Stephanie Benson

  • Liars

    Liars Bring The Noise, Funk, Bath Salts On Mesmerizing 'Mess'

    Liars don't simply write songs. They create musical translations of our collective existential crises. This means their music is going to be messy. It's going to be gritty and dissonant, dark and disorienting, agitated and absurd. It's why their seventh full-length is simply titled Mess – it's organized chaos at its most entrancing. And it pretty much encapsulates the band's evolution -- from scrappy startups in Brooklyn's turn-of-the-century dance-punk scene to witchcraft storytellers bashing nebulous sounds together to ambient-electro perfectionists.

  • Mazzy Star / Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

    Mazzy Star's 'Seasons of Your Day' and Frankie Rose's 'Herein Wild': Two Generations of Nostalgic Dreamers Aim for 2013 Shivers

    Mazzy Star, Seasons of Your Day (Rhymes of an Hour) 8Frankie Rose, Herein Wild (Fat Possum) 6Mazzy Star and Frankie Rose share obvious similarities: Both place ethereal female vocals at the center of a nostalgic dream world; and like Mazzy's Hope Sandoval, Rose delivers her lyrics with an angelic mysteriousness, playing the melancholic girl next door — long-haired, doe-eyed, and painfully demure — with effortless precision. But Sandoval and co-conspirator David Roback have more than a few years on Ms. Rose. In fact, it's more than likely a certain teenager was listening intently when "Fade Into You" made a splash on MTV and alternative radio nearly 20 years ago.Rose is already on her third solo album in three years, while Mazzy is on their fourth in 23 (and their first in 17), so the former seems, on the surface, to be more relevant to the current music conversation.

  • Whatever Washed Out's Ernest Greene is feeling, he's really feeling it

    Washed Out's 'Paracosm' Drifts into the Undertow of His Own New Age-Disney Dream World

    Ernest Greene is obsessed with creating a "feel." Hell, his 2009 breakout song as the chillwave totem Washed Out was called "Feel It All Around," and now, on his second full-length, he's declared that "It All Feels Right" — that "it" still quite the ambiguous pronoun. He confirms these positive vibes more than a few times here, including second single "Don't Give Up" ("Even though that we're far apart / We've come so close and it feels so right"), complete with a vibrant, National Geographic-style video that finds our hero drifting perilously close to New Age territory.

  • Jehnny Beth and Fay Milton of Savages / Photo by Earl Mcgehee/Getty

    Savages, 'Silence Yourself' (Pop Noire/Matador)

    Savages dare you to judge this, the London quartet's debut full-length, by its cover — its monochromatic severity, its bleak simplicity, its bold manifesto plastered down the left side in a font best deciphered on the 12-inch version. It's a cover that looks more than a few decades old, one that might shrivel to the touch of anything other than vinyl. But we're clearly dealing with 21st-century women here: business-savvy (lead singer Jehnny Beth runs her own Pop Noire record label), effortlessly seductive, sinfully shrewd, bravely blunt.

  • johnny marr

    Johnny Marr, 'The Messenger' (Sire/ADA)

    While some still wrestle with Coachella 2013's most vexing mystery — Who Are the Stone Roses? — there remains no question about the relevance about that other huge guitar-driven band from Manchester: No conversation about indie rock can go long without paying homage to the Smiths, and more specifically, Johnny Marr. That pristine Rickenbacker jangle, that juxtaposition of upbeat euphoria and dreamy melancholia wrapped in a flowing bow of chords — these sounds will be forever romanticized in youthful memories and Hollywood films, forever attempted by every sad-sack who ever picked up a guitar, if only just to impress a girl or a boy.

  • This is 40 / Photo by Getty

    Green Day, '¡Tre!' (Reprise)

    The fact that Green Day have released a back-to-roots/back-to-basics trilogy the same year each of its core members turned 40 makes all sorts of sense now that the final chapter is upon us. Our poor East Bay punks are experiencing one full-blown, collective midlife crisis.¡Uno!, with rambunctious tracks like "Kill the DJ" and "Troublemaker," was the trio shooting Patron with the kids; ¡Dos!, with its retro garage rock, soundtracked their purchase of a vintage Porsche 911. But ¡Tré! finds them finally facing reality: "Hey, little kid / Did you wake up late one day/ And you're not so young, but you're still dumb / And you're numb to your old glory, but now it's gone," Billie Joe Armstrong howls on "X-Kid," and it's hard not to think X equals him.

  • Bloc Party, 'Four' (Frenchkiss)

    Bloc Party have never gotten over all those Gang of Four comparisons. The London quartet keeps trying to shake them, like confused runaways unsure what they're running from; the fawning triggered by their 2005 debut Silent Alarm a relentless, not-so-silent enemy. That breakout album was smart, fun, impassioned, and seemed to come so easy; but since then, the band has found abandoning it to be easier than trying to top it. Still, they didn't exactly fail. Both 2007's A Weekend in the City and 2008's Intimacy were ambitious in their own rights: the former working that oh-so-British flair for bombastic sociopolitical drama, the latter ruthlessly eyeing the dance floor.

  • The Ting Tings, 'Sounds From Nowheresville' (Sony)

    Back in 2008, the bratty British duo of Katie White and Jules De Martino hit the South by Southwest festival with a vengeance. They were the "It" band in Austin that year; their playfully snotty dance-pop going down well after too many Shiner Bocks and too many ribs. Subsequently, hip-enough ad execs and music supervisors scooped 'em up, the kids devoured it, and the band's debut album, We Started Nothing, started, well, something. But that was almost a half-decade ago, an eternity on the Internet-buzz continuum. Remember the Caesars? The Fratellis? They too once helped sell iPods. (There's got to be some subterranean corner of Apple HQ where these bands just play incessantly, as a form of interrogation.) The Ting Tings quickly became a memory. But guy-gal, hip-enough pop duos are still the rage, so here comes Sounds From Nowheresville, another cynically titled record.

  • Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (Sour Mash)

    Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (Sour Mash)

    What's a year without a Gallagher brothers throwdown? Months after Liam and the rest of Oasis unveiled the score-settling Beady Eye, Noel gets in the ring with a sizable advantage (he did write the band's hits) and a dedication to spreading the love instead of exacerbating the hate. His solo debut is hardly humble, though, from the dramatic strings flooding "Everybody's on the Run" to the New Orleans brass dancing around the stretched-out vowels of "Dream On" and "The Death of You and Me." "What a Life" gallops with a grandiosity that recalls Arcade Fire, and "Stop the Clocks" is a full-on orchestral-rock orgy. High Flying Birds isn't a total knockout, but it should keep Liam sleeping with at least one Beady Eye open.

  • Future Islands, 'On the Water' (Thrill Jockey)

    Future Islands, 'On the Water' (Thrill Jockey)

    Baltimore's Future Islands obviously were born with their ears pointed eastward to the theatrically heartbroken land of New Order, the Cure, and David Bowie. On this much-improved third album, synths swell, beats throb, and oceanic drones creep. Wye Oak's Jenn Wasner wafts through like a specter on "The Great Fire," but Sam Herring is the true phantom of this synth-pop opera, still gruffly howling like he's been forced to gargle rocks in the name of love -- a subject that devastatingly plagues him -- but also willing to settle into the grooves, even conceding that "it just takes time."

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