TRIUMPH OF LETHARGY SKINNED ALIVE TO DEATH: Some of Us Are in This Together
[Don't Stop Believin', available now] Seattle indie vets Spencer (Murder City Devils) Moody and Andrea (Pretty Girls Make Graves) Zollo form the core of this cumbersomeley named quartet, purveyors of —what else — pounding, sludgy Northwestern punk. If you were really into the more interesting, less compromising examples of '90s music from the region (say, Heavens to Betsy), and were wondering if that sound could survive and evolve into the new millennium, TOLSATD should be your cup o' tea. Some punks grow up to be very rich and make Broadway musicals. Others grow up to make albums this awesome.
GHOSTPOET: Peanut Butter Blues and Melancholy Jam
[Brownswood Recordings, Feb. 7]
Feeling strangely oppressed by California's version of winter, a string of endlessly sunny skies and temperatures that rarely dip below brisk? Draw your blinds, crank up your AC, curl up beneath a blanket and throw on U.K. emcee Ghostpoet's debut album. Immersed in the grime scene (the child of U.K. garage, dancehall and hip-hop) in college, he also counts recent L.A. meltdown sufferer Badly Drawn Boy as an influence. With a slightly sluggish voice that often falls short of catching his own dreamy, hypnotic beats, he conjures drowsy visions of staring out into a snowglobe. Pour yourself another bourbon. You know, to warm up.
PEAKING LIGHTS: 936
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[Not Not Fun, Feb. 17]
Fans of the band's first full-length, Imaginary Falcons, won't be disappointed by the sophomore full-length from the Madison-based duo known as Peaking Lights. They continue to do what they do best: harvesting sounds from thrift-store keyboards and layering them gently over minimal beats and reverb-y guitars to make retro-space pop. The repetitive throb of krautrock combines with dub-inspired organ melodies to meander through the tracks. Keyboardist Indra Dunis' celestial vocals float in the ether, decorated with effects courtesy of Aaron Coyes. For fans of Deerhunter, Caribou or Au Revoir Simone.
SUSAN JAMES: Highways, Ghosts, Hearts and Home
[self-released, Feb. 15] Susan James takes country on an acid trip in her fourth release, but she doesn't let on about it right away. "Airstream Girl" and "A Weed Is Not a Weed" start out traditional-twangy enough, like a sweeter version of Julie Roberts. But by fourth track "On Your Side," the musical lines get blurry and you start seeing trails. James sings about the supernatural, her voice going to surprising places, infusing her guitar-picking with unexpected vocal moves. Mysterious, left-field melodies add to the mystery of these strangely pleasing songs.