• Bachelorette, 'Bachelorette' (Drag City)

    Bachelorette, 'Bachelorette' (Drag City)

    On her third album as Bachelorette, New Zealand's Annabel Alpers mixes beginnings and endings the same way her music celebrates the frisson of acoustic and electronic. "The future is disquieting," she sings over orbs of sunrise synths on "Grow Old With Me." "The Light Seekers" sounds like an English folk moondance, while "Blanket" and the dance-remix-ready "Polarity" thrive on distant digital echoes. At home with a variety of tonal colors, Alpers is a basement Björk, stacking her multitracked voice until it hits the ceiling.

  • Thurston Moore, 'Demolished Thoughts' (Matador)

    Thurston Moore, 'Demolished Thoughts' (Matador)

    Awash in sparkling guitars and the occasional odd sound effect, Demolished Thoughts is a noisenik's idea of California dreaming; it's also the acoustic record Sonic Youth fans always knew this vintage psychedelia superfan had in him. The punch line? Even with soul brother Beck at the production helm, these tunes are structured just like recent Youth tuneage -- on "Benediction" and "January," buttery strings sub for feedback roar, guitars strum rather than crunch and, as always, Moore sounds half awake yet totally present.

  • Dead Rider, 'The Raw Dents' (Tizona)

    Dead Rider, 'The Raw Dents' (Tizona)

    The key to this jarring little outfit is singer-guitarist Todd Rittman, formerly of severe weirdos U.S. Maple, who unspooled '90s noise rock like it was a coat hanger in the hands of a three-year-old. Rittman's signature guitar trickle and wheeze is still here, with screwed-up sax and screwed-down synths darting in and out, carefully crafted to sound like a total mess. The drums find bits of art-funk in all the riff rubble, while Rittman croons and blurts ("Make a language / Start a fire / Pound a drum") like Scott Walker staggering through the desert, preaching the gospel of Beefheart.

  • Thee Oh Sees, 'Castlemania' (In the Red)

    Thee Oh Sees, 'Castlemania' (In the Red)

    John Dwyer's Thee Oh Sees started as a solo project and evolved into a primary outlet and full band, which means Dwyer's songwriting tics have turned into skills and there's a staff to execute them. Fortunately, his muse digs punk and trash -- these 16 basement screams are the B-sides of rock history, from reet-beat blurts ("Idea for Rubber Dog") to almost no-wavey scrape ("Corrupted Coffin") to whatever language was going through Syd Barrett's head late at night (the semi-ballad "If I Stay Too Long").

  • John Darnielle / Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

    The SPIN Interview: John Darnielle

    John Darnielle, founder and sole constant of the Mountain Goats, has been one of rock's most prolific and devoutly worshipped songwriters for 20 years. "I used to assume no one would care," he says, "but I do think now I've written songs that are useful to people having dark hours." The hold steady may have sung the words "Me and my friends are like / The drums on 'Lust for Life,' " but John Darnielle lives them. As he speaks in his living room in Durham, North Carolina, it's easy to understand how he has ascended to cult-hero status as one of our greatest lyricists: He is as educated and evangelical about unexplored corners of art and culture as his fans are toward his own work.

  • Obits, 'Moody Standard and Poor' (Sub Pop)

    Obits, 'Moody Standard and Poor' (Sub Pop)

    Obits have been around the block, usually in an Econoline van, and they know what they like, tight-jeans rock be damned. There's certainly nothing fashion-forward on their second album, and thank goodness. These indie lifers -- led by ex-Drive Like Jehu/Hot Snakes frontdude Rick Froberg and Edsel's Sohrab Habibion -- rededicate themselves to the sound of Froberg's gritty yell, backed by a no-bullshit rhythm section, and interlocking, almost clean guitars. The songs are powerfully wiry and declamatory ("You Gotta Lose," "I Want Results"). Pivotal question: "Are you reborn?" Answer: Oh yes.

  • East River Pipe, 'We Live in Rented Rooms' (Merge)

    East River Pipe, 'We Live in Rented Rooms' (Merge)

    In the 1990s, the line on F.M. Cornog, a.k.a. East River Pipe, went something like this: "If these songs are even half autobiographical, dude is gonna end up dying on a park bench." Instead, Cornog thrived, intermittently releasing albums of spare, depressive, often beautiful guitar pop, sometimes recorded on a home eight-track, about the people too small for others to see. On 2006's What Are You On?, he was too cranky by half, but here he returns to hopeful melancholy, lonely drum machines, everyday drug stories, even a '70s yacht-rock sketch ("Tommy Made a Movie"). Glad you're still breathing, man.

  • The Skull Defekts, 'Peer Amid' (Thrill Jockey)

    The Skull Defekts, 'Peer Amid' (Thrill Jockey)

    After post-hardcore savants Lungfish went on hiatus, their cultish fan base despaired of ever again hearing frontman Daniel Higgs go electric. Though Higgs' psych-folk solo albums can pry open your third eye, hearing his muezzin wail over this thunderous, ovoid music, especially on the swinging, galloping title track, is downright epiphanous -- he and his beard were born to kraut-rock. Elsewhere, he rants ("Dave, you heard the news about the sound? I have got to testify!") and howls in wordless ecstasy ("What Knives, What Birds"). No one man should have all that power.

  • The Twilight Singers, 'Dynamite Steps' (Sub Pop)

    The Twilight Singers, 'Dynamite Steps' (Sub Pop)

    Greg Dulli -- former Afghan Whigs frontman and Twilight Singers' sole constant -- has been running toward and away from his thinking-woman's douchebag persona for years. Dynamite Steps, his strongest, most widescreen set since the Whigs' mid-'90s heyday (even if it could use another chorus or two), continues that push and pull. Is he a tool who can get away with belting "Spread your legs / Insert your alibi" ("On the Corner") or is he a misunderstood balladeer (the brief but exhausting "She Was Stolen"). One day, Dulli may start singing within his vocal limitations; but let's hope not. His singular melodrama would suffer if he did.

  • Killing Joke, 'Absolute Dissent' (Spinefarm)

    Killing Joke, 'Absolute Dissent' (Spinefarm)

    Four years after the surprisingly excellent Hosannas From the Basements of Hell, the band that midwifed (or invented) everything from post-punk to thrash to industrial to alt-metal makes their first album with their original lineup in 28 years. We get one-take (!) aggro environmentalism on "The World Hell," in-your-face dance rock ("European Super State," "Depthcharge"), and unruly anthems ("In Excelsis"). Singer Jaz Coleman still sounds like Lemmy's bonkers nephew, and guitarist Geordie Walker still peels paint off of number 10 Downing Street at will. It's not 1980 anymore, but the lethal jokes remain.

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