• Radio People, 'Hazel' (Mexican Summer)

    Radio People, 'Hazel' (Mexican Summer)

    Maybe only someone from Cleveland could make an album so cosmically yearning. Taking his wide-eyed cues from Tangerine Dream (before Hollywood got a hold of them) and Vangelis (after Hollywood got a hold of him), Ohio stargazer Sam Goldberg sets his synths and sequencers moving in slow, graceful arcs. Drift away with the music and melodic patterns emerge to mesmerize; put your feet back on earth and the ?burbles still signify as uncommonly emotional ambience. It's almost a letdown when Goldberg sings on album closer "Patience" -- Hazel's space-scapes already sounded perfectly human without him.

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    The Style Issue: EMA

    After her band imploded, Erika Anderson was ready to give up on music. then she made one of the year's unexpectedly great albums. TMI: Erika M. Anderson is usually okay with things that make other people squeamish, like blasting out scrap-metal guitar sounds and singing about self-mutilation, but worms -- those are a problem. Taking a break from fishing near her grandparents' Minnesota cabin, Anderson, 29, chats about EMA, the project she started last year. But the nightcrawlers she's using for bait are too big for the hook, so she has to split them in half. "It's really gross," she says, "but I make myself do it." She's that kind of person. DNA: A fan of PJ Harvey, the Misfits, and John Cage, Anderson moved to Los Angeles after high school. There, she blared proudly as part of experimental outfit Amps for Christ. In 2005 she opened for fellow fuzzniks the Mae-Shi.

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    See the Fest's Weird and Whimsical Moments

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  • Portugal. The Man., 'In the Mountain in the Cloud' (Atlantic)

    Portugal. The Man., 'In the Mountain in the Cloud' (Atlantic)

    On their sixth album in as many years, but first for a major label, these Alaskans have erected an impressive glam-psych cathedral. It's just not clear what's being worshipped or why. There's an uplifting fervor to the bursting melodies and detailed arrangements, as violins saw away dizzily during codas and blues-fuzz guitars tie a bow on a breakdown or three. ?Unfortunately, frontman John Gourley doesn't deliver the sermons that his songs require. His thin, inexpressive singing and gloopy lyrics lack the mumbo-jumbo grandeur of Marc Bolan, an obvious influence.

  • The Chain Gang of 1974, 'Wayward Fire' (Modern Art)

    The Chain Gang of 1974, 'Wayward Fire' (Modern Art)

    "Stop," the opening track on this tempting cheese plate from Colorado pop romantic Kamtin Mohager, sets lyrics about disaffected kiddies to bopping, sampled funk. By the sumptuous finale, "Don't Walk Away," he's praising hard-working parents while guitars swell to end-credits splendor. Mohager is an all-things-to-all-people kind of guy, and he almost gets away with it. Wayward Fire swoons and grooves deliciously, but the lyrics have a distinctly processed flavor: "I will run / I will ?hide / I will see you in a matter of time" is frustratingly representative.

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    Breaking Out: Alela Diane

    When singer-songwriter Alela ?Diane decided to enlist veteran alt-rock producer Scott Litt to work on her new album, Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Rough Trade), she was duly impressed by his credits -- which include R.E.M. and Nirvana -- but it wasn't his professional pedigree that most interested her. "My dad produced my first two records," says the native of Nevada City, California (also the hometown of Joanna Newsom, a high school acquaintance). "He did a great job, but we needed some outside help. Half the time he and I didn't know what we were doing!" They did pretty well, considering.

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    Skylar Grey: The Changeling

    The radical transformation of the woman behind some of hip-hop's biggest hits. Holly Brook didn't have a problem fitting in. Instead, as a prim singer-songwriter who cooed chamomile lullabies in a lilting voice, she fit in so well that she never got noticed -- not even after appearing on a hit single. In 2004 she signed with Linkin Park's vanity imprint, Machine Shop, and the following year sang the chorus on "Where'd You Go," a track from Mike Shinoda's Fort Minor project that went Top 10. Sensing heat, the label rush-released her debut album, Like Blood Like Honey. But Fort Minor fans weren't Holly Brook fans, and the album stiffed. Released from her deal, the red-haired, green-eyed ingénue wandered from Los Angeles to Oakview, California.

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    BLOG: Show Reviews, Fan Frenzy & More

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    8 Wild Revelations from Steven Tyler's Memoir

    As anyone who's either watched American Idol this season or paid attention to rock music over the last 40 years can attest, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler is capable of some outrageous behavior. Naturally, his memoir, Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? (Ecco), is loaded with enough badass tales of sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll mayhem to make Keith Richards' autobiography Life look choirboy-cute by comparison. Is it a sharply written masterpiece? Far from it. Is it a fun read? You betcha. For the benefit of all you CliffsNotes fans out there, we've compiled the book's wildest and weirdest revelations. 1: Did the dude look like a lady? Tyler isn't saying, but he does admit to having a homosexual tryst in his youth. "Gay sex just doesn't do it for me," he reveals.

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    PJ Harvey Delivers a Harrowing Coachella Set

    PJ Harvey strode onto the Outdoor Theatre stage at Coachella Sunday night wearing a prim ankle-length white dress and holding an autoharp -- not exactly your standard about-to-rock duds. But rock she did. Backed by a nimble three piece band, Harvey, with the Strokes audible from the nearby main stage during the silences between songs, delivered the most emotionally intense performance I witnessed at this year's Coachella, singing songs of violence, war, love and lust (mostly from her harrowing new Let England Shake), before a crowd of rabid supporters. England isn't a playful album, and its politically-oriented songs shaped the show's fraught atmosphere.

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