ARMOR FOR SLEEP
Smile for Them (Sire)
Mmmm, what’s not to love? Whiney boy vocals! Occasional screeches! Thundering drums! Tinny guitar solos! Love it! There are clean ways to execute this (some might argue Spokane’s once-wailing Coretta Scott pulled it off pretty darn well), and really, for formula, Armor for Sleep manages quite alright. The TRL-friendly “Williamsburg” is a highlight. Bottom line: if my teenage daughter (that I don’t have, for the record) brought this home, I’d figure there were worse options for her and applaud her judgment (while I closed her bedroom door).

CHLOE DAY
Sugar EP (self-released)
Totally indefinable, LA’s Chloe Day will no doubt stop a few hearts when she plays at Caterina this month. Categorizing herself as “Electronica / Trip Hop / Gothic” on her MySpace page (I had to look-I had no idea what this was!), Day is an intriguing temptress. The hypnotic beats that back her are strobe-worthy (Caterina, you got that capability?), while her dainty vocals serve to soften the blow. She’s also got some non-dancey numbers that highlight the strength and diversity of her Top 40-esque talent (meaning, to these ears they can be a bit grating). It’ll be an interesting night at the Winery, and not one to be missed. Chloe Day plays Caterina Winery on April 26.

THE DEAD TREES
Fort Music EP (My My Hay Hay)
The Dead Trees are one of those bands that most musicians envy. They weren’t really a band, ya’ see, just some friends who decided to record some music in a basement. Out popped this little EP and then they opened for Albert Hammond Jr. (of the Strokes) on his solo tour. Howdya like that? As Spokane’s hardest working bands finish grimacing, notes can be taken from this. The band hits on something simplistic, classic, and completely charming-in some moments channeling Ben Kweller (the ultimate indie pop charmer, amiright?), and in others showing what acts like Robbers on High Street et al (and there are lots) could be if they stripped down and were a little less shiny (read: basement recording is where it’s at, yo!).

THE FUTUREHEADS
“The Beginning of the Twist” (from the forthcoming This is Not the World)
If the possibility exists that the Futureheads haven’t yet popped up on your radar, it’s time. Not only are they some of the most lovable dudes you’ll ever meet (EVER), not only do they have the cutest accents ever (EVER), not only do they put on one of the best shows ever (okay, maybe not ever), the Futureheads are probably *the* best of the crop of bands that people (mis)labeled Gang of Four wannabes. This new song proves their strength, and it’s the lead single off of what will be their 3rd album, which, they just announced, will be released this spring without a major label (their own creation, “Nul Recordings”… get it?!). Amazing.

GHOSTLAND OBSERVATORY
Robotique Majestique (Trashy Moped)
Never one to be easily classifiable, Ghostland Observatory continues to baffle with their latest effort. Thing is, in the midst of the baffling, you’re likely to be caught shake-shake-shakin’ it. Who cares what genre/type/definition fits a band when they’ve got this much spirit and character? There are more than a few moments where lead singer Aaron Behrens sounds like a young George Michael (hello!), while the music maintains that sturdy dance-floor vibe the band’s frickin’ perfected. This will make you wish you spent more time in dance clubs-which, let’s face it, is probably an incredible feat.

THE HEAVY HEARTS
A Killer of Snakes (Selector Sound)
Seattle’s the Heavy Hearts are a catchy buncha bratty punks. Totally loveable. Dueling female/male vocals charge through this disc of danceable, yet overwhelming numbers, calling for the live arena, yet equally powerful pounding through the stereo. Made up of seasoned vets of the westside scene, this band is full formed and ready for action, and in a position to take advantage. A wholeheartedly recommended disc.

THE KILLS
Midnight Boom (Domino)
This new disc from the Kills is just about the only disc that matters to me at all right now. In fact, I’m sitting here listening to other stuff, and all my brain can really think about is the Kills and Midnight Boom. The debut single, “URA Fever,” is an absolutely magnificent re-entry for the band, its seductive beat instantly grabbing. They are in every moment what they claim on this song: feverishly inescapable, and anything but typical. The maintained energy throughout the tracks is unbelievable, and the sexually charged tension between the two band members is, thankfully, still well in place-VV (aka Alison Mosshart) hacks her way through the first seconds of “Cheap and Cheerful” and it’s just about the hottest thing you’ve ever heard. Hands down, the Kills are one of the best right now. Watch out for the short-but-amazing “Mexico.”

BARRY MANILOW
Ultimate Manilow (Arista)
This CD is decidedly not new. But, whilst perusing the disc possibilities at Target last weekend, this little bargain was all that caught my eye. It appears here mostly to introduce this story… When I was 13, I sent away to join the Michael Jackson fan club. Instead, I, quite hilariously, made an entrance into the Barry Manilow fan club. Ever since, sporadically, my parents receive Manilow postcards at their home. Now, 11 years into my alleged fanaticism, I’ve purchased my first disc. There’s something to this. Manilow’s made serious money off of these seemingly goofy songs. He’s not exceptionally relatable (Billy Joel?), nor is he exceptionally entertaining (Elton John?), but with the cheese factor firmly in place and the tongue firmly in cheek, Manilow’s kind of a stud. 10+ years after being inducted into the clique, I might finally be a Fanilow.

SWITCHES
Lay Down the Law (Interscope)
I have to be totally honest–I’m over the dance bands. I dug Franz Ferdinand at one time too, but then it got boring, right? For this reason, when someone tells me about a band of 4 British dudes who make their hips shake… my finger goes for a mock-gag gesture. You’re right, unnamed friend, they are pretty cute little guys (questionable). You’re right, unnamed friend, it’s totally catchy (sorta). But… so were all those other bands that I liked for a couple months and then grew tired of. Sorry, unnamed friend. Judge for yourself when the band hits Jimmy Kimmel on April 10.