ADRIAN ORANGE & HER BAND
Adrian Orange & Her Band
(K)
Adrian Orange is a man. And an admirable one at that. Instantly a love-or-hate situation, Adrian keeps the interested listening with an array of instrumentals and plenty of quirktastic vocals. Initially grating, Orange’s voice is humbled nearly-instantly; reflective, needy, and endearing. With a crew totaling in excess of twenty individuals, there is a lot to this, “her,” band. Plenty of goods make their way out of K Records, Orange is one such good.

BACK DOOR SLAM
Roll Away
(Blix Street)
Time warppppp. Flashhhhhback. I didn’t even exist in the ’70s, but what I know of it is pretty much completely encapsulated in Back Door Slam. Psychedelic album artwork, husky vocalists, long hair, etc. and on. And, well, something is in the water on Isle of Man (near Liverpool), because the boys, yes BOYS, behind Back Door Slam are just that, kiddos who’ve not experienced the era either. They’ve done a damn fine study, though, and ape it with ease. Hard to imagine a huge demand for tunes of this vintage, but time will certainly tell.

Clutch
From Beale Street to Oblivion
(DRT Entertainment)
The real question that Clutch raises is not how they keep churning out album after album, but how they keep the quality control at Lee Iacocca-like levels. Granted Clutch haven’t been receiving bailouts from the U.S. Congress, but in all fairness they don’t need ’em. Clutch just continues to produce. The days of metal-esque thump found in Blast Tyrant or their eponymously titled LP have been replaced by a steady diet of blues, soul, and rock. Vocalist Neil Fallon’s patter and rockin’ cadence still spew forth as it always has, but if you’re new to the world of Clutch this is not the place to start. The quality’s there, but do you really need a new Chrysler K-Car?

ADAM GNADE & YOUTHMOVIES
“Honey Slides” single
(Try Harder Records)
Every time Adam Gnade gives the word that there is a new track to be heard, I am found for days after on email, MySpace and telephone proclaiming my love of it to the world. His new collaboration with the UK’s Youthmovies has followed the same course (and additionally this time ’round, various band members have been notified of the track, in my secret hope that it will better them both personally, and as musicians), but the song itself is quite a change of pace for Gnade. He’s now backed by the electro-pop of Youthmovies and the result is a dance party waiting to happen, replete with Gnade’s always somber, relatable, gorgeous mumblings. This debut track promises that the EP of the same name will be something well worth a listen.

GOOD CHARLOTTE
Good Morning Revival
(Epic)
Brace yourselves. Things are about to get scary. The new Good Charlotte album is (not completely, but somewhat) enjoyable. It’s full of really amazingly catchy, likeable, danceable, fun songs. I’m not joking. See, I remember Good Charlotte. I remember the sleeves of tattoos, the jet black hair, the dumb looks (and despite the new sound, those physical attributes all still remain intact, so there is that). My little scuzin Emily listened to them back in the day. She had the posters. She was one of the screaming 13 year old girls. Still, I hate to say this (nay, it frickin’ kills me to say this), but Good Charlotte might be a band to revisit? If you remember that awful “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” song, then that’s too bad. But, if you listen to the band’s new track “Dance Floor Anthem” and can imagine better (ok, much better) vocals, isn’t it really great?? Isn’t it great in a guilty pleasure, I-still-secretly-listen-to-the-Killers kind of way? No? Maybe. But maybe not.

MEKONS
Natural
(Quarterstick)
Some music is just inexplicably incredible. Such is the case with the Mekons. Part creepy fairy tale, part hippie hoedown (barefoot in the grass), part sweetened reflection by the campfire, Natural is a trek not soon forgotten. For a band celebrating its 30th anniversary and 1st album in 5 years, this feels pretty darn fresh.

NEW Pornographers
Challengers
(Matador)
Few bands I love are more challenging on first listen (no pun intended) than the New Pornographers. Band leader A.C. Newman creates power-pop melodies that are amazing, but slow to reveal themselves. This record is no exception. Less rockin’ and more tender than their first two records, with more layers, much like their third effort, Twin Cinema. Some of the new songs now have so much string support you wonder whether Challengers is the side project of an Electric Light Orchestra cover band. I also hear echoes of Game Theory. But mostly I hear another solid album by one of my favorite bands. Their best yet? I won’t know ’til next year.

NUMBERS
Now You Are This
(Kill Rock Stars)
Unable to decide just what it wants to be or what it wants to do for its audience, Numbers is able to, surprisingly, accomplish a lot. Noisy, experimental. Rock, pop. Never uninspired, never dull. It’s a KRS release through and through, and a winner no doubt.

PEOPLE
Misbegotten Man
(I and Ear)
When I was in high school and had outgrown my love of the piano lessons I attended grades 2-12, I had a discussion of “dissonance” with my 70ish year old instructor. I had brought in Elliott Smith’s “Miss Misery” to play. I learned it, she hated it. I’m reminded of this, because People is all about the dissonance. At its core this is an experiment between two people completely at odds musically. Intentionally. Mary Halvorson provides the oft-Regina Spektor-esque vocals (though they can also remind of Adam Green somehow?), Kevin Shea (called the “drummer”) is all over the place, trying at every turn to overpower and dethrone Miss Halvorson. It’s an unlikely battle of wits and makes for an exceptional listen. Not for the faint of heart.

Seaweed Jack
Haunt
(self-released)
What you need to know about this Spokane band’s sophomore effort: it’s shorter (8 songs) and better than their first release. The songwriting is more sophisticated, and the playing has gone up a notch. In it’s best moments Haunt hints at the old-world rhumba-rock charm of one of my favorite bands, Firewater. Enjoy the gloom. Dance around fire.

TEGAN & SARA
The Con
(Sire)
I find the Quin voices EXTREMELY irritating. And when on track 4 “shit” comes out “shayhyhyt” (only longer), I just shut down. Track 5 shows hope, but this just has to stop. Tegan & Sara are charming and sweet and adorable in person, but there are so few female voices I care for, and these two… I do not.

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Guilt by Association
(Engine Room Recordings)
Quite possibly the best compilation disc ever created, Guilt by Association wastes no time capturing attention. Lead off track “Don’t Stop Believin” (yes, the Journey cringe-r), is recreated in its most favorable form yet by Petra Haden (who has worked with The Decemberists, The Rentals). It gets better. Devendra Banhart covers Oasis. Luna covers Paula Abdul. Jim O’Rourke (producer to Wilco, Joanna Newsom) covers Spice Girls. GOAT COVERS FALL OUT BOY. Your guilty pleasures just became completely radical (even, maybe especially, that last one!).