• Edward Sharpe at Bonnaroo / Photo by Chad Kamenshine

    Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, 'Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros' (Vagrant) Review

    Ten years ago, Ima Robot — an L.A. quartet featuring future Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros frontman Alex Ebert, backed by Beck's rhythm section — helped pioneer the early-'80s post-punk/new wave/art-dance revival. I liked parts of their debut album, and thus felt optimistic about seeing them live, but the show I caught didn't exactly radiate the spikey coolness of Franz Ferdinand. Instead, in his Flashdance Capezios, Ebert spastically flailed across the stage in a clownish imitation of the savage choreography Gang of Four had executed with awe-striking fury.

  • Sigur Rós / Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty

    Sigur Ros, 'Kveikur' (XL)

    How does one update beatific art-rock weirdness now so culturally engrained that it longer seems weird? Sigur Rós have been answering that crucial question ever since 1999's milestone Ágætis byrjun floated over from Iceland to an unexpectedly receptive world. They minimized their lyrics on 2002's ( ), inched toward accessibility via 2005's Takk…, went folky with 2008's Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust, and maximized their restraint for last year's Valtari.That last move may have prompted the subsequent exit of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson, the guy with formal training who'd arranged their strings and played much of the non-rock instrumentation that made all that orchestral splendor possible. It's an exit that nearly brings Sigur Rós back to the pre-Sveinsson trio that produced their Icelandic debut, 1997's embryonic and relatively skeletal Von.

  • Janelle Monae / Photo by Wilson Lee

    Janelle Monae Twerks the San Francisco Symphony

  • Iron & Wine / Photo by Dustin Finkelstein/Getty

    Iron & Wine, 'Ghost on Ghost' (Nonesuch)

    Many musicians arrive with their most emphatic songs, build up their technique from there, and, if they maintain their inspiration, keep generating vital material. But if the artist vanishes and the craftsman takes over, the craftsman usually heads toward the money. After three albums with Sub Pop, each more polished and assured than the last, Iron & Wine's Sam Beam joined Warner Bros. for 2011's louder, more varied, still artful Kiss Each Other Clean. But major-label artists require memorability — it's the essence of hit records. So, for his new Ghost on Ghost, Beam has been relocated to Warner's boutique label, Nonesuch.Bean's artistic essence is built on intimacy: It's in his hushed, pillow-talk-y delivery, his detail-driven lyrics, and the way his songs rely on a plucked acoustic-guitar riff rather than a conventionally catchy vocal.

  • The two seeds of Rhye / Photo by Dan Monick

    Rhye, 'Woman' (Innovative Leisure/Loma Vista/Republic)

    For a few months, Rhye kept nearly everyone guessing. And fantasizing. Bloggers and DJs alike were enchanted by languid, sublimely beguiling singles from this initially anonymous entity: On "The Fall," restless piano chords seemingly borrowed from a Chicago house jam danced atop chamber strings, gentle brush strokes, blunted bass bumps, and a sighing vocalist who conjures comparisons to Sade and Tracey Thorn. "Oooooooh, make love to me," the soft voice cried. "Why can't you stay?" A good question: Who would abandon someone with a voice this seductive?The faceless, fragmented body parts that serve as artwork for "Open," "The Fall," and now the full-length Woman may be female, but Rhye's coo has been revealed to be a man's: Toronto's Michael Milosh, who together with Copenhagen's Robin Hannibal comprises the currently Los Angeles-based duo.

  • Solange / Photo by Wilson Lee

    A No-Nonsense Solange Launches Tour at San Francisco's Independent

  • Memory Tapes, 'Grace/Confusion' (Carpark)

    Imagine a dance album where every track has something in it that's guaranteed to clear a dance floor. In both form and tone, the third studio album from Memory Tapes, Grace/Confusion suggests the Pet Shop Boys' 1988 work Introspective, which in turn harkened back to late-'70s disco LPs via six tracks so long and substantial they didn't require DJ-generated extensions. But unlike the New Romantics and synth-poppers he's emulating — folks who lived their entire lives inside a club — Dayve Hawk says he's rarely ventured far from rural nowhere New Jersey.

  • Crystal Castles

    Crystal Castles, '(III)' (Casablanca/Republic/Fiction)

    Soon after posting their first soundcheck in 2005, rapturous press, chart hits, and an international rep as a fearsome live act all swiftly snowballed for the Toronto-bred chiptune duo who'd been so busy touring and recording that they hadn't bothered to have actual homes. Then, in late 2010, the pair released a version of "Not in Love," turning Platinum Blonde's 1983 new-wave oldie (rightly unknown beyond Canada) into an ultra-dramatic gothic disco masterstroke via a bravura guest vocal by the Cure's Robert Smith. This, Smith's most pop-tacular achievement since 1992's "Friday I'm in Love," also made the unintended point that Crystal Castles would be far more compelling — in the studio, at least — if frontwoman Alice Glass wasn't always on the mic.But it's not as if she's replaceable onstage.

  • Christopher Owens / Photo by Evan Cohen

    Ex-Girls' Leader Christopher Owens Plays 'Lysandre' In Full at Solo Live Debut

    Everything about ex-Girls frontman Christopher Owens' solo debut show last Friday night felt special. First there was the ride in what its operator declared was San Francisco's oldest working elevator. Then there was the Lodge, a 300-occupancy wood-paneled Regency Center room that ordinarily hosts weddings. Under the stage's proscenium hung three layered curtains featuring hand-painted forestry. On each seat was the evening's set list, which resembled a classical music program.

  • Tame Impala: The lonely loners free their mind

    Tame Impala, 'Lonerism' (Modular)

    "Why won't they talk to me?" squeaks a small but emphatically overdubbed voice midway through Tame Impala's second album. It's got the pitch and ache of a kindergartener during his first day on the playground, an internal voice that for most adults never goes away completely, particularly when in the company of some significant stranger who reduces us to the helplessness of a whimpering puppy.Pitched high around the cracking points of falsetto and emanating from the same sobbing spot in the back of your throat, this is the favored vocal expression of Tame Impala's Kevin Parker.

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