Congratulations, we made it through another year. December albums celebrate our collective humanity whose many sums are always greater than their parts. Whether congratulating ourselves with surf-twang blazers WOOD CHICKEN’s grunge funhouse, “Well Done!” placing money on blues-rock hell-raisers 7HORSE’s unbridled guitar-pop, “Superfecta,” or following carpeted choir KITKA’s indigenous winter-song traditions, “Evening Star,” we are better together. So, support each other, listen without reaction and know you are not alone.
GospelbeacH - Another Winter Alive
Album title: Another Winter Alive
Record Label: Alive Naturalsounds Records
Carefree companions ready to rumble, GospelbeacH feeds jangly ranch-hand fandangos into smug honky-tonk rockers for infectious gems assembling wandering hearts onto toe-tapping attitudes. Divided into lo-fi live-cuts and previously unreleased songs polished to perfection, “Winter,” layers cheerful hometown feels over subtly intricate precision where restless tempests rustle smooth California shuffles rooted in colluding harmonies, rollicking riffs and open road anecdotes
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The Bevis Frond - We’re Your Friends, Man
Album title: We’re Your Friends, Man
Record Label: Fire Records
A double-album loaded in tart remarks, urbane refrains and haughty bon mots, “Friends,” blends British folk-rock loftiness alongside psychedelic-garage barrages for a stunning display of manners and mayhem. Wise country squires swallowed in cosmic squalor, The Bevis Frond’s world swirls in sadness and stoicism, madness and mysticism; caterwauling six-strings soaring over calm heads singing searing suites dressed in elegant despair.
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LP - Heart To Mouth
Album title: Heart To Mouth
Record Label: Vagrant Records
Best intentions stretch breathless connections over smoldering diva fevers; LP speaks directly, singing in foxy pop whirlwinds while building emotional bonfires in the blazing, “Heart to Mouth.” Bittersweet symphonies capture sizzling victory laps inside confessional spectacle as, “Heart,” tackles bewitching entanglements with polish and flair, a deliberate slip and determined swagger wrapping smoldering boldness around beat-greased teases and string-infused grooves.
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Darwin's Finches - Good Morning Creatures II
Album title: Good Morning Creatures II
Record Label: Artificial Head Records & Tapes
Brain-pan landslides collide inside, “Good Morning Creatures II,” erupting from powerful sour-mash howls, stormy psycho-blues breakdowns and lurching cow-punk subversion. Grizzled gonzo gauchos, Darwin’s Finches greets specious reality with electric menace and suspicious visions flying off the handle directly into the fire, collaborating with fellow Texan Jandek in a detour-riddled tour de force scorched in psychedelic barbecue from college-town cantinas.
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Silent Servant - Shadows of Death and Desire
Album title: Shadows of Death and Desire
Record Label: Hospital Productions
Diode-toasted motorists piloting breathing machines, heat-seeking Silent Servant merges sullen pulses into roaming monotones; luminous, chattering patterns inhabiting slumbering hums amid throbbing pongs. Manufactured patch-bay midwives birthing cyborg orchestras, SS conducts daring binary aerobatics spitting Ritalin spinners with matrix-stripped persistence. Stroboscopic flip-flops stir-fried in wobbly trigonometry, “Shadows,” salivates in palatable electronics, hunger-driven rhythms and generative sedatives washed in anxious databanks.
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Majken - Young Believer
Album title: Young Believer
Record Label: Kollektivet Records
Curious coronations formed from welcoming spells and majestic blessings, “Young Believer,” weaves enchanted piano, heavenly choirs and tugboat brass into nimble chamber-pop ballads swept up in dreamy divination. Swedish chanteuse, life student and self-taught harpist, Majken parlays naked fates against lush repercussions, posing both knowing and innocent while fashioning a mystical balance between benevolent polyphonic melancholy and tentatively centered reverie.
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Scarce on new releases, December overflows with great shows promoting fabulous albums. From Canadian art-pop playwrights STARS’ drawing from the posh, “There Is No Love in Fluorescent Light,” in Madison to Australian head-rush indie-rockers MIDDLE KIDS gifting Milwaukee with the brave, buzz-worthy, “Lost Friends,” ‘tis the season to see it live. Binge on staged renditions from MANCHESTER ORCHESTRA’s brilliant indie-rock rhapsodies, “A Black Mile to the Surface,” rock along with songs from SEASAW’s playful, “Big Dogs,” BAD BAD HATS striking, “Lightning Round,” and folk-blues icon RICHARD THOMPSON’s stirring, “13 Rivers.