A FINE FRENZY
One Cell in the Sea
(Virgin)
The young lady behind A Fine Frenzy, Alison Sudol, leads this album through fantasy and whim anchored by her very voice. A voice like one of the greats, this gal has, and right out of the musical gate she’s put in the ranks of It females like Regina Spektor. More likeable than those whom similar comments could be bestowed upon (Sierra Swan and maybe the Pierces come to mind), Sudol is all talent and no fuss. Watch out.

ARTHUR & YU
In Camera
(Hardly Art)
As far as I can tell, Arthur & Yu and the horse they rode in on, Hardly Art records, came outta nowhere. And in fact, the label just began in March (as for the band, I have surely never heard of them…). Begun by SubPop founder Jonathan Poneman, Hardly Art exists AS Arthur & Yu right now, but will surely grow in the future months/years. What a novel debut it makes with this album from the Seattle duo. Over hazy, vintage sounds are the voices of Grant Olsen and Sonya Westcott, melding together in a (more) ’60s-inspired version of something like the Raveonettes. Think the Velvet Underground, sonically, but more easily digested.

Dungen
Tio Bitar
(Kemado)
Has the ghost of Deep Purple-era “Hush” risen from the grave? Can Metal and psych-folk coexist harmoniously? Have we entered a new era of flute-based rock? Is IKEA putting out albums? All these questions and more are answered on this meaningful bluster of mish-mashed genres and melodies. Just as Sweden has been long recognized as a conciliatory and diplomatic nation, Dungen caries this model to their songwriting and invites every single instrument and musical species along for the ride. Herb Alpert, Cheap Trick, The Move, Pink Floyd, and Nike Drake are all welcome in the land of Dungen.

FALL OUT BOY
Infinity on High
(Island)
Why in the bleeding hell this was ever sent to me, I have no idea. But here it is, the follow up to the breakout album of the most irritating band of the past year (or more, or since their very beginning). Why can’t this guy sing? Why are all of them dweebies? Why is the Ashlee Simpson boyfriend the only one even trying to look cool? If Fall Out Boy and N’Sync met in a dark alley, who would emerge victorious? (No one, everyone is a loser). Why am I crying? Why are my ears bleeding? Most irritating, I can’t even find any of the FOB songs I irritatingly find stuck in my head on this dud. ICK.

Goon Moon
Licker’s Last Leg
(Ipecac Recordings)
I have to confess I have a number of musical Achilles heels: Clutch, Sergio Mendes, Yes, the Allman Brothers, and Metal Church. More often then not when I confess to these weaknesses I am met with ridicule and scorn. Well add Goon Moon to the list. The bastard child of Marilyn Manson and Masters of Reality offshoots, Goon Moon is a unusual and self-indulgent piece of work filled with bloops, bleeps, whispers, hand-claps, and moans. Simultaneously simple and intricate Goon Moon knows how to infect my mind with a big ol’ dose of weird riffs. Now is not the time to run from your musical weaknesses, but to confront them with the Licker’s Last Leg.

SEAN LENNON
Friendly Fire
(Capitol)
Sean Lennon’s MySpace profile lists in its “About Me” section: “Fringe celebrity status from associated parental mythology… Better than average musician.” And upon listening to Lennon’s latest album, we’re mostly inclined to, at the very least, reverse those two statements in order, and at the very most, at least TRY to disregard the first of them entirely. Truthfully, it’s inevitable that the name catches your attention for the other Lennon. Truthfully, it’s inevitable that hazarding a glance at this Lennon reminds you of the other Lennon. But, truthfully, it’s inevitable that once this album takes shape, you’ll find this Lennon a talent in and of himself, independent of any “parental mythology.”

Money Mark
Brand New By Tomorrow
(Brushfire)
The man perhaps best known as the Beasties Boys keybordist extraordinaire, drops his first full-length record in years and it’s worth the wait. You could call this record contemporary rare groove, filled with mellow stylings that drift from jazz to soul to funk. As always, the keyboard work is great, but the best part are the melodies that get into your head and stay a while.

PANTS PANTS PANTS
Ok, Fine
(self-released)
While it’s certainly not most helpful to dwell on one particular song on an album, it’s hard not to when an electronic band from San Francisco does a cover of one of Pearl Jam’s most famous songs, “Jeremy.” It’s just too utterly bizarre to be ignored. What is great about the whole business is that, like the rest of the album, the cover is mostly completely enjoyable (and if you’re not paying attention, it might take you half the song to even realize what you’re listening to). Pants also has the market on cutest packaging, OK, Fine opens up and turns into one of those folded fortune teller things you made in elementary school.

PROSSER
Prosser
(ClickPop)
Multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist Eric Woodruff will be hard to ignore. In his best vocal moments, he is a woodsier Elliott Smith, acing in a way that will catch you unexpectedly given the moody soundscape that surrounds him. Woodruff is undoubtedly a Northwest diamond in the rough.

The Queens of the Stone Age
Era Vulgaris
(Interscope Records)
Over the last twenty years the pharmaceutical industry has flooded the market with every get up, get down, get left, get right, get high, get straight pill known and unknown man. The Queens of the Stone Age have pulled down an abundance of these pills, but not the kind that fix bi-polar behavior, but exacerbate it. Era Vulgaris is a radical shift from the dark and loamy affair of their last album. This has got all the vim, vigor, skip, and hop of a handful of erectile dysfunction pills. Sure it has some dark moments, but they are quickly trampled underfoot by a perky Panzer Division of mechanized riffs. The Queens of the Stone Age are dead-Long live Era Vulgaris.

SMILE LINE SPARK
Demos
(self-released)
Reunited and it feels so goooood. Back from a brief hiatus-in which front man Patrick McHenry dabbled in some other musical stylings, a little solo work, and other members dropped in and out-Smile Line Spark is now back in the local scene, once again leaving their mark. Spokane has (always had) its fair share of those tugging-at-heartstrings types, but Spark, with refreshing honesty, manages to be (and really excel at being) altogether more sincere and likeable than the imitators. Watch for new material soon.

WE WROTE THE BOOK ON CONNECTORS
Almost the Mayors of Laser
(self-released)
I genuinely have no f-ing clue how a clan of four supa-nerds singing about eating cake, admiring Ichiro baseball cards and M-U-S-H-R-O-O-M C-H-A-I-Rs have made it in a scene so stingy it lets most of its most amazing bands go unrecognized. But they have. Seattle has birthed one whacked out band here (just ask Seaweed Jack, they’ve now shared the stage with the Wroters not once, but twice) and darnnit if the success ain’t a little enviable. Fortunately, and most surprising, is that We Wrote doesn’t totally suck. It’s fun music, easy to listen to, and even worthy of a little dancing.