BLACK EYES & NECKTIES
Apparition
! (ClickPop)
Bellingham, WA is home to one of the most eclectic small music scenes. Their diversity has produced acts from Patient Patient to the Trucks, from Jenni Potts to the All Nighters… and it’s all exceptionally solid stuff. Adding to that, the scene seems totally supportive–in a real way, rather than a fake way! (Spokaloo, take note!) Neckties are no exception to this amazing trend, their infectious brand of punk pop (not a trace of Simple Plan-y in that term) brings a seeming-precision to all of the wailing/screaming/about to run off the rails-ness that characterizes the bulk of their completely inescapable and fun as hell disc.

ADAM GNADE
Palaces (Bad Drone Media)
Comparisons to generation-defining poets and songwriters, though totally fitting and totally deserved, might not always do Portland’s Adam Gnade justice. Gnade is a talent growing rarer by the day-he’s a full-fledged artist, traveling the country and world in hopes of spreading messages, not even necessarily of hope, but messages simply of life. His down-trodden glimpses of middle America, his thoughtful snapshots of confused and lonely 20/30something life, are so pitch-perfect in delivery and sincerity, that they’re equipped not just to bend your ear, but also melt your heart. As time wears on, and music continues in its various cycles, it’ll be people like Gnade that end up having the most impact on those they’ve reached.

THE BLACK DAHLIA MURDER
Nocturnal (Metal Blade Records)
Fiery Metal-core. Check. Two-tone Cookie Monster vocals. Check. Spleen-rupturing rhythm section. Check. G-Force speed. Check. Zombie obsession. Check. Vaguely satanic lyrical content.Check. Unparalleled precision. Check. Too much precision. Check. And therein lies the problem with the Black Dahlia Murder. Exceptionally clean band with much to offer, but very little in the rough, dark, gristle-packed, goat-hungry underbelly of the pleasingly uneven side of Metal. Accuracy’s fine, but sterile Metal tips the scales towards boorish.

BLACK MOUNTAIN
In the Future (JagJaguwar)
Imagine a future where dinosaur-prog-impresarios Emerson Lake and Palmer met internationally-super-hip-grrrl-hipsters Sleater-Kinney, and they all shacked up with wannabe-black-Metal-originators Venom, and they had a love-child. Let’s do the math…well, let’s not because it’s kind of gross, but it’s precisely where the new Black Mountain record will take you. In an unabashed trolling of their collective iPods, Black Mountain is a big, wide, hunk of land that covers a tremendous amount of musical acres. To digest their sophomore effort you’ll need an ice ax to ascend several of the tracks (“Wucan” and “Bright Lights”in particular) because it’s a slippery affair filled with tricky witchery. This rocky peak will take you several tries to summit, but it’s so worthwhile.

THE KILLS
“U.R.A. Fever” from the forthcoming Midnight Boom (Domino)
Oh, Kills, how I love thee. After not having thought about this band (for reasons inexplicable) since the release of their amazing No Wow, this new single whips me right back into shape. Magically delicious and bottling everything that is absolutely perfect about the Kills’ lo-fi, gender-bending, sexually-charged rock ‘n’ roll riot, U.R.A. Fever is just fantastic. If VV and Hotel haven’t caught your attention yet, then please give them a few minutes-this clocks in just over 2 minutes, but it’ll surely have you hitting repeat… and a few additional plays throughout the days/weeks to follow.

LITTLE WOMEN
Teeth (Sockets)
A literally breathtaking onslaught of menacing noise, Brooklyn act Little Women use the self-descriptor of “jazz.” Curious, but not altogether unfitting. The idea of “punk jazz” (and/or “jazz punk,” if you might prefer) may seem a little bit of an oxymoron, but given the right talents it can kick up quite a frenzy. Sure, sometimes it sounds like some toddlers blowing on horns with little to no efficiency, but more often than not it hits on some form of musical calamity that seems to be just about nearly ideal. Whether this makes sense or not, it might be worth a listen.

THE MICROPHONES
The Glow Pt. 2 (K)
When discs like this get re-issued, it’s deserving of attention. In 2001 when The Glow Pt. 2 was originally released, Pitchfork voted it Album of the Year. Now, with K’s re-issue, the potential for the Microphones’ most well-known disc to reach a fresh new audience is, well, okay, just rad. With 20 bonus tracks, the double CD (triple LP) package is not to be missed. Phil Elvrum (who morphed into Mt. Eerie) creates a landscape of noise and sound and lyric that’s awe-inspiring in its wide-sweeping beauty, its majestic hugeness. Overwhelming, muddled, refreshing, gentle pop at its finest.

PAPER MACHE
Easier to Lose (LOCAL, self-released)
Whadda relief, Spokane finally has a band that can wear the “best band in town” title deservedly. Paper Mache might not be new, but they’ve undoubtedly hit their highest point yet with this, their debut full-length, that features reworked versions of longtime fan favorites, as well as countless other gems along the way. The band’s budding (and still growing) talent is evident throughout the disc, highlighted on tracks like “Mixtape,” where they are not only polished and presented to perfection, but lead singer Chelsea Seth hits his captivating stride both lyrically and vocally. The rotating line-up the band has seen since inception should try its best to hold tight to current form, because it’s no doubt the best its seen yet.

THE PHARMACY
Choose Yr. Own Adventure (Don’t Stop Believin’)
There is so much to be said for those all-ages scene devotees-both in band and fan form. The Pharmacy is a prime example of one such band. They’ve toured the country a handful of times now, the bulk of their shows at all-ages friendly, DIY-infused cafes/houses/youth centers/etc. That kind of schedule isn’t easy, and it’s fabulous to finally see all of their hard work and dedication paying off. Their upcoming tour in May with Japanther is sure to be a hit, and their new album on Seattle’s Don’t Stop Believin’ Records is something wholly unexpectedly perfect. New tracks like “Adieu Adieu” and “Little Toys on a Shelf” are little pieces of pop perfection, that not only “get” the Pharmacy in all their glory, but may very well further the good word by making the band more accessible to outsiders than ever before-as will the rest of this fantastic album. Look for them at the Blvd. on April 13… early show, so, of course, all ages.

SAVIOURS
Into Abaddon (Kemado Records)
That night: “Man this is bad-ass! Get me three more beers so I can fully embrace these scorching riffs! I’m so glad I’ve got an extra twenty bucks on me so I can buy this limited edition 666-copy pressing of this supreme riffage!” That morning: “Where’s that twenty bucks I had last night? Pulltabs? What the hell’s this record doing with fishsticks all over it? Dear god, did I see an Iron Maiden cover band last night? Say it ain’t so. It is…I spent my last twenty dollars on an Iron Maiden cover band record. Oh well, at least Sabbath is touring again with Dio.”