Son Volt - "Honky Tonk": With Wilco now seemingly on the downward slide, and "Honky Tonk" showing just how much of a vital force Son Volt is, this might be the perfect time for Farrar's band to reclaim the promise of their wildly successful debut. Son Volt may never overtake "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot" in the best post-Uncle Tupelo sweepstakes, but "Honky Tonk" is a record of careful strides that wears its heart deliberately on its sleeve. And that heart is distinctly rooted in a time and place that is mesmerizing in its folklore, and without slagging another fine band, that's something Wilco has never really been able to capture. The bell curve for Son Volt has just notched another uptick. - Zachary Houle
Chelsea Light Moving - "Chelsea Light Moving": Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore seems to want to claim the mantle of rock for himself. Everything about his new band Chelsea Light Moving so far, from the band's announcement and mission statement to "blow up" birthday parties and bat mitzvahs to the primal songs on their debut album implies that Moore - now freed from the shackles of being in an "art" band - just wants to rock. "Chelsea Light Moving" showcases probably the first instance of Moore pursuing a musical aesthetic somewhat close to black metal and, taken with the various nods to '80s hardcore, the album can easily be seen as an attempt to return to youth via the paring down of Moore's musical vocabulary. - Kevin Korber
Bastille - "Bad Blood": Bastille purveys in what might be best described as "apocalyptic pop." Though "Bad Blood," the band's major label debut, operates within the safe realms of verse-chorus structure, everything is amped up to 11, creating a sense of urgency that makes what could have been a collection of ordinary electronic indie pop sound like a battle cry for the end times. Booming male choirs, string effects, echoey pianos, allusions to Greek mythology and the Bible - Bastille brings out all the artillery on "Bad Blood," and the result is nothing less than earth-shattering. - Brice Ezell
The Men - "New Moon": Now we have the Men, that most urban of things - an art-punk band from Brooklyn - running for the hills. Their new album, "New Moon" was recorded in two quick weeks in the Catskills, in upstate New York. It's immediately apparent that the rural vibe has influenced the music. I guess making music out in the wilderness just doesn't feel right unless there are acoustic guitars, harmonicas and lap steel involved. The album is even being accompanied by a six-track EP called "Campfire Songs," which they'll be giving away on their upcoming tour and which they, literally, recorded around a campfire. - Matt Messana
Boz Scaggs - "Memphis": Boz Scaggs travels to Memphis to do a record informed by that city's unparalleled soul and R&B culture. Like others before, he booked Royal Studios, where Willie Mitchell and Al Green recorded the most beautiful pop music ever made by anyone at any time in history. So, you're probably thinking worthy-but-snoozy nostalgia trip, right? Something that's so middle-of-the-road that it might as well have yellow lines painted on it? Well, Boz Scaggs - even at age 68 - has too much soul for that. In fact, "Memphis" is lean and tight, deeply felt but never boring. - Matt Cibula
Other notable releases this week:
Autechre - "Exai"
The Cave Singers - "Naomi"
Cloud Cult - "Love"
Doldrums - "Lesser Evil"
Jimi Hendrix - "People, Hell & Angels"
Robyn Hitchcock - "Love From London"
How to Destroy Angels - "Welcome Oblivion"
The Kingsbury Manx - "Bronze Age"
Krokus - "Dirty Dynamite"
Kate Nash - "Girl Talk"
Madeleine Peyroux - "The Blue Room"
Post War Years - "Galapagos"
Josh Ritter - "The Beast in its Tracks"
Rhye - "Woman"
Boz Scaggs - "Memphis"
They Might Be Giants - "Nanobots"
Youth Lagoon - "Wondrous Bughouse"
NOW HEAR THIS
The Mary Onettes - 'Hit the Waves' (Album Premiere)
Sure, the Mary Onettes fit nicely into the tradition of sleek, well-crafted Swedish indie-pop, but it's never a case of style over substance with the veteran band, which manages to strike the right balance between earnest feeling and a polished sound. Hailing the Mary Onettes' 2009 effort "Islands" as one of the best indie-pop albums of that year, PopMatters wrote, "I am getting older by the second, and this is the perfect soundtrack for every new wrinkle and gray hair." That same emotional depth and complexity are on full display with the Onettes' new album "Hit the Waves," which will be released on March 12th via Labrador. - Arnold Pan
Golden Grrrls - 'Golden Grrrls' (Album Premiere)
Maybe Golden Grrrls guitarist Ruari MacLean wishes that his band's name "wasn't just a stupid joke," but it's clear that the young Glasgow trio's catchy indie-pop doesn't rely on any gimmicks to stand out. And actually, their name oddly suits Golden Grrrls' shambling guitar-pop aesthetic well: Putting a twist that's all their own on classic '80s/'90s indie underground sounds, Golden Grrrls' self-titled debut evokes both a warm sense of nostalgia as well as a DIY vitality that never grows old. On the eve of the album's release, PopMatters checked in with MacLean to find out about how he sees the Golden Grrrls fitting into a noise-pop trends, past and present - not to mention more about their name. "Golden Grrrls" comes out on March 12th on Slumberland Records. - Arnold Pan (http://tinyurl.com/d8c5wgh)
Steve Earle & The Dukes (And Duchesses) - "Invisible" (video)
"The Low Highway" is Steve Earle's best album since 2004's "The Revolution Starts Now." Earle describes it as his "road album": "I've been on every interstate highway in the lower 48 states by now and I never get tired of the view. I've seen a pretty good chunk of the world and my well-worn passport is one of my most prized possessions, but for me, there's still nothing like the first night of a North American tour; everybody, band and crew, crowded up in the front lounge, eating Nashville hot chicken and Betty Herbert's homemade pimento cheese, swapping the same tired old war stories half shouted over the rattle and hum of the highway." "The Low Highway" releases April 16 via New West Records.
The History of Colour TV - "Let's Get Sick" (video)
You know that young German shoegazers the History of Colour TV have a way with conjuring up trippy soundscapes, considering how they seem to transform a plain old rehearsal space into what seems like another dimension. Just check out the video of the extended live version of "Let's Get Sick," the leadoff track from their recently released album "Emerald Cures Chic Ills." Despite the no-nonsense performance, the band whips up enough reverb that it's no optical illusion that they look as if they're actually vibrating, the feedback rippling like heatwaves off asphalt. - Arnold Pan
China Rats - "Nip It in the Bud" (MP3)
UK garage rock band China Rats formed in Leeds during the summer of 2011 and have been busy on the festival circuit and earning kudos from the likes of BBC Radio 1. "Nip It in the Bud" is the band's new single and it's front-loaded with crunchy power riffs and punk attitude. The band says, "We wanted to write something that people could swing to like the cats in the '60s, but which was a bit rough round the edges. It's a bit of a nod to the Sonics as well."
"Songs for the Conclave" (Spotify Playlist)
The Conclave is right around the corner wherein Catholic Church leaders gather at the Vatican to select the next Pope. In celebration of this event, Spotify has teamed up with Tim O'Malley, Director, Notre Dame Center for Liturgy and Concurrent Professor to design a very special playlist for the occasion.
The Kingsbury Manx - "Handsprings" (Stream)
North Carolina's Kingsbury Manx has oft been labeled a folk-pop act, and not without some reason. But as the band returns in March with their sixth full-length, "Bronze Age," it's clear that just folk-pop doesn't fit anymore. The impressive new record expands their gauzy, shuffling melodies into fuzzier rock turns and edgy atmospherics, sometimes stretching out into layered fever dreams. Nowhere are the band's strengths as clearly on display as they are on "Handsprings," a swaying track that glides on cascading piano and perfectly understated melodies. - Matthew Fiander
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