The Men - Tomorrow's Hits: The Men have come a long way stylistically since Open Your Heart, let alone since the abrasive, disorienting punk/noise rock of Immaculada. While Open Your Heart saw a new incorporation of classic rock and country influence, Tomorrow’s Hits is much more straightforward. In fact, it explores even more uncharted territory, delving deep into roots and heartland rock. The influence of Rock and Roll pioneers is everywhere; there’s the blue collar essence of Bruce Springsteen, the Americana swagger of Tom Petty, the folk swing of electric Bob Dylan, and an occasional horn section reminiscent of the Rolling Stones. Not to mention that Mark Perro’s unrequited wail possesses the same sort of impassioned and deliberate carelessness of Paul Westerberg’s. And though the album has just less than ten tracks, the diversity of songs makes up for it—Another Night has a danceable, Stones-esque groove, Going Down and Different Days sound like a garag-y, early Replacements, the piano ballad Sleepless, and my personal favorite, the ballsy, drunken mess of Pearly Gates. It has a purity of Rock and Roll that is still refreshing somehow, which is hard to come by these days. Another aspect unique to it is that sort of wears its heart on its sleeve; its fun, cathartic, proud, confident, but not too glamorous, and even a little sad in a sweet way, tapping into the very human elements of rock and roll that keeps the genre from ever truly dying. J CLIFFY
Recommended Tracks: "Pearly Gates", "Different Days", "Another Night"
St. Vincent - St. Vincent: I think I use the word groovy in just about every review I write, but this one has the official NWA groove approval. Little Annie is all grown up and she’s laying down some thick glittery jam. This is ART rock, sometimes more about the art than the rock, with Annie jerking wildly onstage as if possessed by some glam demon. Her live show is no doubt a performance, and not just of the music. But, the music on this album manages to shine through the chichi. One might say that these songs are more electronic based with the keyboard often taking up the main decipherable element of the song, but when she does decide to crank up the geetar it’s hard-hitting, catchy riffs as usual. “Bring Me Your Loves” is a good example. The other big difference for me is in content - “Oh, what an ordinary day. Take out the trash, masturbate”. There’s a lot of sexuality in these songs, and it’s sort of surprising considering Annie’s cutesy, child-like nature (Disney movies were once one of her major lyrical influences). This may be a stretch, but I would say she’s becoming the Lana Del Rey of alternative music. And don’t hate on Lana. Oh, and I’m pretty sure Rattlesnake and Digital Witness are the same song; I feel so bad for that keyboardist. SHILL
Recommended Tracks: “Rattlesnake”, “Birth in Reverse”, “Bring Me Your Loves”
The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream: Country rock is not a style that is known for pushing its boundaries. Yet The War on Drugs have pulled some creative strings to create an album that re-invents the sound in a peculiarly modern fashion. It weaves fluidly between realms of country, rock, folk, indie, and even psychedelic, with just the right amount of embellishment and exploration to keep things interesting but tame enough to be listened to again and again. Bandleader and singer Adam Granduciel croons effortlessly in the likes of Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, or Bruce Springsteen, bringing us reverb-smothered Americana and futuristic folk grooves. The odd presence of synth might sound initially awkward, but it quickly becomes acclimated to the songs and contributes to the album’s airy atmosphere. Even more intrinsic to ‘Lost in the Dream’ though is the consistent presence of the telecaster guitar tone, run through lots of reverb and tremolo. The telecaster accompanied by a glowing Wurlitzer on “suffering” might just be the musical equivalent to watching warm syrup being poured over a tall stack of steaming pancakes. Yes, I said it, Sonic Soul Food. And the butter on the pancakes is Granduciel’s Don Henley-esque vocal line, sitting sweetly on top of it. Analogous to the presence of the occasional synth is the fact that there are plenty of pre-programmed drum tracks, one of which is most prevalent on the dreamy, ‘An Ocean In Between the Waves.’ Probably the most admirable thing about The War on Drugs is their unafraid tendency to incorporate plenty of nostalgia in their sound (check out ‘Disappearing’). Their songs are introspective and don’t fail to capture the imagination or invoke emotion. They create wide sonic landscapes and profess calming lyricism that together composes the essence of their genuine songwriting; on ‘Eye’s to the Wind,’ Granduciel sings: “There’s a cold wind blowing down my old road, down the backstreets where the pines grow, as the river splits the undertow.” It’s dense, refreshing, and stimulating, blending sentimentality with the vitality of heartland rock. J CLIFFY
Recommended Tracks: "Under the Pressure", "Red Eyes", "Lost in the Dream"
Mac DeMarco - Salad Days: Mac has somehow become the darling of indie rock. Dudes try to dress like him, fan girls swoon over him (only in rock n roll would anyone swoon over this guy), and Pitchfork writes long form cover stories on him, complete with high res gifs of Mac farting and smoking. He's an unlikely hero, but in a sea of indistinguishable guitar based alternative acts, it's really no surprise that we covet the one who stands out. Not to mention he makes great music. Catchy lyrics, jangly riffs, and a swinging back beat all make for a lofty level of endearment and a healthy dose of danceability in Mac’s tunes. Salad Days takes everything we have come to love about Mac and brings it to the forefront while trading in the empty silliness of his lyrics for depth and emotion. At times Mac even seems serious, like when he’s singing about the very real possibility that his beloved Kiki might get deported to Canada. The solemn sincerity of “Let My Baby Stay” is refreshing and makes Mac all the more charming despite how jealous of Kiki we might be. “Chamber of Reflection” is another stand out for me, dripping with stinky synth; I feel like I’ve slipped into some seedy night club circa 1979. Salad Days is Mac’s brainchild. He wrote everything and recorded all the instruments himself while holed up his little Brooklyn apartment. It’s his most complete offering so far, and while I hate to say it, it’s a sign of his definite maturing. I hope it reaches many fans and brings Mac-y D some more well deserved success. SHILL
Recommended Tracks: "Salad Days", "Brother", "Passing Out Pieces"
Real Estate - Atlas: I played this album for a friend as we plopped down on my couch late at night, drifting in and out of conversation with this soothing backdrop. After a minute or so of silently listening to "Primitive," he said, "I would try to put into words how relaxed I am but that seems like too much work." The effortlessness that characterizes Atlas is spectacularly infectious. I'm hard pressed to think of other albums that have provided such an easy first listen. Part of that is because Real Estate aren't exploring a lot of territory here. Atlas is a guitar album that coasts with blissful arpeggios and subdued melodies. This is indie rock that's comfortable in its own skin, but don't dismiss it based on that notion just yet. For one, the guitar interplay is a consistent strong point, at times reminiscent of Television if they had just come back from a summer getaway at the beach. Atlas bolsters this element with some loose songwriting that provides space for graceful instrumental sections. "April's Song" is a prime example of this delightful restraint. Without uttering a word, it's enough to relax our overstimulated minds into serenity. That's the beautiful, simple pleasure of this album. In theory, it might not sound too lucrative, but it has this ability to fade away the stress of the day. Real Estate make it awfully inviting to just waste time with Atlas. On "Navigator," Martin Courtney sings, "I stare at the hands on the clock / I'm still waiting for them to stop," but it sounds like they already have. NEW NICK
Recommended Tracks: "April's Song", "Navigator", "Primitive"
Liars - Mess: Few musical adventures are more thrilling than the experience of listening to a new Liars record for the first time. Over the course of the band’s 14-year career, they have assumed countless sonic identities: the twitchy dance-punk of their debut, the thundering rhythmic intensity of Drum’s Not Dead (my personal favorite), the dreampop-by-way-of-Ketamine haze that characterizes the self-titled Liars. 2012’s WIXIW saw the group experimenting with a wholly synthesized sound palette for the first time; although the results were largely positive, the band acknowledged their unfamiliarity with electronic composition. On Mess, the trio sounds far more comfortable in their glitchy surroundings but the mood is still vintage Liars: anxious, paranoid, and grueling. Liars have never been easy listening, but the first half of this record is a particularly draining series of hard-hitting industrial bangers spiritually descended from WIXIW’s “Brats”. Although tracks like “Pro Anti Anti” shine in isolation, the album sequencing floods the listener with an overwhelming barrage of chaotic energy. Don’t let that keep you from checking out the highlights, though: “Mess on a Mission” is an outstanding blend of punk fury and fractured electronics, the finest encapsulation of the album’s supposed mission statement. I’m also partial to “Can’t Hear Well”, which features a hypnotizing synth patch that’s an aural massage on good headphones. Also check out “Darkslide” for an immense slice of minimal techno – these guys were playing guitars a few years ago! ZN
Recommended Tracks: "Mess on a Mission", "Can't Hear Well", "Darkslide"
Pure X - Angel: Like much of the 70s soul that’s influenced Pure X for their third album, Angel has its fair share of gooey sentiments. Take “Heaven,” a slow, ingenuous track about, well, Heaven, as an internal destination. Nate Grace, one of two frontmen, sings, “It don’t matter who you are, or how you’re livin’ / The Kingdom is in your heart, Heaven is a feeling.” Pure X aren’t great poets, but the fluency and certitude that they deliver make for a decidedly earnest album. “Starlight” conjures images of teenage infatuation, an idealized view of romance that most eventually dismiss as fantasy, but again, the track’s simplistic descriptions make this fantasy world seem so accessible. This track also makes quick work in setting the tone for a ceaselessly sensual work. (That’s also the last time I’ll use the word “quick” to describe this music.) I imagine Pure X woo many a fine woman by playing these tunes. But hey, I’m not a fine woman, and I’m digging it, too. NEW NICK
Recommended Tracks: "Starlight", "Livin’ the Dream", "Wishin’ on the Same Star"
Perfect Pussy - Say Yes to Love: I guess I should preface this review by admitting that, as an angsty girl myself, I am biased towards bands with angry female vocalists, and to put it simply, Bikini Kill/L7/Bratmobile/(fill in your favorite riot grrrl band here) have nothing on Perfect Pussy. A combination of hardcore influences with a noise rock-driven sound reminiscent of early Dinosaur Jr. (i.e. “You’re Living All Over Me”), “Say Yes to Love” ranges from blaringly aggressive to surprisingly melodic. Opening with the hard-hitting tracks “Driver” and the somewhat discordant “Bells,” Perfect Pussy quickly asserts its raw power and dynamism, but in “Big Stars” and “Interference Fits,” the more distinct guitar melody demonstrate the band’s artistry and ability to be more than just another loud punk band. However, as a first studio album, “Say Yes to Love” has some anticipated shortcomings, namely that half of “Advance Upon the Real” is little more than static noise. Oh, and “VII” does not jibe with the rest of the record at all – it is not even in the same genre, leaning more on the side of earsplittingly distorted, electronic-dominated post-rock than punk. But hey, if that’s your thing, play that track. Anyway, this solid debut definitely deserves some airtime despite its few faults. ASHLEY H.
Recommended Tracks: “Driver”, “Big Stars", “Interference Fits”
Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else: Ohio's Cloud Nothings return to form on “Here and Nowhere Else”. With time the group has become more concise and powerful, cropping their typical output down to a solid eight song collection. CN also whittled down their lineup in the past year, becoming a formidable (though notably more basic) trio. They retain their signature machinegun momentum, with a Ramones-worthy flurry of down-strumming and bass drum kicks. While 2012 standout “Attack On Memory” was a large departure from their earlier releases, the band has backtracked a bit to approximate a sound encompassing their entire catalog. Songs like “I’m Not Part of Me” that retain their intensity but blend in catchy, snarled hooks. LONGHAIR NICK
Recommended Tracks: "I'm Not Part of Me", "Just See Fear", "Psychic Trauma"