string-layered backdrop that carries some cobwebs. (JC)

Uncle Fucker Usurpers of the Tradition self-released • You may think it crazy, but Uncle Fucker, the world's only bluegrass, thrash metal band says that they have something of a difficult time getting press coverage. This should change. Here is a really cool band that plays the most disturbing blend of music I've had the pleasure to subject myself to in a long time. They should become the new official band of the USA. It sucks you in, kicks you in the nuts, and keeps you listening. (MK)

Various Artists Blood Sweat & Ten Years Trustkill Records • This is the tenth anniversary of the heavy music purveyors at Trustkill Records, and to celebrate, they released this compilation with 18 tracks from some of their best. Featured on the disc are Eighteen Visions, Walls of Jericho, Throwdown, Poison The Well, Nora, Most Precious Blood, and others. This is the perfect label sampler...get this to get a flavor for what the label has to offer. (AL)

Various Artists Building Records Presents... 60 SONGS Building Records • Well I think it will be near impossible to review 60 songs. That's right, the CD title isn't lying, this is a double album containing 60 of the finest bands from Building Records, Robotic Empire, Lovitt Records, Level Plane Records and Deplorable Records. I will name some stand out songs for you: Division of Laura Lee with their track "Fourty Four"; Bats and Mice with "Sliding Scale"; Pilot to Gunner with "Action Items"; Black Sea with "Landscapes" and the ever wonderful Fin Fang Foom with "In Harm's Way", and that's just disc One. For disc two I would have to say Oil with "Autonomous"; Engine Down with "Songbird"; The Now with "She's Heroin"; and Pinebender with "Well-Calibrated Moral Compass." It is a lot of songs to go through, but well worth the $12 dollars. It is a good mix of metal and indie. (MC)

Various Artists DJ Rhettmatic –Exclusive Collection Up Above Records • This two-disc set features a long line of emcees with the mixing of World Famous Beat Junkies DJ Rhettmatic. In a world full of mix tapes and guest appearances, it takes a lot to stand out from the bunch, and though this release is sub-par, the bonus disc is tight and the Exclusive Collection does have some highlights. Talib Kweli and Sadat X spit nicely over the sonic production of Geology on "Communicate," Dilated Peoples presents the long sought after "Bullet Train" and the Visionaries shine with "Hindsight." Appearances also include Jurassic 5, Pete Rock, Kool G. Rap, The Beatnuts and Jay Dee. (JC)

Various Artists Embedded Joints Embeddded Music • The production duo of Ese & Hipsta have done it again. This label sampler consists of a bangin' collection of tracks due for release on upcoming albums from the likes of Embedded, Tes, Babbletron and Not For Nothin', each gets three tracks, back to back with bonus material rounding things out. Very much worth the experience, because this labels formula caters to the hip-hop head and the casual listener. These beats stay funky with production and emcee help from El-P, DJ Pre, Donnan Linkz, Aceyalone, Atoms Family, Vast Aire and Mr. Complex. (JC)

Various Artists Makeshift #3 Makeshift Music • Makeshift #3 is the third compilation out of Memphis from this label heavy on an intricate alternative to the formulated rock of today. Kicking things off is The Coach and Four, sounding very much like The Police of the eighties, before blending nicely into the atmospheric acoustics and melodies of Vending Machine. The experimentation and disregard to musical boundaries makes this an excellent collection of tracks that at times gets emotional but always keeps a groovy resolution. Standout tracks on this lengthy installment come from Snowglobe, Nervous Patterns and The Reigning Sound. (JC)

Various Artists MIAD Somia Music, Inc. • Miami is the last place from which you would expect top rate glitchtronica, but labels like Schematic and Somia Music are turning heads with their forward thinking music. In this compilation, fourteen artists showcase their talents in creating songs with plenty of glitchy beats and beautiful melodies. Contributing tracks are Captain Marmalade, Clapan, Otto Von Shirach, Phoenicia, Xanopticon, and others. (AL)

Various Artists SCRAP Punk Compilation SCRAP Records • Great hardcore and punk stuff, mostly from the UK and a little from Europe, and a touch of the Americas as well. The one band you'll know is Conflict; the bands you'll want to know are Wall of Denial, Discoder, Broken, and Bacchus Temple Addicts. Over all this comp really pretty much rules. (KM)

Vast Aire Look Mom...No Hands Chocolate Industries • For the first solo release from one part of Cannibal Ox, Vast spits versatile one-liners over atmospheric and spacey beats filled with organ, synth and bass sounds reminiscent of Ox's underground classic The Cold Vein. His flows are at times recycled from previously released material and delivered with a heavy "huffing" voice, which comes from the depths of his largely framed build. The line-up of guest appearances on this release is thick, beginning with S.A. Smash, Blueprint, MF Doom, Sadat X, Aesop Rock and more. Sounds bounce around, from new era g-funk beats to soul driven tempos, production work is provided by RJD2, Ayatollah, Da Beatminerz, Camu Tao and Madlib with scratches cut by DJ Cip. Things start slowly in the beginning, as this release comes out after numerous impressive cameos by Vast have set the bar for his first effort, and is a telling tale of poetic insight and tricky street play. (JC)

Vice Dolls Die Trying Crosscheck Records • This is a good hardcore disc. I love female lead singers, especially in ferocious music. This chick has a tiny little cartoon voice that seems to stand in stark contrast to the ferocious thrashing of the music. It works better in some songs than in others, but n all, it is a nice break from the howling testosterone screams that most HC bands fire off. (MK)

Walls of Jericho All Hail The Dead Trustkill Records • This is what Kittie wish they sounded like. Only one member of Walls of Jericho is female, but lead singer Candace Kucsulain blows away most other hardcore singers with her aggressive vocal style. Not that the rest of the band members are slouches. Guitar riffs that sometimes remind of Slayer and insane drumming round out this aural assault. (AL)

Wheelhorse Victrola for Sale self-released • Victrola for Sale is the debut album for Kentucky's Wheelhorse. These guys take a variety of traditional styles such as blues and bluegrass, and incorporate them into their classic rock-based style. The mandolins and banjos fit in nicely beside the tube-driven electric guitars. At the band's heart are the stylings of traditional country, with narrative storylines of lost love, traveling, and other familiar tales given their own unique perspective. Fans of alt-country, Americana, and classic rock will definitely enjoy this album. (CL)

Whitman Music And Dancing Happenin Records • This assemblage of often hilarious, creepy source material put to a beat is really just that. While I would love to hear the source material, I feel like I could do a better job of putting it together using the music software in my computer. Check out their website ( though. It's a nice joke. (SJM)

X Evil Rumors Laughing Outlaw Records • So when you think "X," you think heroin and old school punk, right? When you think of a new live two-disc set you think, "Playing for beer money?" right? No. This is a great disc. It's like X unplugged. cello, violins, sax, organs – all kinds of fun stuff to keep the sense of unpredictability going. This disc shows the talent of the band and brings a new side of them into view. (MK)

Yes Sensei We Who Transplant Sustain ROk LOk Records • When first entering the dojo of Yes Sensei, I was struck in the mouth by noisy disorienting rock and then, just moments later, I was kicked in the nards by their blatant disregard for song structure. When I finally recovered from this ass beating, I realized that these guys reminded me of Jesus Lizard with a hint of punk rock and roll. I strongly recommend these Long Island ass kickers for your next big showdown. No Mercy! (RP)

In alphabetical order. Please write them.

!K7 Records,
5 Rue Christine,
54°40' or Fight,
7940 Records,
Angura Sound,
Arthur Yoria,
Asian Man Records,
B.E. Mann,
Barsuk Records,
Benchmark Records,
Big Dada Recordings,
Black Love,
Blue Canoe Records,
Blue Disguise Records,
Blue Note Records,
Brandon Patton,
Building Records,
Captain Yonder,
Cass Records,
Cheap Lullably Records,
Chocolate Industries,
Compost Records,
Constellation Records,
Contrived Violence, no contact info available
Crosscheck Records,
Deathwish Records,
Deep Elm Records,
Definitive Jux Records,
Deplorable, PO Box 430, Newtown, NSW 2042 Australia
Devil In The Woods,
Dim Mak Records,
Discos Antifaz,
Disposable Pop Rev,
Does Everyone Stare?,
Eenie Meenie Records,
Embedded Music,
Empty Records,
Ernest Jenning Record Co.,
Exotic Fever Records,
False Walls Records,
Family Vineyard Recs,
Fat Cat Records,
Fat Possum,
Fat Wreck Chords,
Ferret Music,
Fight Fire With Fire,
Fistolo Records,
Flying Kite Records,
Forge Again Records,
Frenetic Records,
Friends For Heroes,
Fudge Sickill Recs,
Gaki Records,
Gold Standard Labs,
Green Room Records,
Happenin Records,
Heidi Howe,
Hellcat Records,
Hor!zen Music,
House of Stairs,
Hydrogen Line Records, no contact info available
I Voted For Kodos,
Iconic Rocket Records,
In Music We Trust,
India Records,
Inferno Recordings
Ionik Records,
Iıve Come For Your Children, no contact info available
JackoMatic Music,
Jade Tree,
John P Barton,
Jumpstart Records,
K Records,
Kemado Records,
Kill Rock Stars,
KiraKira Disc Records,
KOCH Records,
Laughing Outlaw,
Level Plane,
Like Clockwork,
Little Red Records,
Look Records,
Lookout Records,
Lost on Purpose,
Makeshift Music,
Malt Soda Recordings,
Martyr Records,
Morisen Records,
Morr Music,
Mungler Winslowe Recs,
Nature Sounds,
Nice Noise Records,
Nick Strange,
Ninja Tune Recordings,
Nitro Records,
No Idea,
NYC Grounds,
Orange Twin Records,
Plug Research,
Prinehouse Records,
Project Blowed,
Rapster Records,
Reason Y Records,
Rob Hornfeck,
Rodent Popsicle Records,
Rok Lok Records,
Saddle Creek,
Sao Bento Music,
Secretly Canadian,
Side One Dummy Records,
Silverthree Sound Recordings,
Smiley Jones Records,
Somia Music, Inc.,
Sour Grapes,
Spanish For 100,
St. James,
Stones Throw,
Studio E Records,
Suburban Home,
Suburban Noize,
Success Pool Records,
Sunset Alliance,
Supa Crucial Recordings,
Technical Echo Records,
The Losing Blueprint,
The Newest Industry,
The Sun + The Moon,
The Vroom,
Thick Records,
Thinker Thought,
TKO Records,
Traitor Records,
Trustkill Records,
Uncle Fucker,
Up Above Records,
Urban Ikon,
Urinine Records,
Victory Records,
Volcom Entertainment,
Western Vinyl,
Wide Hive Records,
Woosley Band,
Zendevil Records,

Music reviews from past issues: