A month into 2011 and unruly resolutions unravel in an obstacle course of pre-emptive promises and arbitrary expectations. Who can be trusted, where is objectivity and why are things the way they are? Musical responses range from prog-rock Thundercats PRAXIS ’ “Profanation: Preparations for the Coming Darkness,” to keen, spleen-cleaning CAKE’s sparkling, “Showroom of Compassion,” and chameleonic chamber-pop artisans SPOKES’ daring dynamic dalliances, “Everyone I Ever Met.” Opinions may differ.
Apex Manor - The Year of Magical Drinking
Album title: The Year of Magical Drinking
Record Label: Merge
Smashingly bachelor scruffiness matches buzz-filled chords to curb-hugging choruses assembling lone wolf heartache into clanging prankster’s persuasions; A.M’s jittery mid-tempo jalopies drive upbeat collegiate pleads and sexy henchmen meditations through railroaded rhythms, shimmering riffing and devilishly inventive hooks. “Year,” steers major moxie and modest heroics through glib quips and rousing counsel; pithy indie-rock ringers exhibiting cardiac-packed syncopation with semi-biographical heft.
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The Dears - Degeneration Street
Album title: Degeneration Street
Record Label: Dangerbird Records
An explosive rainbow-colored sorbet blending dark, Brit-pop romance into funky, new wave passion, “Degeneration,” hitches glimmering visions to breathless methods coupling level-headed introspective against sleek, interstellar soul-searching. From smoky to baroque, The Dears’ penetrating menace, epic affection and calming charm simmer in stratospheric psychedelics and brooding hostage rock to make heartfelt reason and subversive allegiance magnetically reactive and hazardously attractive.
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Delicate Steve - Wondervisions
Album title: Wondervisions
Record Label: Luaka Bop
Robo-rodeo rondos performing unmoored conquistador choreography, guitar-centric tunes swaddled in mechanized, tropical hop-scotch, “Wondervisions,” unleashes instrumental magic. Twitching and flinching over tweaked encyclopedias of improvised jams and antsy, animatronic enchantments, Steve’s smarmy origami twists and turns into jaunty Japanese-African slack-key flash-mob anthems. Criss-crossing snorting electric chords over frazzled surf-rock analogue, polished sonic notions regale new-fangled jangle beyond novel cyber-pop ditziness.
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David Lowery - The Palace Guards
Album title: The Palace Guards
Record Label: 429 Records
Armed with snaggle-toothed grooves and crowd-pleasing candor, Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker’s literary hippie ambles from wistful and wise to ironic and snide. A blast of rascally ballads alongside a rash of gracious roots-strewn malice, his solo debut, “Palace,” is blissfully idiosyncratic, indulging in sweet buckwheat hootenannies, tempered garage-rock blessings and hard-earned alt-pop homilies culminating in gumption, grit and gratitude
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Over the Rhine - The Long Surrender
Album title: The Long Surrender
Record Label: Great Speckled Dog
Brewed in bluesy benevolence, congregating cadence and well-furnished skirmishes, OTR’s regal roots, melancholy melodies and majestic sensitivity exude moody authenticity. Dressed in champagne piano and baptized dobro, sad sax and rumbling drums, “Surrender,” renders parched prairie prayers inside smoldering torch songs, wanton folk-jazz cabaret illuminating flirty, hickory-flavored occasions The Ohio husband and wife duo play Madison’s Majestic Theater April 9th
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Tristen - Charlatans at the Garden Gate
Album title: Charlatans at the Garden Gate
Record Label: American Myth Recordings
Prowling hearts captured in thick-skinned sinners and frisky rockabilly fillies, “Charlatans,” slings noveau-Nashville twang coated in strings and powered by moonstruck pluck, doe-eyed rock and bop and State Fair infidelities. Frontier vixen Tristen peddles splendid denim heaven, exploring corduroy morality through jukebox toe-tappers, the soft but spiky purr in her promenade hiding shadows and suspicions, modern woes and traditional triumphs.
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Life goes on even under snow, so keep the igloo hoppin’ with Afro-funk big band CHOPTEETH’s salty brass salsa, steamy jungle jive and tantalizing perpetual energy chemistry evidenced in, “Live,” Live doesn’t get more real than the digital-only release of Global Jukebox Series No. 5’s Pentecostal-fevered, plantation-sponsored and penitentiary-bound Alan Lomax field recordings, “I’m Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die,” although guitarist SIDI TOURE’s soothing, moving, “Sahel Folk,” recorded at his sister’s home and kora-player BALLAKE SISSOKO and cellist VINCENT SEGAL‘s playfully celestial collaboration, “Chamber Music” come an incredible second.