• Beak>, '>>' (Invada)

    Bristol, England, is a town that must collectively ask, "What did we do last night?" every single morning and twice on weekends before lighting the morning spliff and drinking its breakfast. This is the city that gave us Banksy, the town in which the teenagers in Skins take a ton of E and have loads of sex, the burg that belched forth of some of the druggiest music of recent times. Indie types should recall bands such as Movietone and Crescent who orbited the magnificent, oddly underrated Flying Saucer Attack, whose passive shoegaze clouds made My Bloody Valentine sound like James Brown. And then there's the "Bristol sound" exemplified by Nellee Hooper and his Wild Bunch through trip-hop's holy trinity: Massive Attack (the father), Tricky (the son), and Portishead (the holy spirit).

  • Dirty Three, 'Toward the Low Sun' (Drag City)

    Seeing Warren Ellis play live with Nick Cave's now-defunct garage-rock monstrosity Grinderman — at one gloriously manic point, Cave would throw Ellis to the ground in a moment of pure rock fury — was to see Rasputin hurled across the stage by the Czar himself. In recent years, Cave's closest musical collaborator and a part of the man's particular empire of Bad Seeds since 1995, Ellis was the power behind the Grinderman project, the ovoid loops from his violin or electric "Mandocaster" mandolin the cornerstone upon which the group built its Church of Middle-Aged Horniness. It's tough not to recall his contribution (and mourn Grinderman's passing) when considering Toward the Low Sun, the eighth album in 19 years from Ellis' primary outfit, the instrumental trio Dirty Three, which also stars restrained guitarist Mick Turner and eight-armed drummer Jim White.

  • Buck Satan and the 666 Shooters, 'Bikers Welcome! Ladies Drink Free' (AFM)

    What was the golden age of Ministry? Was it the late-'80s, scene-defining aggro-disco of The Land of Rape and Honey and The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste? Or was it '90s anti-smashes like Psalm 69 and Filth Pig, wherein the band went Lollapalooza by ditching samples and trading up to video-game metal? (I heard you sold your turntables and bought guitars, indeed.) Was it their exhausting 21st-century work? Uh, probably not. Oh, who are we kidding? The golden age of Ministry is whenever you are 14.

  • 110427-fugazi.png

    A Suggestion: Dive Into Fugazi's Live Archive Now

    "When we play, the challenge is there: Can we throw down? Can we return the favor? Because so many bands have blown our minds over the years, can we return that favor to people out there? That's still something that feels very straight up to me." — Ian MacKaye, in the 1997 Fugazi documentary Instrument In September 1987, Fugazi were a new band comprising Ian MacKaye, co-founder of Dischord Records and hardcore punk icon on vocals and guitar, drummer Brendan Canty, a well-respectedD.C.-scene regular who hadn't done much touring, and bassist Joe Lally, who had previously been a roadie. They were quickly joined by singer, then singer-guitarist Guy Piccotto, Canty's bandmate in Rites of Spring, One Last Wish, and Happy Go Licky and a dazzlingly charismatic figure in his own right. In November 2002, they played their final show, as an indefinite hiatus followed.

  • Office of 
Future Plans, 'Office of Future Plans' (Dischord)

    Office of 
Future Plans, 'Office of Future Plans' (Dischord)

    Former Jawbox frontman, unsung-hero producer, and current Future Planner J. Robbins creates a signature roar that blog-era indie rock has almost abandoned: large-bore guitars that grind yet sparkle, high-res drums, and singular vocal harmonies. He's changed this formula only slightly over the years, here using cello to add swaths of color (or to elegantly parry the melody on "You're Not Alone"). He also experiments with subdermal electronics ("Abandon") and hammers out perfect blends of all of the above ("The Beautiful Barricades"). It's hard to think of another post-hardcore lifer whose return to active duty is so high-five worthy.

  • 111107-slipknot.png

    Slipknot's 7 Grossest Stories

    Few albums anticipated the last decade's sheer unpleasantness quite like Slipknot's magnum opus Iowa. This manic hailstorm of grind arrived on August 28, 2001 and, had it appeared a year (or even a month) later, it would have been impossible to listen to its nine-man rumble of rubber masks, body fluids, noise-metal churn and the most elegantly-recorded blastbeats ever waxed without getting into geopolitics. It may have felt a bit like post-Columbine angst at the time, but the record's hellish sound vortex — a hi-def miasma of distant DJ scratches, screams, and guitar lava — has aged beautifully.

  • Prurient, 'Time's Arrow EP' (Hydra Head)

    Prurient, 'Time's Arrow EP' (Hydra Head)

    This year's Bermuda Drain was the least chaotic album yet from New York noise savant Dominick Fenrow, the brutalist electronics artist doing business as Prurient. Time's Arrow is a worthy coda: Two versions of the pulsing, basement-new-wave title track meditate on the Black Dahlia murder and Martin Amis; "Let's Make a Slave" and "Maskless Face" scream like a demon in your malfunctioning hard drive; and the instrumental "Slavery in the Bahamas" revels in stuttering digital chaos. All told, it's more a polite straight razor down the forearm than a rude shotgun blast to the face.

  • Mastodon, 'The Hunter' (Reprise)

    Mastodon, 'The Hunter' (Reprise)

    Mastodon do after 2009's well-regarded but overbaked prog slab Crack the Skye? They do the tighten up, cranking out their most thrillingly straightforward hard rock ever on The Hunter. Songs like "Curl of the Burl," the galloping "Specterlight," and the kinetic, catchy "Blasteroid" keep the riffs simple without lapsing into banality. The Atlanta outfit's music often has been like having sex with a breathtaking partner who insists on changing positions every 20 seconds; here, they find a consistent fist-pumping rhythm, and everyone leaves exhilarated.

  • Dum Dum Girls, 'Only in Dreams' (Sub Pop)

    Dum Dum Girls, 'Only in Dreams' (Sub Pop)

    Much as the Smiths cobbled together glam, Motown, and kitchen-sink drama into a pocketful of Britpop gladiolas, so Kristen "Dee Dee" Gundred and her band draw inspiration from previous rock eras to mint something fresh 'n' fuzzy. (No wonder last year's nervy cover of "The Light That Never Goes Out" was so sharp.) They're the Phil and Ronnie Chain, putting the girl group in goth-pop. Gundred's richer-than-you-expect voice is the key to these jagged little pillows, whether dryly noting that a guy's "Just a Creep," soaring on "Coming Down," or lacing her echoes with sorrow on "Hold Your Hand," a reflection on her mother's passing.

  • Sons and Daughters, 'Mirror Mirror' (Domino)

    Sons and Daughters, 'Mirror Mirror' (Domino)

    Known for taut country-punk riffs that resolve into big-bore anthemic Britrock, these children of the highlands switch up unexpectedly for their fourth album. Embracing a gothy vibe, they empty spaces where guitars used to churn and emphasize large, spare beats, courtesy of producer J.D. Twitch from DJ outfit Optimo. The weird miracle is how natural singers Scott Paterson and Adele Bethel sound harmonizing (well, singing together) over subdermal synth buzz. On the menacing "Silver Spell" and pulsing, staticky "Ink Free," it's as if they'd been ghosts in the machines all along.

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