CYRUS FELL DOWN
“Son of the Sun” from Damn Dude, Damn
 (LOCAL, self-released)
This album escaped the radar upon its release last year, for reasons unknown. Now, months later, not a day passes at work that this track isn’t heard emanating from my office (much to some coworkers’ chagrin). No band in Spokane is as innovatively-minded as Cyrus Fell Down, and as a result, no band in Spokane is quite as exciting right now as Cyrus Fell Down. These aren’t new thoughts, the scene’s been supportive of Cyrus since inception, but enough support can’t be thrown at local musicians, and young ones in this case at that, who are trying new things. “Son of the Sun” is an explosive romp through all of which Cyrus is capable. Wait for that moment around 3:55 where front man David Plell’s vocals become a full-on wail. Damn dude, indeed.

Boris
Smile (Southerlord Records)
Like any juxtaposition worth its salt Boris excels at confounding noise and beauty crammed together in one big hump. Hailing from Japan, Boris embraces their cultural DNA and manages to simultaneously worship at the altar of the cute and the vile. In one breath the scales are weighted towards the depraved (Merzbow) and in the very next full tilt gorgeousness (dare I say Brian Wilson). No matter their disposition, Boris are in the end a Metal band with a willingness to explore all sounds—horrifying and fluffy—equally.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Narrow Stairs (Atlantic)
Death Cab’s most promising quality has always been the careful detail with which the elements of their musical contributions come together (the lyrics, sure, but the noise behind ‘em too). That careful detail is what makes Narrow Stairs, the band’s second release on Atlantic, eighth (I think?) overall, and largely different than previous efforts, a little more easily digestible. Before they might have relied on it, now it’s what is accompanying them into a new direction. Sure, there’s that 8-minute first single (which could easily have been suuuuicide), but watch out for DCfC’s quirkiness and chaaaange on this one. Things evolve, new ideas take flight, and the Northwest’s favorite crew-of-national-notoriety makes way for more to come.

FIREWATER
The Golden Hour (Bloodshot))
If you’ve never heard Firewater before think Tom Waits only more rockin.’ If you have heard Firewater rest assured that Tod A. and company’s sixth album is as good as any of their previous releases and tops them all in one respect: more experimentation with international sounds. It’s Bombay by way of the Bowery. Borneo by way of Brooklyn. Bandleader Tod A. traveled around the world and brought home melodies for this down and out drunken audio travelogue. One listen and you’ll wish you could go too.

FLEET FOXES
Fleet Foxes (SubPop)
If you want to hear the absolute best thing that Seattle, Washington (land of a 1000 bands, and then some) has to offer, you’ll do best to look no further than Fleet Foxes. In record time, this group has amassed an amazing following, landed the support of the city’s best label, and toured the country (with Europe soon to follow). Frontman/FF mastermind Robin Pecknold’s angelic voice, and songwriting, are in beautiful display on everything he creates, never better represented than on this debut full length from the band that, if everything goes as planned, will be the band that turns the world’s focus onto the Emerald City once again. (Amazing show alert: Fleet Foxes are scheduled to open for Wilco at INB on August 21.)

SCARLETT JOHANSSON
Anywhere I Lay My Head (Atco)
This debut album will probably go down as one of my most surprising listens. The set-up is a little odd: Hollywood starlet Scarlett Johansson… decides to put out a record… of Tom Waits covers… with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek. When Johansson’s voice first sets in, it’s oddly out of place, it takes awhile to hit its stride, and even when it does, it’s not altogether fitting. Somewhere in the middle of standout 3rd track “Falling Down,” you either a) get lost in the fantasy dreamscape that the duo has created and the hypnotic, rhythmic contributions of Johansson’s deep (deeeeep), breathy voice, or b) just get frickin’ lost. You may find with more spins that the album’s able to win you over in its entirety, but ultimately it’s just as likely to default on its shortcomings.

MATES OF STATE
Re-Arrange Us (Barsuk)
Anybody with knowledge of the Mates of State catalog can attest to the fact that there is some form of absolute delight on each of the band’s albums. Most recently, 2006’s Bring it Back brought their power as a duo to a climax, the dueling vocals and drums/organ dynamic at its best, and now, as things change (personally, and here), the duo sounds fuller, developed and, dare it be said for hardcore Mates fans, a bit more refined. But that’s not meant fatally because, as said, there is always that bit of delight to be found in anything that Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel have touched. The “doo doo doo”s and “dah dah dah”s inevitably make their appearances (it is still Mates of State after all), albeit perhaps in a more subdued and, let’s say, mature way.

PHANTOM PLANET
Raise the Dead (Fueled By Ramen)
There was a period of time there, right around Phantom Planet’s fake rivalry with Maroon 5 (a time when they were beating out Maroon 5 in popularity, and the latter was opening shows for the former, if you can believe it), where it appeared the SoCal kids would pull ahead of their glossier counterparts and dominate the teen pop genre. Later, they even landed that sweet gig singing through the first 30 seconds of every episode of “The O.C.” It was sooo gonna happen. And then it didn’t. They were signed to Epic then, now they are signed to Florida imprint Fueled By Ramen which, while responsible for helping launch Fall Out Boy and The Academy Is, is more responsible (and/or to blame) for launching a bunch of crap trying to sound just like them. This album is all over the frickin’ map (meant in a really bad way), as Greenwald and crew have seemingly lost all sight of what they had working in the first place (though, those intimate, hairs-on-yr-neck-stand-up lyrical moments still rear their head occasionally).

THE TING TINGS
We Started Nothing (Sony)
Oh man, the Ting Tings are getting huge. This Manchester duo tends to feel at first turn like typical fare from an up and coming electro pop band, but what the Tings might lack in areas of originality or spontaneity, they make up for in spunk and charisma. In her best moments, frontwoman Katie White channels the always-fab Maja Ivarsson of Swedish dance-rockers the Sounds, while in others, she might as well be fingernails on a dainty, girly chalkboard. When she’s missing the beat, though, as a credit to the Tings’ dynamic, she’s accompanied by consistently strong, catchy-nearly-to-a-fault beats. It’s almost the kind of catchy that misses you early on, grabs you later in, and then comes close to losing you near the end. Close, but maybe not quite.

Warbringer
War Without End (Century Media Records)
Honestly I’ve lost count whether we’re now in the throws of the third or fourth wave of Thrash Metal. Either way, this here slab of bone-breaking has war in their name, war in the album title, war in the songs, and war in their blood. If it walks like a M60 machine gun and howls like a M60 machine gun, chances are you’ve come face-to-face with an honest to god Thrash Metal war machine. If you keep getting outbid on eBay on that long pined for Possessed record, this is your chance to get some inexpensive Thrash back in your life.

Witch
Paralyzed (Tee Pee Records)
Sure I might have pulled down a 900 on my SATs (mostly due to that god-forsaken geometry section), but I can darn sure tell you when I see weird parallelism going on. To wit, the first Witch album is to its Hawkwind and Pentagram forfathers, as the new Witch album is to the Screaming Trees. A decided less Metal affair, Witch opt for more time in the sunnier environs of the garage and less in the light-deprived dungeon. I’m all for shifting parallelisms, but this album just doesn’t compel me to go to my local Wicca supply chain and pick myself out a new broom.