• thermals_Kyle_Dean_Reinford.jpg

    The Underground Guide: Portland with the Thermals

    When Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster of the Thermals were looking to leave their hometown of San Jose, California, they wanted to move to a community that was creative and also cheap. The indie punkers (along with drummer Westin Glass) wound up in the Northwestern hamlet of Portland, Oregon. "We've always been really proud to be from Portland and sound like a band from the Northwest," Harris says. "Bands from up here are always a little rough around the edges, kind of jagged, never perfect-sounding. That's us." Here's where you'll most likely find Harris around town. Breakfast spotJunior's Cafe1742 SE 12th Ave. 503-467-4971 Junior's is small, without much in the way of elbow room, so getting a table there can take a while. But it's worth the wait, with a menu friendly to every taste, from vegan to carnivorous.

  • The Rosebuds, 'Loud Planes Fly Low' (Merge)

    The Rosebuds, 'Loud Planes Fly Low' (Merge)

    Some marriages end with shrieks, others with sighs. On Loud Planes Fly Low, Rosebuds co-conspirators Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp set their breakup sighs to a Greek chorus of lo-fi keyboards, singing things they can't bring themselves to say. On "Come Visit Me," Crisp pleads for contact "even if it makes it worse." Howard's regretful reply -- "Because I would have never left you alone out there / If I could have heard anything at all" -- sounds like a late-night answering-machine message left from a pay phone in the rain.

  • My Morning Jacket, 'Circuital' (ATO)

    My Morning Jacket, 'Circuital' (ATO)

    My Morning Jacket's albums tend to have very specific musical reference points -- Neil Young's cold, high lonesomeness on 2003's It Still Moves or the Radiohead-style jitter of 2005's Z. Last time out, with 2008's Evil Urges, however, the Kentucky quintet wound up in a more complex place. On an album of occasionally misbegotten jam-band funk, Jim James and compatriots threatened to bring to mind visions of Phish covering Prince. Circuital resets the band's compass. Recorded with producer Tucker Martine (the Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens) in a church gym in Louisville, it's a get-back move, but not of the grasping, lost-nerve/empty-tank variety.

  • 110511-young-the-giant.png

    Breaking Out: Young the Giant

    With its explosive blend of martial rhythms, dive-bomb guitar chords, and lead singer Sameer Gadhia's emphatic falsetto-to-bellow vocals, Young the Giant's breakthrough single, "My Body," sounds like the work of a band born to rattle rafters. But the frontman insists that isn't so. "We're nice normal dudes who don't take ourselves too seriously," says Gadhia. "We started playing just as a bit of nonsense and ridiculousness." Then leave it to others to treat Young the Giant with more reverence. Earlier this year, "My Body" charted at No. 5 on Billboard's Alternative Rock singles chart and the band performed the song on Jimmy Kimmel Live. They'll spend the summer on a headline tour of Europe (returning for Stateside gigs at the Sasquatch and Lollapalooza festivals) and be back home for a U.S. jaunt in the fall--not bad considering the L.A.

  • The Felice Brothers, 'Celebration, Florida' (Fat Possum)

    The Felice Brothers, 'Celebration, Florida' (Fat Possum)

    Plenty of bands try to re-create Bob Dylan's mid-'60s apex, but Celebration, Florida sounds like it's conjuring Dylan's mid-'70s Rolling Thunder Revue period. These 11 songs play out like a series of character sketches drawn behind the scenes at a decrepit carnival, set to after-hours folk blues as raw and unhinged as the subject matter. Ian Felice's voice ranges from carny-barker, wise-guy cackle to anguished moan, especially on the closing dirge "River Jordan," which pines for paradise before concluding, "Fuck my whole career / You don't want me here." He sounds ready to jump.

  • Manchester Orchestra, 'Simple Math' (Favorite Gentlemen/Columbia)

    Manchester Orchestra, 'Simple Math' (Favorite Gentlemen/Columbia)

    Andy Hull, Manchester Orchestra's 23-year-old wunderkind leader, has been making shockingly precocious records for years. But his band's third full-length is an old-fashioned magnum opus of a concept album, detailing a nervous breakdown with epic glam-rock gestures. Hull's greatest skill is making his emotions sound as extravagant as they feel, especially when he screams. His life is melting down, music is all he's got left, and when he shouts the defiant money shot of "April Fool" - "I've got that rock and that roll!" - he almost makes it seem like enough.

  • Booker T. Jones, 'The Road from Memphis' (ANTI-)

    Booker T. Jones, 'The Road from Memphis' (ANTI-)

    Going back to Booker T. and the MG's, Jones has been a sideman to the stars, funkifying everybody from Otis Redding to Neil Young. This late-career gold watch puts Jones himself front and center with a supporting cast featuring the Roots, Sharon Jones, Yim Yames, and the National's Matt Berninger. Jones' wiseacre Hammond organ is as inimitable as ever on cool instrumentals ("Rent Party," Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy") and guest vocal tracks; he almost makes Lou Reed sound funky ("The Bronx"). No mean feat.

  • Amanda Shires, 'Carrying Lightning' (101 Distribution)

    Amanda Shires, 'Carrying Lightning' (101 Distribution)

    "When you need a train, it never comes," Amanda Shires sighs on her third album, and the punch line is that she's tied to the tracks. Shires might be a pretty-voiced cowgirl fiddler, but she's also from Lubbock, Texas -- Butch Hancock and Jimmie Dale Gilmore country -- a place where surreal fatalism flows in the water. Last seen backing up Gwyneth Paltrow in Country Strong, Shires sings more like an earthbound Emmylou Harris. She composes folksy, matter-of-fact shuffles about love's downside, then comes back for more.

  • Steve Earle, 'I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive' (New West)

    Steve Earle, 'I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive' (New West)

    Like his idol Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle has made bemused fatalism his milieu. But Earle's first original set in four years is still a landmark of grimness - even his devotional songs invoke mortality ("I can't promise anything / Except that my last breath will bear your name"). T-Bone Burnett's understated production suggests an aqueous atmosphere, with a few actual sea shanties. "This city will never drown," Earle declares on the album-closing ode to New Orleans. That's as close to optimistic as it gets.

  • Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 'Here We Rest' (Lightning Rod)

    Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, 'Here We Rest' (Lightning Rod)

    The ex–Drive-By Truckers guitarist shares his former band's lyrical penchant for the dark end of the street. Musically, however, he's more like a latter-day Lowell George, the guiding light of eccentrically polyglot '70s roots rockers Little Feat. Isbell's third solo album is earthy and unpretentiously eclectic - bluesy shuffles, gospel tinges - and you almost expect Bonnie Raitt's voice to waft in. Isbell's drawl is so amiable, you might not notice that the songs are about misfit burnouts fleeing everything, including themselves. Yeah, he's still a Trucker.

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