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  • Sun City Girls, 'Funeral Mariachi' (Abduction)

    Sun City Girls, 'Funeral Mariachi' (Abduction)

    Following the 2007 death of drummer Charles Gocher, Sun City Girls decided to conclude their befuddling, ethno-punk improv odyssey that has spanned 27 years and more than 50 full-lengths. Final statement Funeral Mariachi is a showcase of their lush, accessible side while remaining as peculiar as ever -- gorgeous John Fahey-gone-Middle Eastern fingerpluck is broken up by punky toy horns, and pan-global acoustic skronk is chopped up into a schizophrenic radio collage. However, the album's B-side is classically cinematic, playing like a bleak tribute to Morricone, a bleary slow-motion exhalation of moan, drone, and twang.

  • Bring Me the Horizon, 'There Is a Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let's Keep It a Secret' (Epitaph)

    Bring Me the Horizon, 'There Is a Hell Believe Me I've Seen It. There Is a Heaven Let's Keep It a Secret' (Epitaph)

    On their third album, these dizzying British metalcore chemists swing erratically in an effort to shake genre conventions, flirting with dystopic Max Headroom stutter, electro gloom, and tender indie-folk cuddles. But frontman Oliver Sykes is a consummate metalhead, channeling the sexy carnival barking of My Chemical Romance and sensitive shadow-lurking of Avenged Sevenfold. He's also far more uninhibited (especially when he fakes shooting himself). Time will tell: Is this bizarre smash-up the future of metal or just Generation Y's Pitchshifter?

  • Sharon Van Etten, 'Epic' (Ba Da Bing)

    Equal parts lovesick and sick of love, Brooklyn drone-folkie Sharon Van Etten has cultivated a harder edge since her introspective, ethereal 2009 debut flirted with freak folk. On Epic, she's grown as brassy as vintage Lucinda Williams while still drowning in the intimate bite of street noise, the confessional feel of studio chatter, and the postmodern swirl of dream-pop slurry. Equally at home with the wheeze of a harmonium as with cigarette-burn roots rock, Van Etten wrangles romance via complaints, regrets, and even a few well-placed insults.

  • Blonde Redhead, 'Penny Sparkle' (4AD)

    On a grand detour in a career full of them, these masters of ethereal, swirling New York art-gaze try their hand at ethereal, swirling Scandinavian electro. Working with Fever Ray production duo Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid, the always-lush former post-punkers dive haircut-first into the murky underworld inhabited by bands such as the Knife. The trio are certainly equipped for the challenge, since they're already experienced purveyors of foreboding, romantic, minor-keyed dreaminess; but their dub-tinged candle-flicker sometimes trades haunting for drab. BUY: Amazon

  • Philip Selway, 'Familial' (Nonesuch)

    For someone drumming in the world's most successful experimental band, the first solo record from Radiohead's Phil Selway is remarkably plain. As with most fragile indie folk recorded in the past two decades, the hooks come from The Bends's playbook, but they're bogged down by Selway's Nick Drake–via-trip-hop whispery croon and a grab bag of awkward metaphors ("There's a black dog down in the basement / He's barking out my name"). Still, the man obviously knows drums, and Wilco's Glenn Kotche helps suffuse everything with exotic brush sputter, mysterious rattles, and wholly absorbing, ghostly clatter. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Screaming Females, 'Castle Talk' (Don Giovanni)

    The fourth album from this New Jersey DIY success story features fewer blown-out garage tantrums and more dynamic Sleater-Kinney–style rock'n'roll fun -- another step toward maturity and the trio's potential crowning as rock royalty. Frontwoman Marissa Paternoster's guitar heroics have grown the most, evolving from the brawny arena-rock shredding of 2009's Power Move into the more nuanced fretting of tourmate J Mascis or even Billy Corgan. The rhythm section no longer plays the shadows either, blurting out Black Flag–circa-'81 bluster as a deceptively simple assist for their leader's colorful wheedle and strident wail. BUY: Amazonsrc="http://www.spin.com/sites/spin.com/files/imagecache/huge_page_view/site s/spin.com/files/amazon.jpg">

  • Blonde Redhead, 'Penny Sparkle' (4AD)

    On a grand detour in a career full of them, these masters of ethereal, swirling New York art-gaze try their hand at ethereal, swirling Scandinavian electro. Working with Fever Ray production duo Van Rivers & the Subliminal Kid, the always-lush former post-punkers dive haircut-first into the murky underworld inhabited by bands such as the Knife. The trio are certainly equipped for the challenge, since they're already experienced purveyors of foreboding, romantic, minor-keyed dreaminess; but their dub-tinged candle-flicker sometimes trades haunting for drab. BUY:iTunes Amazonsrc="http://www.spin.com/sites/spin.com/files/imagecache/huge_page_view/site s/spin.com/files/amazon.jpg">

  • Serj Tankian, 'Imperfect Harmonies' (Serjical Strike/Reprise)

    For his second solo album, System of a Down frontwonk Serj Tankian again coils his adenoidal, megaphonic vibrato around jagged art-metal, further exploring love in the time of "corporatocracy." After toying with the Auckland Philharmonia(2009's Elect the Dead Symphony), Tankian fully embraces orchestral arrangements on these paranoid anthems -- string-drenched, bombastic, willfully pompous, and composed with the subtlety of video-game end credits. Imperfect Harmonies plays as if Frank Zappa had lived to experience the glories of the Crystal Method, Ozzfest, George W. Bush, and Final Fantasy X. BUY: Amazonsrc="http://www.spin.com/sites/spin.com/files/imagecache/huge_page_view/site s/spin.com/files/amazon.jpg">

  • The Vaselines, 'Sex With an X' (Sub Pop)

    A whopping 23 years since their last album and with a competent new drummer in tow, the Vaselines have lost the wide-eyed wonder and ragged edges that made their brief, late-'80s run an indie-rock legend endorsed by Nirvana. But staying true to their party platform (sex, God, kissing, etc.), songwriters Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee remain the Ramones of sunbeam, patty-cake pop -- even if they sound less like awkward twentysomethings singing about cats and bikes, and more like the countless post-'90s alterna-rockers who owe them gratitude. BUY: Amazon

  • James Blackshaw, 'All Is Falling' (Young God)

    For his ninth LP of pastoral plucking, British guitarist James Blackshaw graduates from gifted fingerpicker to masterful composer, combining John Fahey's tender arpeggios and Terry Riley's cycling rhythms. Presented as a 45-minute suite, All Is Falling sweeps his electric 12-string into a tangle of keening cellos, dive-bombing violins, pinprick glockenspiels, and clacking percussion. It's essentially a chattering crescendo of melody and tension, with piano-based snowdrifts giving way to Morricone epics that ultimately unfold into a harrowing, nail-biting sonic swarm. BUY: Amazon

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