Owls – Two – Music Stream

April 8, 2014

Owls are a satisfying throwback to a time when emo rock hadn’t yet evolved into an overly sleek, whiny mess of a movement. Originally on the scene for a brief time in the early 2000s, the group is back after a decade-plus hiatus, and they sound fantastic.

Dum Dum Girls – Too True – Music Stream

January 30, 2014

My brother-in-law saw this band open up for Ben Gibbard a while back, and his zero-word review was a lethargic shoulder shrug. So I didn’t have high hopes going in to this but, hey, maybe they’ve improved with age. Maybe not.

Matt Pryor – Wrist Slitter – Music Stream

January 8, 2014

The Get-Up Kids have been the butt of many of my emo/bad indie rock jokes. The band got less terrible with every release, as the cute college girls I assigned to review them for the magazine often noted. I actually liked their cover of The Cure’s “Close to You” on Before You Were Punk Vol. 2. Liked, I say.

Boardwalk – Music Stream

January 2, 2014

Pleasant, predictable, and absolutely mesmerizing. While it’s a dick move to say an entire genre is pretty indistinguishable (to the obvious outsider), that’s what I’m gonna do. Breathy, gauzy female vocals, and some hipster dude handling the deeply-reverbed, mellow guitars, and drum machine set on snooze.

Blitzen Trapper – VII – Music Stream

December 31, 2013

No, the title of the new Blitzen Trapper album isn’t meant to be clever or anything (I thought maybe this was their, like, fourth album), this is their seventh full-length. And the music, heard here on “Ever Loved Once,” is just as straightforward and unpretentious, with a confident alt.country swagger.

Rogue Wave – Nightingale Floors – Music Stream

December 9, 2013

“College” is appropriately-named. For those a little older and wiser (just ask ’em) than their cliquey high school counterparts, Rogue Wave offer up a 101-level anthem for awkward, nervous late-teens.

Goldfrapp – Tales of Us – Music Stream

November 15, 2013

Not that Goldfrapp (first name, Alison) hasn’t been doing well for herself for quite a while, dating back to her mid-’90s collaborations with Orbital, but c’mon – having your song in an Apple commercial is a new level of stardom (and moolah, one would hope).

Maps – Vicissitude – Music Stream

September 17, 2013

This is some chilly electro indie rock that you pretty quickly warm up to, in the vein of Junior Boys or Supersystem. Maps is actually one dude – James Chapman from Northampton, England.

Wampire – Curiosity – Music Stream

August 13, 2013

Almost passed on this one, because “Spirit Forest,” the first song I heard, is by far the worst. Terrible. It’s the kind of song unsigned opening bands play, and you fight every impulse to storm out, cuz NO headliner is worth enduring such derivative tinkerings, such lame production, such unsure vocals.

The Pigeon Detectives – We Met At Sea – Music Stream

August 8, 2013

At a quick 2:40 and with a title like “Animal,” I expected a bit more snarl or true grit than this cookie-cutter indie single. This Leeds band are well-known for their active live shows, and We Met At Sea is touted (by the band) as an unpredictable offering, more natural and plugged in.

No Age – An Object – Music Stream

August 6, 2013

L.A.-based experimental duo No Age creates some exceptional sounds in these two and a half minutes. “An Impression,” from their most recent album, An Object, has a dreamy, hypnotic quality to it, and that’s before the old-school psychedelic sounds creep in towards the end.

Fossil Collective – Tell Where I Lie – Music Stream

August 5, 2013

Not out to set the world on fire, this UK duo aimed to strip it bare and focus on the songwriting of their childhood heroes (Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Simon & Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash). It’s a breath of fresh air (ironic, seeing as it’s based on the past, without being vintage). Fossil Collective make timeless, gentle, acoustic rock.

Low – The Invisible Way – Music Stream

July 5, 2013

10 albums in 20 years for these slowcore trailblazers, er, wanderers. Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, “So Blue” represents The Invisible Way nicely: Sparse yet majestic, thoughtful yet moving (slowly, of course), finding sparkling interest in the otherwise sprawling spaces.

Billy Bragg – Tooth & Nail – Music Stream

July 3, 2013

13 records deep, Billy Bragg is a beloved everyman activist and protest singer/songwriter, and if you don’t know his work, seriously, stop posting stupid comments on Facebook and find out yet another reason why Bono is such a tool.

Pissed Jeans – Honeys – Music Stream

July 1, 2013

Just under three minutes of “Bathroom Laughter”‘s noisy rock with hardcore influences abound make Pennsylvania-based Pissed Jeans fourth outing (second produced by noise-master Alex Newport), Honeys, a gem worth waiting four years for.

The Virginmarys – King of Conflict – Music Stream

June 28, 2013

20 seconds into the building opener “Dead Man’s Shoes” and you know you have a rock band worth investigation. Like the first time you heard Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl” (or most any song by The White Stripes), you feel the build, lean in, nod your head, and get ready for the blues explosion.

John Wheeler – Un-American Gothic – Music Stream

June 27, 2013

Freshly-shaved Hayseed Dixie frontman John Wheeler (aka Barley Scotch) releases his debut solo outing, offering a couple covers (Paul Weller’s “Eton Rifles” and Bob Dylan’s “Masters Of War”) and 10 originals.

Generationals – Heza – Music Stream

June 26, 2013

New Orleans’ school chums Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer hop from Cure-inspired dance (like “Boys Don’t Cry,” not the somber sobbers) to Passion Pit falsetto yippies.

Deathfix – Music Stream

June 25, 2013

Ex-Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty (here playing guitar and singing) and Blowoff’s Rich Morel (here playing keys and singing) offer up a small, diverse, often darkly reverbed collection of mature cool.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Specter At The Feast – Music Stream

June 9, 2013

When they appeared on the scene around the turn of the century, BRMC didn’t seem to have the same clarity of vision to hang with the garage revivalists they were lumped in with (The White Stripes, The Hives), nor did they have the songs to match up favorably with their obvious influence, The Jesus and Mary Chain.

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