• Neil Young, 'Chrome Dreams II' (Reprise)

    Young has spent the balance of this century releasing albums terrible (Are You Passionate?), conceptual (Greendale), and gimmicky yet heartfelt (Living With War). So it's strange to encounter a record that's just like he used to make -- distorto riffs for their own sake and quasi roots rock with a tangible sense of loss and hope. The 18-minute "Ordinary People" will grab headlines for its epic workingman's blues, though the anthemic horns flatten the guitar burn. Per usual, his toss-offs -- "Dirty Old Man," "Shining Light" -- would flatter lesser songwriters. Now Hear This: Neil Young - "Ordinary People" WINDOWS MEDIA | QUICKTIME BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Clockcleaner, 'Babylon Rules' (Load)

    This Philly trio prefers to nuke first and apologize never. Their second album is not as kinetic, nor as indebted to Big Black as 2005's violent debut, Nevermind (the title should give you a hint of their bite-me worldview), but its sludgy, creeping noise still flattens everything in sight. And the occasional well-placed melody makes for an even smarter bomb ("Vomiting Mirrors"). While screamer John Sharkey's corrosive charisma works best when you don't know what the hell he's yelling about, his guitar howls volumes by itself. Now Hear This: Clockcleaner - "Vomiting Mirrors" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Baroness, 'Red Album' (Relapse)

    Math metal was invented in Richmond's heavy punk scene, so it's not too surprising that while these epic mathletes joined up in Savannah, Georgia, the members originally hailed from Virginia. Gritty guitars harmonize like Destiny's Child, and the intricate, huge-sounding songs can't decide if they'd rather be in the gutter or reaching for the stars, so leader John Baizley howls about both. Like all good prog-inspired bands, they wedge in an acoustic interlude here and there just for kicks, but quickly return to riffs that knot up tightly without ever becoming Gordian. Now Hear This: Baroness - "Wanderlust" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Celebration, 'The Modern Tribe' (4AD)

    With TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek producing, and cameos from Afrobeat collective Anti­balas and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, this Baltimore-based trio struggle to escape the shadow cast by their peers. Drummer David Bergander's ethnic rhythms (see Antibalas) drive Sean Antanaitis' atmospheric keyboards (see TV on the Radio), while Katrina Ford coos, wails, and shrieks (see Karen O). The theatrical pastiche is less chaotic than on 2005's debut but still hits snags: The insistent grooves lack dynamic drama, the instrumentation is overcooked, and Ford's vocals often feel contrived. Now Hear This: Celebration - "Evergreen" DOWNLOAD MP3 Now Watch This: Celebration - "Tame the Savage" BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Thurston Moore, 'Trees Outside the Academy' (Ecstatic Peace!)

    On the singer/guitarist's second, song-oriented solo album, he doesn't stray far from his main band's template -- the chord shapes are familiar (albeit acoustic), Lee Ranaldo's wonky leads are filled in by a violin (however mellow), and Trees Outside the Academy slots in beautifully with Sonic Youth's strikingly consistent 21st-century work. Moore's first solo record, 1995's Psychic Hearts, was reissued last year and has aged beautifully. This one will probably sound just as forward-thinking a decade from now, even the final track, a portrait of the musician as a 13-year-old performance artist. Now Hear This: Thurston Moore - "Fri/end" DOWNLOAD MP3 More on Thurston Moore: September 2007: The SPIN Interview BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Qui, 'Love's Miracle' (Ipecac)

    Fifteen years ago, the Jesus Lizard were the most explosive live band in underground rock, and David Yow was their manic, often inebriated, and frequently naked frontman. So hearing him come out of retirement with Qui, a noise-prog duo that's been kicking around L.A. since 2000, is a bit like watching Michael Jordan play horse. Qui's huffing skree just doesn't have the immediacy of the Lizard's Zep thud. But Yow's ragged bellow has aged nicely into a wheezing croon, and on the shuddering "Freeze," he artfully essays an ancient dirty joke about a penguin and a mechanic. Now Hear This: Qui - "Freeze" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Jason Isbell, 'Sirens of the Ditch' (New West)

    Prior to leaving the group earlier this year, Jason Isbell was the best thing to happen to the Drive-By Truckers since Lynyrd Skynyrd. And on his solo debut, the author of incisive Truckers' tearjerkers "Outfit" and "Danko/Manuel" cranks out harmonized power pop ("Brand New Kind of Actress"), sticky Southern rock ("Try"), a powerful Iraq War lament ("Dress Blues"), and dark yet sprightly country ("The Magician"), all but one aided by his former bandmates. Given time, Isbell could be roots rock's Flannery O'Connor. Now Hear This: Jason Isbell - "Brand New Kind of Actress Song" QUICKTIME BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Pig Destroyer, 'Phantom Limb' (Relapse)

    Virginia's Pig Destroyer have been peddling high-octane, face-ripping, black-humor grindcore for a decade, and here they push their sound into an even fiercer realm. Guitarist Scott Hull's sweaty juggernaut riffs practically slice your flesh, but this is also a lyrics band, with J.R. Hayes screaming bon mots like "Your legs look so sexy out of context" and "Got no use for psychiatry / I can talk to the voices in my head for free." Phantom Limb is funny, sick, smart, and possibly the year's best metal album. Now Hear This: Pig Destroyer - "Loathsome" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: Amazon

  • Pissed Jeans, 'Hope for Men' (Sub Pop)

    Of today's numerous punk bands reminding us that the Jesus Lizard and their queasy ilk didn't die in vain, this quartet of mopes from Allentown, Pennsylvania, might be the best. Their blown-amp sludge punk demonstrates, as noise-rock godfather Steve Albini once put it, "how fucking holy distortion sounds on just about anything." Amen, brother. Matt Korvette's hotfoot howl stays safely buried under landfills of guitar grumble and bar-fight drum pound, but he sounds like he's just dying to break out and rub himself on you. Of course he says he's "not a people person!" Who wants friendly scum? Now Hear This: Pissed Jeans - "I've Still Got You (Ice Cream)" DOWNLOAD MP3 BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Neurosis, 'Given to the Rising' (Neurot)

    As prog-metal bands multiply like flies on a rotting corpse (Isis, Pelican, Cult of Luna, etc.), these Bay Area vets produce the genre's heaviest album since Bill and Monica. "To the Wind" Rolodexes their skill set, from a gorgeous, spacey intro that mocks imitators with its casual beauty to full-contact rock to Scott Kelly's 29-second, senses-shattering scream. Track after track, pretenders to the throne are slashed and burned with detailed dynamics, elephantine riffs, and actual grooves. As Steve Von Till puts it on "Hidden Faces": "I. Will. See you coming!" Your move, Tool. Now Hear This: Neurosis - "Water is Not Enough" DOWNLOAD MP3 Now Watch This: Neurosis - "Given to the Rising" BUY: iTunesAmazon

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