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Playlist, November 2013

October 11, 2013

The Clash
Sound System
It’s the definitive box set from “the only band that matters.” Sound System comprises 15 discs with all the original albums and singles, outtakes, rarities, previously unreleased songs, and newly unearthed concert footage. Just as important, the tracks are beautifully remastered by Tim Young— with input from Mick Jones and engineer Bill Price—to enhance more detail and clarity in the tracks. This collection won’t come cheap, but for Clash fans, this is the ultimate, and probably the last, big reissue project from the best-ever English punk band.

Panic! at the Disco
Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!
Years after leaving Las Vegas, Panic! pays homage to its hometown on its fourth album. Much like the city, the record is super-glittery, trashy, and highly commercialized. It’s unabashedly pop with slick production and a solid dose of Vegas EDM thrown in, cases in point: “The Vegas Lights,” and the bleating basslines of “Nicotine,” this album feels like a reconciliation and celebration of Panic!’s familial roots.

Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant topped the indie charts with 2011’s Thank You Happy Birthday. The Kentuckians inhabit multiple pop eras, plying a melody-rich sound somewhere between The Pixies, the Monkees, and Mott the Hoople. Melophobia is all gooey sonority, one fuzzy pop nugget bumping against the other like bubbles in a screen saver. “Telescope” crescendos psychedelic glory; “It’s Just Forever” is rave-up sing-along bliss; “Halo” matches funky shoutouts with a puppy dog chorus. Melophobia demands sweet surrender.

Ha Ha Tonka
Missouri band Ha Ha Tonka joyfully fuses elements of Americana, rock, and synth-pop. On one track, distorted guitars and ultra-present lead vocals are backed by choir-like vocals and strumming. On another, acoustic instruments and keyboards follow the same melody line, and drums take a back seat, till the music builds into a sort of anthemic hipster wall of sound—but they always break for air. This is a beautiful record, in its blownup and its quiet moments.

Schneider TM
Guitar Sounds
German electronic mind-twister Schneider TM (a.k.a. Dirk Dresselhaus) seemingly gives up his sampler for a guitar pick, and the results are both fruity and foreboding. “First of May” is as sweet as “Caroline No,” all shimmering plucking, but it follows “Landslide,” a splayed, damaged tone poem of feedback and quivering ennui. “Elefantenhaut” and “Uberzahl” are the most satisfying, Dirk twisting guitar sounds into ominous napalm quagmires, all booming, distended tones and distorted mushroom clouds.

The Dismemberment Plan
Uncanney Valley
Back from a decade-long recording hiatus, the Dismemberment Plan still fidgets in the rhythmic gradient between jazzy and funky while delivering indie-jangle-synth-dub- post-pop, and now tosses in country-rock and affectionate sing-a- longs. Despite this string of signifiers and modifiers, the result isn’t overthought; compared to past efforts, the production is discernibly cleaner, intentionally unclenched. Uncanney Valley is more mature without feeling less intense, achieved by trading some sonic density for emotional dexterity.

The Crookes
Hold Fast
Half The Crookes’ second album, Hold Fast, could have been released in the ’50s, the other half, the early ’90s. The British foursome commends its influences (Beatles, Smiths), but sounds more like those groups’ copycats (Oasis, Gene). “The Cooler King” plays like a mid-century spontaneous pub sing-along and “Sal Paradise” slots smoothly into a diner jukebox. Mostly, The Crookes disguises its mopey-ness in jangly guitar riffs, as on the title track. It’s on “Bear’s Blood,” however, that The Crookes sounds its raucous best.

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