• The Black Keys, 'Attack & Release' (Nonesuch)

    All blues-punk duos, the Black Keys included, start with a reverence for the source material and the thrill of ruled composition. They get ragged for a while (in the Keys' case, for four albums), eventually establishing bona fides. Then comes the futzing around (see the thick thrum of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army"). Here, the Akron, Ohio twosome teams with producer Danger Mouse, who quietly folds in the occasional breakbeat, even adding that classic hipster signifier -- the funk flute -- to "Same Old Thing." But mostly the Keys just staple stuff (Moog, guitarist Marc Ribot, bluegrass harmonies) to their good ol' R&B raunch and let 'er rip. Now Hear This: "I Got Mine" QUICKTIME | WINDOWS MEDIA BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Singer, 'Unhistories' (Drag City)

    Four vets of the Chicago outsider-rock scene do not quite a supergroup make, but when the band includes two guys from U.S. Maple, whose output features some of the most deeply alien takes on punk ever, you pay attention. Like Maple, Singer tie minimalist songs into Gordian knots:Clean guitars stab and moan, while drums skate around the rhythm, rather than hammer it home. Unlike Maple, all four dudes harmonize like drunken karaoke addicts. It's got a good beat now and then, but dancing to it would require existing in several extra dimensions. BUY: Amazon

  • The Gutter Twins, 'Saturnalia' (Sub Pop)

    Alternative-rock vets Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan managed to transcend '90s grunge with the Afghan Whigs and Screaming Trees, respectively. Dulli now does business as the Twilight Singers, while Lanegan makes solo albums and lends his nicotine-scarred pipes to other people's albums, including Queens of the Stone Age's and Dulli's. Both struggled with drug abuse-they lived, friends didn't. They've spent the 21st century trying to figure out how to age respectably, if not gracefully, without selling their souls to Satan or Botox. And they've stayed pals over time. This is tough for guys in their 40s. Just ask one. So Saturnalia naturally vibes as a record made by men who haven't worn a band T-shirt to a bar in years. Mortality, regret, guilt, and whatever remains of passion after you say "I was in love with you" all weigh heavily on these two.

  • Saviours, 'Into Abaddon' (Kemado)

    Their '90s pedigree (two members played in emocore act Yaphet Kotto) will likely always get Saviours tagged as mere hipster metal. This once seemed unfair ("Circle of Servants Bodies," their track on the excellent 2006 Kemado comp Invaders, slayed). But with the noise of their early work stripped away, Into Abaddon has a twin-guitar gallop that seems better suited for sweatered indie kids than denim disciples of cult heaviness. Only "Narcotic Sea" retains any psych-biker edge. A bummer, and not the good kind. Now Hear This: Saviours - "Cavern of Mind" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Burial, 'Untrue' (Hyperdub)

    This anonymous U.K. producer blew assorted minds with his self-titled debut last year, adding a sleepy mopiness to the shuddering dancehall time-lapse of dubstep. Untrue deepens and expands his emotional range -- think The Godfather Part II. All rain-slicked bass flicker, disembodied voices, and electronic drift, it's the perfect soundtrack for both a 24-hour news junkie's end-times paranoia or a 3 A.M. trudge home from a one-night stand. Like Lautréamont or Todd Haynes' Dylan, Burial is barely there, but his spectral presence is enough to make his music seem mythic. Now Hear This: Burial - "Ghost Hardware" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • The Mars Volta, 'The Bedlam in Goliath' (Universal)

    Problema número uno: The Mars Volta no longer have the services of superhumanly hard-swinging drummer Jon Theodore, who kept even their knottiest epics grounded in the hips as well as the head -- no small feat for a band determined to fill every millisecond with notes, beats, sound effects, or Cedric Bixler-Zavala's often inchoate howl. (Helpful hint: A crucial element of both melodrama and funk is silence.) When Omar Rodríguez-López's guitar was frantically channeling sixth-dimensional life-forms or something, you could always count on Theodore's pound to keep things moving. ¡Qué lástima! When Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-López started the Mars Volta in 2001, their context was obvious -- they replaced the popular emo punk of their previous band, At the Drive-In, with proggy expansionism. They saw it as growing up (or at least out).

  • Times New Viking, 'Rip It Off' (Matador)

    Remember fall '92? No-fi rock felt like the future, Bush Sr. seemed all but toast, and a Clinton was waiting in the wings. Times New Viking remember -- Rip It Off, their third album, is a note-perfect ode to those better days. Sixteen quick-hit songs pile up in a half hour of Neanderthal synth hooks, barely audible drumming, snotty art-kid vocals, and busted-amp guitar fuzz. Like obvious antecedents Pavement, they are probably destined to sell out to beauty and grace. But for now, they're kinda perfect. Now Hear This:Times New Viking - "(My Head)/R.I.P. Allegory" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Psychedelic Horses--t, 'Magic Flowers Droned' (Siltbreeze)

    With scene-sibling band Times New Viking leaving underground punk outpost Siltbreeze for Matador, this anarchic Columbus, Ohio trio advances as the label's standard-bearers. Scruffy pop hooks stay buried in guitar shit and junk-shop electronic blurts. Imagine the Fall as classic rockers with these doofs as their belligerent, sprawling tribute band. The lyrics are smarter than the muck lets on: "We have become rather dull / On the streets and on TV, rather dull," bleats Matt Whitehurst, doing his best Mark E. Smith. Or is he saying "radical"? Not quite the latter, but they sure ain't the former. Now Hear This:Psychedelic Horseshit - "New Wave Hippies" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Bottomless Pit, 'Hammer of the Gods' (Comedy Minus One)

    Beloved indie-rock lifers Silkworm came to an awful end on July 14, 2005, when drummer Michael Dahlquist and two friends were killed by a suicidal driver in a Chicago suburb. Eventually, bassist Tim Midgett and guitarist Andy Cohen joined up with Seam drummer Chris Manfrin and .22 bassist Brian Orchard and started playing out again. On their new band's debut full-length, there are absolutely no wasted notes or lyrics, just pals exploring bitterness and grief ("You ever feel like you're going crazy from the inside?") with melodic, minimalist rock that reveals new subtleties with every listen. Now Hear This:Bottomless Pit - "The Cardinal Movements" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunes

  • Black Mountain, 'In the Future' (Jagjaguwar)

    Singer/guitarist Stephen McBean still sounds like the man who fell to Earth -- only to land in the woods. Three years after his band's striking, self-titled debut, Black Mountain refine their position as the psychedelic hard-rock/goof-folk revivalists that you can actually stand for an entire album (though the 17-minute-plus "Brights Lights" pushes it). Maybe it's the Canada in them, but this quintet's take on all of its component parts -- guitar-hero soloing (one-third of "Tyrant"), spacey balladry ("Night Walks," "Stay Free," the middle third of "Tyrant"), and thunderous prog ("Stormy High," the final third of "Tyrant") -- never comes off as overthought or too cocky. Now Hear This:Black Mountain - "Tyrants" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

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