• Jesu, 'Heart Ache & Dethroned' (Hydra Head)

    Jesu, 'Heart Ache & Dethroned' (Hydra Head)

    Justin Broadrick is in it for the long haul -- he started with grindcore legends Napalm Death at age 15, spent decades making brilliant industrial sludge as Godflesh, and has created endless electronic projects. He's six years and counting into Jesu, blending ambient guitar buzz with hypnotic rock rumble. This set re-releases his 2004 debut EP, Heart Ache, two songs (at near 20 minutes each) halfway between Godflesh and shoegaze, plus the Dethroned EP, four old songs that lay unfinished until now. It's the sound of a man moving to his next stage, unsure how he should make his machines howl. Mournful or loud? Why not both?

  • Broken Records, 'Let Me Come Home' (4AD)

    Broken Records, 'Let Me Come Home' (4AD)

    This Scottish group's debut album threw some welcome Gaelic peat onto their roaring arcade fire. But Let Me Come Home goes widescreen with a vengeance, trading in too much of the band's unhinged jig and bounce for a more generic-sounding epic soundtrack -- guitar and bass to the front, strings in the middle distance. On "Modern Worksong," Jamie Sutherland croons and projects where he once just threw his arm around your shoulder. He still doesn't want us to give up, but it sounds less like he's testifying about the girl who changed his life and more like he's addressing the masses.

  • Kylesa, 'Spiral Shadow' (Season of Mist)

    Kylesa, 'Spiral Shadow' (Season of Mist)

    These crusty Southern punks outed themselves as prog rockers in 2008 with a brilliant cover of Pink Floyd's "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun," turning that late-'60s space shuttle into a battle cruiser. Then, last year's breakthrough Static Tensions found an audience ready for their sludgy guitars, double-drum thunder, and guitarist Laura Pleasants' earthy scream. The 78-minute Spiral Shadow supersizes everything, from song lengths to layers of deep-focus space-rock effects, but the sprawling songs are still built around riffs as sweaty as a south Georgia summer.

  • Torche, 'Songs for Singles' (Hydra Head)

    Torche, 'Songs for Singles' (Hydra Head)

    What does one call eight songs in 25 minutes? An EP? A mini-LP? Just don't call it a placeholder -- there are too many bulldozer riffs here, even in the under-a-minute sketches. Either way, 15 years ago, this Miami-Atlanta trio's high-octane sludge pop would've been called indie rock, a subgenre now so constricted that this booming thunder gets lumped in with metal. "Face the Wall" can't help but sound anthemic despite its mood of resignation, but most of these tunes are explosive, including the closer "Out Again," which goes for extended krautrock hypnosis. Even there, not a second is wasted.

  • Tamaryn, 'The Waves' (Mexican Summer)

    On early recordings, this New Zealand-born/New York-based gothtress exposed her inner Siouxsie Sioux. But with her debut full-length, she relocates to San Francisco, and producer Rex John Shelverton (formerly of screamo stalwarts Portraits of Past and garage-punks the Vue) leans more heavily on a patented 4AD combo of deep-focus guitar wash and remote drums, layering everything into infinity. Tamaryn herself doesn't indulge in too much dream-pop mush mouth, but the lyrics are a distant second to the languid songcraft, which leaves your brain standing on a beach, staring at the sea. BUY:iTunesAmazon

  • Grinderman, 'Grinderman 2' (ANTI-)

    Grinderman, 'Grinderman 2' (ANTI-)

    Somewhere between Pavement getting pelted at Lollapalooza in 1995 and the Strokes bringing sexy back in 2001, rock music extinguished the Birthday Party's fire. During the '80s and early '90s, the sweaty Aussie quartet (which broke up in '83) was one of the most fiercely ripped-off acts around, with countless artists lifting their psychobilly freak-outs and Nick Cave's pungent scream. Now, in an age of diminished expectations, most indie rock triangulates brainy prog and Neil Young's softer side. Where's the outrage? Grinderman -- Cave and an elite squad of squawkers from his Bad Seeds -- rock harder and hornier than bands half their age. On their 2007 debut, Cave came off like a cranky stand-up comic clobbering a guitar, the band thrashing like cavemen to match his atavism. This time, the "Grinderman" character is a more sophisticated, confident letch.

  • Helmet, 'Seeing Eye Dog' (Work Song)

    Dear Helmet (now meaning singer-guitarist Page Hamilton and some sidemen who didn't play on 1992 breakout Meantime), covering a Beatles song only points up how you're riffs-not-melodies guys, and having accidentally invented nü metal doesn't excuse Disturbed vocal harmonies (you were as much an underrated shouter as an overrated post-Nirvana crossover). Points added for the tiered release options, including a tour laminate for the most devout, and sticking with the drill-press guitar thing. Points deducted for inventing nü metal -- still more for songs that won't let an audience forget it. BUY: Amazonsrc="http://www.spin.com/sites/spin.com/files/imagecache/huge_page_view/site s/spin.com/files/amazon.jpg">

  • Richard Thompson, 'Dream Attic' (Shout! Factory)

    Recording new material live in a series of concerts with his longtime road band is the best idea Thompson's had since he ditched soul-muting '90s producer Mitchell Froom. Boasting a guitar tone as recognizable as Dylan's voice, the 61-year-old legend now fuels his six-string histrionics with a dying-light rage ("Crimescene"). His songs are best when they stick to traditional topics -- the anti-banker satire "The Money Shuffle" could use less sax and politics, but the frantic murder ballad "Sidney Wells" scorches like an arsonist. BUY: Amazonsrc="http://www.spin.com/sites/spin.com/files/imagecache/huge_page_view/site s/spin.com/files/amazon.jpg">

  • The Hold Steady 'Heaven Is Whenever' (Vagrant)

    On their fifth album (and first without keyboard player Franz Nicolay since 2004's debut), the Midwest's ambassadors to Brooklyn hone their ballsy bar-band philosophizing with a focus worthy of CSI. The sound is too slick by half, but Craig Finn's rhymes still resonate: "Ain't it sad about these metro guys? / Don't it hurt to watch them moisturize? / They're never funny / And they're all so scared to die." (Jay-Z should be so precise.) But the music surely cranks far harder live. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Frog Eyes, 'Paul's Tomb: A Triumph' (Dead Oceans)

    Even the most outré prog-rock bands usually save the nine-minute blowout for album's end, but that's how Carey Mercer and his Vancouver clan open Paul's Tomb, with two guitars surging and poking and soloing fuzzily all over each other. Elsewhere, Mercer rants like the end is extremely nigh and songs refuse choruses, stapling together shattered fragments of classic psychedelia and the bits of Springsteen riffs that their countrymen Arcade Fire left behind. They mean it, man, even if the meaning is still a bit buried. BUY:Amazon

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