• Philip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in Almost Famous

    Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lester Bangs, and 'Almost Famous,' by Jaan Uhelszki

    Music journalist Jaan Uhelszki was an editor at Creem magazine from 1971 to 1977. Her writing has appeared in Uncut, Mojo, Rolling Stone, Guitar World, and USA Today. When Philip Seymour Hoffman died Sunday of an apparent overdose in his Greenwich Village apartment, it was like losing Lester Bangs all over again.Bangs (who died in 1982) and I started at Creem magazine in Detroit on the very same day, and we occupied the same psychic space — sitting not three feet from each other — for the next six years. We went through a lot together, like members of a slightly dysfunctional family, which of course we were. He'd used my romantic history as fodder for an Eagles story, and I vowed to get him back and did. I ribbed him incessantly about the large protruding knot on the top of his head that he tried-but-failed to cover up with his unruly brown hair.

  • Buddy and Julie Miller, 'Written in Chalk' (New West)

    We may never understand Buddy and Julie Miller's relationship. Together since the mid-'80s, when he crashed an Austin, Texas band she was fronting, they've accompanied each other for two decades, yet this is only their second album as a duo. What's more, Written in Chalk sounds like a breakup record, with the Millers (and guests Patty Griffin, Emmylou Harris, and Robert Plant) picking through an emotional boneyard of broken promises, shattered hearts, and spiritual uncertainty. In fact, most of the songs are so resolute (with the exception of the lusty "Gasoline and Matches") that you can practically hear the back door slamming. If it's not, then this long-married pair must have plenty of makeup sex. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Neil Young, 'Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House 1968' (Reprise)

    A dark, spectral presence in '60s folk rockers Buffalo Springfield, the youthful Neil Young also had an unnerving social adeptness.His deceptively fragile vocal style and skewed lyrical genius were already evident at age 22 in these 13 acoustic songs recorded over two nights at a Michigan Episcopal church.The chatty singer quickly had the bemused audience under his sway -- the epic sketch"Broken Arrow" presaged "Cortez the Killer"; "Out of My Mind" was as much premonition as tune; and "I've Been Waiting for Such a Long Time" was the foundation for many Young songs to come thatsuggested love could save his life. More on SPIN.com: >> Neil Young Kicks Off North American Tour >> Bridge School Concert Lineup: Wilco, Death Cab... Josh Groban? Listen: Neil Young, Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968 BUY: Amazon

  • Eagles of Death Metal, 'Heart On' (Downtown)

    When Josh Homme slithers into his Baby Duck persona as drummer for Eagles of Death Metal, he's giddily set free, unfettered by the pillaging, Viking-frontman duties of Queens of the Stone Age. Started as a '70s pastiche with singer-guitarist (and childhood pal) Jesse Hughes, the group move far beyond spoof on their third album, creating some of the rudest rock'n'roll since Johnny Thunders first stuck a lit cigarette in his pouty mouth and aimed notes at David Johansen's Adam's apple. The title track is funk filtered through broken glass, while "I'm Your Torpedo" is a swashbuckling ride on Sticky Fingers' tongue. QOTSA may be rock at the edge of the abyss, but Heart On vaults right over, taking flight on an updraft of woozy audacity and shuddering riffs. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Pretenders, 'Break Up the Concrete' (Shangri-La)

    Chrissie Hynde has lived in London for the past three decades, yet Breaking Up the Concrete, her band's ninth album, has deep roots in thorny American '50s rock'n'roll and seditious rockabilly rave-ups. Along with four new Pretenders, she's crafted a statement that's stripped bare and dangerous, just like Hynde herself, who abandons much of her haughty cool to expose some long-concealed wounds as painful as the ones that Janis Joplin unfurled on Pearl. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Tom Morello: The Nightwatchman, 'The Fabled City' (Epic)

    On his second agit-folk album under the Nightwatchman persona, Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist Tom Morello incorporates electric instrumentation and foregrounds his sonorously ponderous baritone, aspiring to, if not attaining, the gravity of Johnny Cash, Tom Waits, and Nebraska-era Bruce Springsteen. A dark prophet in Frye boots, Morello spits prickly tunes of creeping dread, as on the cautionary title track, which is as much prayer as call to action. The standout is "Lazarus on Down," a slow death waltz, with Serj Tankian's atonal, disembodied singing adding to the unease -- like a finger of ice rippling down a bony spine. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Kings of Leon, 'Only by the Night' (RCA)

    On their fourth album, the Kings of Leon still rule with a messy hand, applying rough magic and blurry, slurred imagery to their swashbuckling rock. Sonically more Stones than Skynyrd, the Nashville quartet still travel the haunted ground between sin and redemption that their Dixie forefathers have tilled since the Allman brothers first wailed"Whipping Post" at the end of the '60s. The album is named after a line in "Eleonora," an Edgar Allan Poe short story about love and forgiveness beyond the grave, and the reference gives the proceedings agothic chill. "Closer," Only by the Night's opening track, finds singer-guitarist Caleb Followill busted in a "spooky town," lamenting a mystery woman who "took my heart -- I think she took my soul." The rest of the record is an epic journey to get both back.

  • Buckcherry, 'Black Butterfly' (Atlantic/Eleven Seven)

    Dirty-minded, unrepentant, and awash in bad-boy charm, Black Butterfly makes you forget hair metal's demise was more than 15 years ago. Boiling over with twitchy guitars and naughty propositions that'd make Steven Tyler blush -- if he didn't demand a cut of the Aerosmith-indebted "A Child Called 'It'" -- these Los Angelenos deliver a brash follow-up to 2006's platinum-selling 15. Spewing filthy oaths and sweet promises, sometimes in the same line, frontman Josh Todd does his best to give misogyny a good name. BUY: iTunesAmazon

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    Album Review: Metallica's 'Death Magnetic'

    When Rick Rubin signed on to produce a Metallica album two years ago -- ousting Bob Rock after a 15-year, six-album run -- he told the tetchy band members: "I want you to return to Master of Puppets." "That's what everybody says," replied singer-guitarist James Hetfield with a tightly curled lip.

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