CAROLYN ALROY
Gorgeous Enormous

(Wussy)
Girls are great and everything, but if I’m supposed to like their music it has to really be something. Female singer/songwriters make me want to gag. There are exceptions-Stevie Nicks, Chrissie Hynde, Debbie Harry, Regina Spektor (see below). But this-this is no exception and holy crap is it unbearable.

ART BRUT
Bang Bang Rock and Roll
(Downtown)
Hype has lead me to not give a sh*t about this band. That, and the unibrow. Nothing against furry friends, but aside from the hype, that brow is about the only thing I’ve noticed about Art Brut. And that critical praise. But oh well. If you can get past the Andy Warhol-rip off art on the outside, and the yelled vocals of one Eddie Argos on the inside, you’ll find lyrics like “We’re going to write a song, as universal as ‘Happy Birthday'”-uh get over yourself. It’s not funny, it’s obnoxious. File this under “B” for boring, either before or after “Arctic Monkeys,” depending upon your alphabetizing neuroses.

THE BLAKES
Little Whispers EP
(Red Dear)
The Little Whispers EP isn’t new. But, released late last year, it’s a tried and true fave of the Seattle scenester. If this is news to you, and there seems no reason it wouldn’t be, then listen up. The Blakes are the most promising act in Seattle right now (teamed with Tacoma’s the Elephants). They are also the best. Theirs is a perfect combination of the “the” bands of our past few years, teamed with the urgency and craze of the best dance party you’ve ever attended (or, how you might imagine the best dance party you’ve never attended being). It’s Kings of Leon-y and Libertines-y and even a little Stones-y, but ultimately is totally Blakes-y, which makes it the winner that it is. Plus, the frickin’ live shows are a can’t-miss if you’re planning a trip to Seattle anytime soon. The debut full length arrives soon. Keep an ear out.

BRIGHTBLACK
Morning Light
(Matador)
“Morning Light is a color of the day when the truth of the universe is faded into a veil of blue sky. It’s a time when spirits are allowed access. It’s a humble time that affects all Life. It’s a time to recognize and accept change, without the limitations of your own surroundings. That time offers a free ritual that needs no shrine.” STOP READING PRESS RELEASE. PUSH STOP. PULL OUT CD. RETURN TO PILE.

DAME SATAN
Ghost Mansion
(self-released)
San Francisco is offering so many great things musically on the high-profile side these days (Two Gallants, Film School, Rogue Wave), that it’s easy to forget there are a few indies to watch out for too. One of my favorite San Fran indies, Scissors for Lefty, just landed a deal with Rough Trade, so it was perfect that this disc made its way to me when it did, in a time when I’m ripe for the new-favorite picking. A lot of nobody bands send their discs my way and usually the “nobody” part of the description is one hundred percent justifiable by the crap that emanates from the stereo. Then sometimes, it’s not. Dame Satan’s disc came out in late 2005, but chances are you’ve not heard them. The guitars are strumming, the vocals are lilting and the folk influences are firmly in place. The result is quiet, unassuming, and completely lovely.

DAMONE
Out There All Night
(Island)
I’m pretty sure I saw Damone open for onelinedrawing at Chain Reaction in LA a few years ago. All I remember about the band I think was them is that their guitarist flung his long, blonde hair around way too much. Unimpressed wouldn’t quite cover it. I remember loud and boring. Which is funny, because that’s not what Damone is now. This is poppy! This is a little girly! And it’s actually not boring, just a little too typical to be good. I’d say it sounds like the Donnas, but I’d feel bad comparing a female-fronted-completely-male-backed band to that girly train wreck. So, it’s sort of like if Donna X, Y or Z or whatever the singer’s appropriate letter is were singing for a flash-in-the-pan band like American Hi-Fi or something. Collective sigh. Yes, again.

FRESH KILLS
Creeps and Lovers
(Arclight)
I’ve heard this album way too many times by way too many less-than-proficient bands. I kept skipping ahead to find a promising song but none was to be found. Pity, because the brown and white artwork on the cover with the cute couple holding hands with muddy shoes and bruised knees had me.

THE FUTUREHEADS
News & Tributes
(Vagrant)
The success of the ‘Heads couldn’t have happened to any nicer gents. And, really, the gents are much nicer than the level of success they’ve achieved thus far. More is coming though, inevitably, because their sophomore disc rises to all expectations. The charm of the Futureheads has always been their harmonizing vocals, back in full effect on this effort, their perfect little English accents, back and cuter than ever, and their amazing personalities, surely on display at their list of shows. I’m kicking myself for missing their Seattle date with French Kicks, because beyond the discs, the Futureheads are one of the most energetic and entertaining bands touring these days. Do what you can to support them by buying the albums.

MISSION OF BURMA
The Obliterati
(Matador)
It’s always fun when the oldies come back to show the kids how it’s done. Gang of Four sort of tried but only kind of succeeded because they ended up finding out that the kids, the competent ones anyway, were already outdoing them (read: The Futureheads, Bloc Party). Mission of Burma disbanded in something like 1983. That’s the year I was born, it was awhile ago. It’s hard to matter after that much time. Burma came back in 2004 and released an album. This is their second post-reunion album. Ferociously delivered with an immediacy that, while not matching that of the kids, is more than most oldies can still manage, it’s still relevant and, most importantly, it’s still interesting.

MOJAVE 3
Puzzles Like You
(4AD)
“Poppier” Mojave 3. Yes. So says front man Neil Halstead. A strong group of veterans reinventing, but not too much, and moving forward, while still retaining the goods of yesterday. Yes.

REGINA SPEKTOR
Begin to Hope
(SIRE)
Words cannot quite capture how in love with this new album I am. I love it more than the new Walkmen album (YIKES!). I love it more than the new Futureheads album (CRAP!). And I love it just slightly less than I love the songs off of Adam Gnade’s forthcoming EP (WOAH!). This says a lot. Spektor has a way with her words and beats that makes the music feel intimate, despite its oft-too-quirky subject matter. On her ballads, she continues to be about the most beautiful thing you’ll ever hear-but that’s nothing new. What is new is that on her more upbeat songs, she’s now much more polished than on past efforts-she’s aceing in a surprisingly perfect way. Regina Spektor doesn’t get much better than “Fidelity,” “Better” (Stroke Nick Valensi on guitar scores big points), and “That Time.” Actually, Spektor doesn’t get much better than “That Time.” (And in all fairness, Adam Gnade is just too stiff of competition).