BEN’S BROTHER
Beta Male Fairytales
(Relentless)
Not one for the hipster crowd, the debut from London-based Ben’s Brother is full of sweeping balladry that boasts earnest vocals, and sincere talent. It’s not surprising that the band has received some noteworthy words from James Morrison, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they were pleasing to the ears of James Blunt fans, though the talent extends beyond that mock-worthy comparison. Unfortunately, the band’s most well-known track-the “Stuttering” track that accompanies the princess/frog Dentyne Ice commerical?–(though likely not recognizable as theirs), is not on the disc.

The Briefs
The Greatest Story Ever Told
(BYO Records)
The Briefs just give and give and give and give. I just take and take and take and take. In what amounts to the same relationship I have with hyper-sugared cereals-the Briefs are always satisfying. I can eat ’em anytime of the day. They always leave me feeling spastic and goofy. And most importantly, both make me want to pogo. This new album comes with a Briefs DVD documentary and a separate CD of saccharine-infused live tracks recorded at the BBC. It’s like a whopping bowl of Captain Crunch, with some Vibrators, a little Damned, some Frankenberry, a dose of the Boys, one pinch of Buzzcocks and the Stranglers, and topped off with some Fruit Loops. The Briefs have taken the art of feeling jittery to a whole new pogo-hoppin’ level.

Electric Wizard
Witchcult Today
(Rise Above Records)
You don’t need to travel much beyond the album title to figure out where this pile of evil incantations is headed. What’s that? You’ve never been invited to an occulty satanic black magick kinda’ ritual? Well the next time you’re invited to one by the High Priest of the local chapter of the Church of Satan, you can just tell them “…I’ll pass, I got the new Electric Wizard album.” Starting with an 11-minute drone (Black Magic Rituals & Perversions), and complete with some of the most evil sounding back-masking your faint-hearted ears have ever witnessed, this album brings some serious darkness. If the Melvins are too goofy, and Sunn0))) is to esoteric, then Electric Wizard’s what you need to fulfill your inner-Mr.Crowley.

Himsa
Summon in Thunder
(Century Media Records) The moment famed Seattle Metal band Metal Church stepped in the void with the ultimate piece of Metal merchandise, a neck brace, Seattle’s love affair with Metal was cast in fire. While not the most Metal band name I’ve heard, Himsa conjures up a fierce storm of wallop with extreme thrash Metal prejudice. Think of Himsa as a slightly less accessible version of Mastodon, up to and including album cover art by the same artist. For those in the know, there’s even a slight, very slight, seeming homage to the Accused. Himsa is certainly making a valiant attempt to carry the Seattle Metal torch in the 21st Century, but its flame is just a moderate flicker.

IMA GYMNIST
So Freakin’ Juicy!
(olFactory)
Though it seems inevitable that Ima Gymnist (that’s their misspelling, not mine) would lose some of their spunk with the name change (dropping the former middle word, “F***in'”), all evidence is to the contrary on their new EP. California punk bands embody the genre in a way that I’ve never seen a Northwest band quite do it, and it’s here on this disc of 6 short, sharp, unwavering songs that Gymnist unleashes themselves and that spirit in the same perfect form that bands like Mika Miko have. There’s a west coast tour in the works for spring.

THE LIBERTINES
Time for Heroes
(Rough Trade)
For a one time hardcore Libs fan, this disc is heartbreaking. Sure, it’s dumb to think of a band that, well, hardly even existed, as worthy of a greatest hits collection. But here’s the thing about the Libertines: they did with just two discs, maybe just even one, what most bands can spend a career trying to achieve… they mattered. There’s a reason that British papers give a shit about Pete Doherty in and out of jail, and it’s because the Libertines were going to be huge. They were going to be the start of something. They had that in them. Doherty and Carl Barat were a duo made in music heaven, and they were going to change the way things worked. They were supposed to change us all. This disc, 13 tracks of Libs perfection that mattered while they lasted, are a great, heartbreaking reminder of the fact that the band was never able to live out what was to be their destiny.

PAPER GENIUS
The Dead Sea
(self-released, LOCAL)
It always seemed like Paper Genius would bill better with Seaweed Jack than it did. I’m pretty sure I can recall seeing the bands together twice live and I could never get Paper Genius to live up to expectation. But, as is NEVER EVER the case, their debut disc (? I think) is stretching miles beyond expectation. There’s a tinge of the bittersweet on Jason Johansson’s growly vocals, a promising, overwhelming feeling of unrest throughout the album’s 11 tracks. There are strengths and weaknesses, surely, but it’s good enough by just being different than most that flavors Spokane’s waters as of late. Here’s hoping the live show bar has been raised as well. (Bonus points for citing the Libertines as an influence.)

SONS & DAUGHTERS
“Gilt Complex” from the forthcoming This Gift
(Domino)
This Scottish quartet established a mood with their first two albums: rich, yet dark, spooky even, imagery through layers of punk and country-inspired songwriting and storytelling. They dedicated a song to Johnny Cash, they sang about the drip of a tap on the ankles of an unfortunate lady, and in person lead singer Adele Bethel wrapped the mic cord around her neck while the sexual aggression between her and vocalist/guitarist Scott Paterson (her boyfriend of 8 years) played out before your eyes. Now Sons & Daughters are writing pop songs. “Gilt Complex” is a dancey, less than maniacal (I’m talking “Rama Lama”–the dripping song–again) pop number that, while still sinister in the lyrics, is nothing but fun-loving (if that works). When the group tours the states next, it will be worth a trip out of town.

TABLE TOP JOE
Noose in the Meadow
(White Raven, LOCAL)
There are more than a few moments sprinkled throughout the tracks of local band Table Top Joe’s latest disc in which your mind drifts from what’s playing, and as the swell to the chorus approaches, you think it’ll break into a familiar tune that goes… “Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm.” It’s the vocals. Sometimes they are catchy (much like it worked out for the Dummies), and sometimes they turn a 180 and inexplicably grate on your brain. The good thing is that it’s pretty much an even split, making Joe a local band to keep an eye on. There is so much to build on, and with a steady stream of shows and increasing local popularity, something seems to point to the band’s continued development. Preview on their MySpace, recommended track: “The Girl with the Plastic Cart.”

Rob Zombie
Zombie Live
(Geffen)
Man, I just want to like Rob Zombie so much. He likes everything I like. Zombies. Kitsch horror trailers. Terrible robots. Ghastly comics and spooky Metal. Not to mention he seems like a pretty stand up guy. You know, the kind a guy that you’d like to spend an afternoon with record shopping. Unfortunately this cat’s got the ol’ reverse-Midas-touch. Everything, and I mean EVERTHING, he touches turns to muck. Comics. Music. Music production. Films. And yes, live shows. Save for one song (American Witch) this album is a hodge-podge of blurpy-bleepy synthesized Metal without much to write home about. Maybe he ought to just stay away from the aforementioned medi