Birds of Maya
Ready To Howl (Richie Records)
This vicious Philadelphia power trio released one of the best pure hard-rock albums of the past few years with Vol. 1. Now comes this debauched double LP, sans song titles and any concept of the word “fidelity”—just four sides, labeled “Friday,” “Saturday,” “Sunday” and “Richie Records.” There's little, if any, sign of where one track begins and the next ends (besides having to flip the records), which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Not coincidentally, it sounds like an epic lost weekend, one filled with copious amounts of booze, narcotics and basement Blue Cheer and Groundhogs jams extended toward infinity.
Michael Leonhart & The Avramina 7
Seahorse And The Storyteller (Truth & Soul)
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings get love from Oprah, and that's cool. But deep down, we're all pining for a little more than Stax, Motown and JBs retreads. This is where Michael Leonhart & The Avramina 7 come in. Enlisting a good portion of the Dap-Kings for this psychedelic soul excursion, lauded session musician Leonhart takes the best parts of late-'60s concept records and early-'70s funk, giving them a modern makeover that nobody, from indie kids to seasoned record collectors, could dislike. From the spiky, run-on guitar line of the title track onward, we're in spacey territory, as much homage to flower-power whimsy as a tribute to the continued power of stone-cold grooves.
Big Ripper (Riot Season)
Nearly five years after Comes to Your House—an overlooked disc that, for a few moments, seemed to be the logical endpoint in frightening rock albums—Big Ripper is the sound of a band gone even further off the deep end. Vocals are all muddled screams and tortured moans. Guitars pound repetitive, plodding chords into the skull like sledgehammers. Drums are beaten within an inch of their lives. But beneath it all, there's a very clever group at work, one so intent on testing the listeners' tolerance for bad taste and black humor that they border on sadistic. If you're up to the task, though, Big Ripper is guaranteed to slay all but the most jaded fans of “the riff.”
Seedbed (Fan Death)
I often wonder if people who go on and on about “noise” music actually listen to it, or just say they do in hopes of sounding obscure. Newsflash, friends—Seedbed is not supposed to be a cool reference point to impress your buddies; nor are you supposed to listen to it every day. Unless, maybe, you're a serial killer. What it is supposed to be, I think, is an unbridled expression of anger that examines our threshold for misanthropy and unnatural frequencies in a somewhat traditional drums-bass-guitars-vocals format. Toward that goal, it succeeds wildly. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to listen to this record on headphones, without realizing that the volume was turned all the way up. As a result, I think I'm now permanently deaf in my right ear. Proceed with caution.
Spectrumtheatresnakes (B-Music/Twisted Nerve)
A million reference points does not a band make. This is where the fine Irishmen of Twinkranes are coming from, and I'll be damned if it lessens the impact of their debut album, recorded at the behest of British tastemaker extraordinaire Andy Votel, sometime in late 2008. It's high-velocity chug, driven by droning keyboards, perpetually thrusting drums and enough guitar and serene vocals to make the listener forget it's not a Kraftwerk record playing at 45 rpm. It'd be an absolute shock if this band found a devoted audience in the states, but kindred spirits Broadcast and Oneida have carved out tiny niches here, so why the hell not?
Shit & Shine
Bass Puppy 12” (Badmaster)
Britain's favorite outré music savants bait the public once again, this time with a dubstep-tinged version of their filthy, hypnotic mantras. It's doubtful that most American listeners even know what dubstep is, much less actually listen to it, but here are S&S to reduce the trend to rubble, before anyone else even has a chance to apply more grime. A sense of humor is required—tracks titled “Bass Puppy” and “Fuck You Folk Singers” should be a tip-off.