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The Joy Formidable – Wolf’s Law (Atlantic)
This is possibly an even more accomplished effort than their great debut Lp The Big Roar. It feels fresher as this time we don’t have the benefit (?) of hearing half of the songs on a previously released EP. Some song lengths are noticeably longer (notably on “Maw Maw Song” and “The Leopard and the Lung”) and the guitar work on these is stunning, but otherwise they don’t vary much from the sonic assault of their previous material. It’s streaming at Rolling Stone’s site here.
Bleeding Rainbow – Yeah Right (Kanine)
Ignore the middling Pitchfork review (which led to a Twitter spat between band and reviewer) because this is the best album that Bleeding Rainbow (formerly known as Reading Rainbow) has done to date. Though its best songs are the already released singles (don’t miss “Waking Dream,” but “Pink Ruff” and “Drift Away” are great, too), there are other highlights like “Shades of Eternal Night” scattered throughout. Sometimes, it feels a bit too long to take in one sitting, but with such quality material (at times indebted to 4AD dream pop like Lush and at other sounding like the early Cranberries listening to Sonic Youth and at others even like a female-fronted Redd Kross), this is easily overlooked. Some will miss the rough-hewn feel of their first few albums, but in this case the shinier production helps and doesn’t hinder.
The Night Marchers – Allez Allez (Swami)
This one was a bit of a grower, but now I view songs like “Loud, Dumb and Mean,” “Thar She Blows” and especially the excellently-titled “(Wasting Away in) Javalinaville” as the equivalent of anything on their 2008 debut See You in Magic.
Bad Religion – True North (Epitaph)
Some are saying that this is the best, or at least the fastest, Bad Religion album in 20 years. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it is a more consistent listen than the front-loaded last Lp, 2010’s The Dissent of Man. Overall, all the BR trademarks are here from the numerous backing vocals to super-intelligent, socio-political lyrics, but this one seems to have the urgency of 2002’s The Process of Belief and 2007’s New Maps of Hell and is one of their better recent efforts. The overall feel reminds me quite a bit of 1994’s major-label debut Stranger than Fiction.
Goat – World Music (Rocket Recordings)
Yes, this has been getting a lot of hype lately, but I think that the praise heaved upon this mysterious Swedish outfit is well-deserved. The hypnotic, psychedelic grooves contain herein occasionally make me think of Thee Hypnotics (appropriately enough) as well as older influences like early ’70s Funkadelic.
Brothers in Law – Hard Times for Dreamers (We Were Never Being Boring)
It’s no surprise that the debut Lp (at only 9 songs, a short, sharp dose) from these Italian post-punkers is every bit as good as the one track that I’d previously heard (“Leave Me”). At times, the vibe here is reminiscent of The Lucy Show and that’s a very good thing indeed. Check it out here.
Kinski – “Conflict Free Diamonds”
The first released track from Kinski’s forthcoming Kill Rock Stars debut Cosy Moments (and their first album in five years) may be a surprise to many as it features prominent lead vocals and structure resembling a pop song as opposed to the mostly instrumental riffing of yesteryear. Lest fans worry, though, there’s still plenty of heaviness and fuzz to go around. A welcome return! Stream it here.
Killing Joke – MMXII (Spinefarm/Universal)
It’s startling, though perhaps not surprising with the amount of other veteran bands or artists from the late ’70s/early ’80s punk era still doing great work, but 32 years from their self-titled debut in 1980, their 15th studio album (2012 in Roman numerals after the year it was released) is a thundering, metallic (though not metal), apocalyptic screed as brutal and intense (if not more so) as their earliest work. They are finally playing here in April and if their stage show is as intense, all I can say is wow!
Quicksand – Union Transfer (Philadelphia) – January 28, 2012
Though I never saw Quicksand before despite having many opportunities to do so in the ’90s, I redeemed myself and am glad I did. They have an amazing groove for the kind of heavy post-hardcore that they play. It’s real “body music” or felt like it last night. It helps that (as almost always) the sound at Union Transfer was fantastic. I didn’t mind the lasers or the jamming (it somehow fit). I wanted “Hypno Jam”, but alas. I couldn’t have asked for anything else other than “Start Today,” but that would just be greedy. Otherwise, it was perfect. Most importantly, they (esp. Walter Schreifels) seemed to be having a lot of fun. It was sure better than seeing Rival Schools in the early ’00s!
Vivian Girls – Sessiones Con Alejandro Franco (no label)
Last but certainly not least, this footage from a Mexican TV show dates back to 2010 but only surfaced back in December. With amazing audio and video quality and a selection of songs from their first two albums (and a few that would end up on Share the Joy), this is required viewing for Vivian Girls fans. There are several short interview segments, too. Watch it here. I highly recommend it!
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