January albums suggest we keep our wits about us. Step lively besides sandbar ambient architect HUGAR’s vast vacuous, “Rift,” watch out for disembodied rockers EARTHLESS’ seething atmospheric wig-outs, “Night Parade of One Hundred Demons,” and stay alert with darkwave code-breakers BOY HARSHER’s suspenseful original soundtrack, “The Runner.” Finally, consider vigilance regarding digi-mythic dream-soul configurist GHOSTLY KISSES’ luscious lovestruck, “Heaven, Wait,” and mercurial page-turner GRACE CUMMINGS’ haunting folk-blues swansongs, “Storm Queen.”
Paul Draper - Cult Leader Tactics
Album title: Cult Leader Tactics
Record Label: K Scope
Interstellar rock accosting institutional consumerism, Draper’s livid polemics and vivid pyrotechnics orchestrate cheeky malfeasance in lush strings, guitar armies and digitized rhythms; pairing logical consequence to sardonic politics with élan, romantic semantics dancing from clarity to despair. Packed in palatial sophistication. “Tactics,” elaborates dramatic synth-prog passages, manufacturing tough-love bluster alongside chrome-plated diplomacy, breathless depths messaging dancefloor quests wrestling pragmatic compassion.
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Garcia Peoples - Dodging Dues
Album title: Dodging Dues
Record Label: No Quarter
Slick city mystics enlist country squire blues to fuse the kaleidoscopic, “Dues,” into beautiful communal tribunals, six-string kingpins dodging and dislodging medieval folk inside cosmic jangle and twang. A positively electric collective, Garcia Peoples crackles in tight micro-jams, a psychedelic carnival breeching seamless transitions from root-rock prophecies sketching interconnected ecstasies to elevated revelations digging bicoastal hypnosis and soft-spoken psychedelic rainbows.
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The Wombats - Fix Yourself Not The World
Album title: Fix Yourself Not The World
Record Label: 14th Floor Records
Erudite court jesters postulating brave mania while populating metaphorical stories with cock-eyed logic and flash-mob glamour, The Wombats announce private thoughts with demonstrative aplomb; devil’s advocates and savvy satirists jimmying pithy aphorisms into buff, customized pop-rock. A party record for intellectual refugees, yuppie nerds and polyester lotus-eaters, “Fix,” twists convincing epiphanies into pulp-fiction pop-quizzes, smooth clues included in crackerjack ear-candy.
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Aoife O'Donovan - Age of Apathy
Album title: Age of Apathy
Record Label: Yep Roc
Lofty, dew-soaked vocals breathing in fleeting equilibrium, the coltish, folkish, “Apathy,” sweeps in sweet breezy jazz freedoms where endearing lyrics traipse suspended in articulate riffs, narcotic thoughts and melodic escapes. Surrounded by delicate elegance, O’Donovan’s muse moves through introspective questions cantering in liberating anthems, safely wafting among trade-wind ballads, a late evening serenade warmed in stirred yearning and checkered connections.
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Artsick - Fingers Crossed
Album title: Fingers Crossed
Record Label: Slumberland
A gleeful spree careening between sputtering solos and telepathic backing, Artsick’s free-fall pop-punk pile-drivers lob lo-fi sparks into red-hot chops, pasting tasty doo-wop bop onto groovy truth-bombs raging in cagey mosh-pit finishes. Possessing reckless affections for upbeat directness, the trio’s runaway debut, “Crossed,” takes off the brakes in reactive magic as the DIY veterans bounce and bash with elastic exuberance.
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Eels - Extreme Witchcraft
Album title: Extreme Witchcraft
Record Label: PIAS/E Works Records
Deadpan panaceas adapting Tin Pan phantoms into after-hours get-togethers, “Witchcraft,” casts star-crossed wishes espoused in rousing hepcat rock while swinging grim pouts dish out potent funk grit sprinkled over variety-hour nostalgia. Beaten but never defeated, Eel’s bittersweet survivalist draws equally between beach-blanket shindigs and cinematic denouements exuding a Hollywood Babylon where Gidget goes grunge and rebellious hellions twist and shout.
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The year’s start imparts comforting abundance. Kickstart 2022 with archivist guitarist JAKE XERXES FUSELL’s mountain-music mojo, “Good and Green Again,” melancholy optimists THE LUMINEEERS’ pine-box showstoppers, “Brightside,” and smooth bluesman KEB MO’s crystal-clear Americana, “Good To Be,” before indulging in fringe-indie swingers REPTALIENS’s smug propulsive, “Multiverse,” or going deep with artsong shaman ELENA SETIEN’s picture-perfect poltergeists, “Unfamiliar Minds.” Endings and beginnings coexist, just ask doomsday daydreamers PICTURE ONE’s militant-pop, “Hearts of The Terminus,” pianist empath FRED HERSCH’s chamber-jazz magic, “Breath By Breath,” and corrosive consolers CLOAKROOM’s galactic cash-out, “Dissolution Wave.”