• Bird Names, 'Open Relationship' (Unsound)

    On this manic quintet's fourth album, they pile layers of instruments and voices into carnival waltzes and off-kilter sing-alongs like they want to be Chicago's answer to Os Mutantes. The ingenuous, carefully composed refrains of "Regretting Our Fathers" and "New Life" display the band's gift for unaffected hookiness. But too often their thin recordings can't handle the sonic overload, resulting in a mushy din ("Masters of Enjoyment"). Ultimately, Bird Names' lo-fi thumbprint becomes their undoing, leaving you wishing they'd take their songwriting as seriously as their experimentation. BUY: iTunesAmazon

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    Nine Inch Nails

    What? On May 2, The Slip-Nine Inch Nails' eighth full-length since 1989-landed on the band's website with little fanfare, and no option to pay. "This one's on me," a message from Trent Reznor read, his giveaway serving as the culminationof a career-long battle with what the alt-icon saw as the music industry's unfair exploitation of consumers. And this gift is no fruitcake. The Slip exhibits the full force of Reznor's talent for blending visceral emotional outpouring and harsh industrial and electronic urges into accessible song structures. From the dissonant piano and whispered sour nothings of "Lights in the Sky," to the titillating BDSM themes of lead single "Discipline," the album proves that age and maturity have not dulled Reznor's edge, nor has freedom from corporate shackles brightened his pre-apocalyptic world view. Who?

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    The Melvins

    What? On July 8, the Melvins will release their 23rd album in 24 years, Nude With Boots, on Ipecac Recordings. The sludge-rock mainstays are known for consistently crafting the gnarliest of slow-tempo metal offerings, a tradition triumphantly upheld throughout Nude. The continued inclusion of noise duo Big Business on recent recordings anchors the riffs, while the effect of two drummers brings an uncharacteristic brightness to the tempo. This double-drum dominance is most obvious in the album's title track (available for download below), while songs like "Dies Iraea" and "The Savage Hippy" continue the Melvins' time-honored stoner bog sound. Who? The Melvins' influence on the development of rock in the past two decades cannot be underemphasized.

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    Reggie and the Full Effect

    What? Formed when keyboardist James Dewees' former band Coalesce took a brief break, Reggie and the Full Effect have offered a steady supply of genre-mixing hooks for the past decade. And the project's just released LP, Last Stop: Crappy Town,is no exception, reintroducing musical cognates pop-punk, emo, hardcore, and metal with urgency, while taking its inspiration from Brooklyn's subway system, with songs named and ordered according to how train lines cross. Who? As the tale goes, a mythical bluesman named Reggie recorded a number of tapes of material, all of which were lost in a studio fire in the 1980s, only to reappear on the doorstep of Vagrant records in 2000.

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    Broken Social Scene

    What: With the second installment of the Broken Social Scene Presents series -- Brendan Canning's Something for All of Us -- scheduled to drop July 22, the Toronto collective will bring their expansive jam-pop to Bonnaroo this weekend. The group is known for its multi-faceted, heavily-instrumented songs, in which multitudinous musical ingredients build together around simple song structures. The results range in style from sprawlingly exuberant to thoughtfully reigned-in, but are always perfect examples of pop collaboration at its most rich and inclusive.

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    What? Three years after releasing their terrific set Road to Rouen, quintessential Brit rockers Supergrass return June 10 with Diamond Hoo Ha, proving that the right combination of energy, humor, and perfectly-crafted hooks never gets old. As the band's sixth studio full-length, the new album mixes five decades of Britpop stylings into its consistently tight and exuberant rock; from psychedelic Beatles-esque harmonies, to Roxy Music spun-out sax solos, to the classic Buzzcocks-inspired pop-and-sneer we know and love. Who? Oxford-bred pals Gaz Coombes (vocals/guitar), Danny Goffey (drums), and Mickey Quinn (bass) have been playing together since 1993, releasing their debut album, I Should Coco, in 1995. Gaz's older brother and longtime Supergrass collaborator Rob Coombes (keys) was officially incorporated in 2002, rounding out the quartet.

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    Pete Yorn Charms Along the Hudson

    With his smirking charisma and cache of recognizable melodies in tow, Pete Yorn strolled into Manhattan's circular, castle-like 79th Street Boat Basin last night (May 15) and strummed out an intimate acoustic set at the Amsterdam-themed Amstel Light Lounge 1870 gala, sponsored by Spin. As revelers were treated to Dutch hors d'oeuvres and complimentary Amstel Light, Yorn, with his radio-friendlysonic formula, had the crowd singing along from the first refrain of "Life on a Chain," off 2001's debut Musicforthemorningafter. Soft, tuned-down renditions of other big hits -- "Life...," "Strange Condition," and "Just Another" -- were met with rapturous applause and clinking glasses held high. Armed only with a worn acoustic guitar, the singer/songwriter mostly sang through emotionally clenched teeth and closed eyes, moaning melodically over chord strums between lyrical rambles.

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    Ginger's Hard Rock Cuts Bid NYC Adieu

    Stripped of pretension, what separates a rock god from the wannabe masses is the way he wears his bandanna on his wrist, grit on his sleeve, and above all, how he engages his audience. The legendary Ginger of the Wildhearts -- Bono-coif, flame tattoos, hawk profile and all -- unaffectedly greeted friends and acquaintances as he took the stage at Pianos last night (April 24). Following a self-conscious but amusing introduction by emcee Dave, the seven-member band of "friends" launched into a set culled from Ginger's huge catalogue of classic hard rock gems. After finishing the first number -- "This is Only a Problem," from Valor del Corazon -- with a burst of "the best feedback in New York," the charismatic singer began what seemed to be his favorite part of performing: the banter.

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    Shy Child, the Gossip Bring Refined Spazz to NYC

    "We're feeling loose!" Shy Child's Pete Cafarella shouted happily before the sixth tune of the duo's eight-song set at Manhattan's Webster Hall last night (April 15). Loose is right. Where the recordings of the synth/dance-pop act display an electronic tightness, their live performance felt tuned-in and rhythmic, but not quite locked. But Cafarella had a reason to not mind. After the over 100 performances of their eight-month stint in the UK -- where, according to him, "the kids just go out of their minds" -- the keytar-and-drum duo know how to bring the energy, and they do it with a rare ease. It only took two tracks for the crowd, most of who came for Gossip, to begin cheering every time drummer Nate Smith pointed his left stick at the sky, as if calling down lightning.

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    HEALTH Perplex NYC's Dance Party Seeking Hipsters

    As the first notes of HEALTH's palindromic beatdown "//M" pounded through Manhattan's Mercury Lounge last night (March 26), the audience seemed puzzled. Wasn't this supposed to be dance music? But by the time the chanting melody of "Crimewave" (a song remixed by Crystal Castles into one of 2007's best dance tracks) emerged from the tribal onslaught, expectations had changed. A husky guy with a buzz cut, chin strap, and leather jacket began intently skanking to the industrial thump and skronk, as the rest of the room braced against beats so loud they threatened even the most feedback-tempered eardrums. Band members jackknifed their lanky bodies with every grinding note, and the drummer, a youthful Metallica roadie-looking guy with arms the size of muscled thighs, appeared to be on the verge of passing out by end of the nine-song set.

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