CYRUS FELL DOWN
“Son of the Sun” from Damn Dude, Damn
 (LOCAL, self-released)
This album escaped the radar upon its release last year, for reasons unknown. Now, months later, not a day passes at work that this track isn’t heard emanating from my office (much to some coworkers’ chagrin). No band in Spokane is as innovatively-minded as Cyrus Fell Down, and as a result, no band in Spokane is quite as exciting right now as Cyrus Fell Down. These aren’t new thoughts, the scene’s been supportive of Cyrus since inception, but enough support can’t be thrown at local musicians, and young ones in this case at that, who are trying new things. “Son of the Sun” is an explosive romp through all of which Cyrus is capable. Wait for that moment around 3:55 where front man David Plell’s vocals become a full-on wail. Damn dude, indeed.

FLEET FOXES
Sun Giant EP
 (SubPop)
Seattle has long been a solid source for up-and-comers, and in the past 9 months no name has been on the tips of more tongues than that of Fleet Foxes. Gaining momentum over last summer with appearances at the Capitol Hill Block Party and Bumbershoot, the band found themselves, rather fittingly, and completely deservedly, in the hands of Seattle’s premiere indie label, SubPop by the end of 2007. Their first release for the label, Sun Giant is a mere peak at what is to come. Five tracks of solid Fleet Foxes wonder and excitement. True, nothing brings the house down like “White Water Hymnal,” but it should rear its head on the long-anticipated full-length, due in June. Fleet Foxes will be at Sasquatch! this year, and their coveted spot opening the festival mainstage should NOT be missed.

HOCKEY
Mind Chaos
 (self-released)
After many a trial and tribulation, Hockey has finally completed and birthed its very first official release. It is a credit to the band’s creativity, process and character that this disc arose, not after the sessions with hot-shot producers, not on the dollar of bigwig execs in Los Angeles, but, rather after a move to rainy Portland, Oregon that, among other things, has allowed the boys of Hockey some room to breathe. Like many a band with that “sumthin’ special” that rises to the top in Spokane, Hockey (much like drummer Anthony Stassi’s previous band, Seaweed Jack) outgrew the scene, and needed the move to properly expand. And they have. Mind Chaos is leaps and bounds beyond even what the band was playing live seven short months ago in Spokane. It’s the work of a band eager for bigger and better, now with the recorded material to support them.

JAY-Z
American Gangster
 (Island Def Jam)
Note to Bill Cosby: Want to know how to “take back” the language? Answer: own the entire industry. Seems to work for Jay-Z. What happens when you’re a musician, songwriter, record executive, CEO, president, owner of the lowly New Jersey Nets, and worth half a billion dollars? You get to do whatever you want, and that includes putting out the most badass blaxploitation soundtrack of all time. I’m not talking Dolemite or Shaft either; I’m talking bad to the core. Not an errant beat in the bunch, and American Gangster comes complete with a Beastie Boys sample (Hello Brooklyn 2.0) that’ll have you boom-banging well in to 2008.

LED ZEPPELIN
Mothership
 (Atlantic)
Led Zeppelin fans, no matter how casual, are going to have every last song in this collection. Here’s how to listen to Led Zeppelin. Go to a junk store, get on eBay, or go to your uncle’s house and steal a vinyl copy of Led Zeppelin III – you know, the one with the far-out pinwheel design in the middle. Go back to your uncle’s house and steal his turntable, because you’ll need that too. Make yourself comfortable and then rock. Repeat over and over as needed. Don’t bother with Mothership. All these songs, and more, are in your basement cooling their collectively heavy, but dusty, heels.

THE PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
These Are the Good Times People
 (Fugitive Records)
If goofy could be valued as a commodity, this album would buy our way straight out of the current mortgage crisis, Iraq, and there’d probably be enough left over to buy Elliot Spitzer’s Mrs. a big ol’ rock. It’d probably even ensure the Presidents of the United States a ticket straight on in to the White House. But goofy is just goofy. Sadly, it seems the Presidents are at the end of the goofy line. There’s a couple rockin’ little ditties (“Mixed up S.O.B” and “Riot in the Sun”), but otherwise this album will barely muster a grimace out of Dick Cheney.

ASHLEE SIMPSON
“Little Miss Obsessive” from Bittersweet World
 (Geffen)
Oh, Ashlee Simpson, the greater music world may loathe you, but I… I still love you dearly! But, the truth, dearest Ashlee, is that the first two singles off of your new album just aren’t living up to expectation. That “Outta My Head” song was sort of a laughable tease, and now “Little Miss Obsessive” just doesn’t have the… the kick! What happened to the pop and zip of your classics, “Boyfriend” and “Autobiography”?? The last album felt a little weak, but all signs point to disappointment on the new one. You’re the only female singer I listen to besides Kaylee Cole, so, like, I’ll defend you to the end, but give me a little somethin’ to work with, girl!

THE SWORD
Gods of the Earth
 (Kemado Records)
It’s rather fitting that recently deceased Dungeons and Dragons creator Gary Gygax would be so lovingly and fortuitously honored by the Sword. This album is chock full of chainmail, litters of cerebuses, kinders of gorgons, and it’s got scimitars up to its ears. This album is so tight it can only be characterized as butt-hole tight. Yes, that tight. The Sword’s variety of Metal punches, hits, kicks, and strikes. Total riff economy (“Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians”) and chunky armageddon. If you’ve even been on the fence about Metal this album will whack you right over the edge.

TOKYO POLICE CLUB
Elephant Shell
 (Saddle Creek)
If there is any justice in the world of music, the path of Tokyo Police Club will stretch out for miiiles and miles. The debut full-length from Canada’s most fresh-faced four piece does nothing but maintain the amazing name the band has built for itself with never-ending praise from national and international tastemakers. The highly regarded “Your English is Good” is a highlight, but it in no way overshadows the eleven tracks that in their best moments sound like Death Cab for Cutie on a helium high (which is a good thing), or a more intellectual and beefy Tilly and the Wall. Hand clapping and singing along are hard to resist. One of the most refreshing albums to cross the desk in a while.

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Music from the Center of the Universe 
(Clickpop/Murder Mountain)
Quickly after our glowing review of Black Eyes & Neckties (in which a share of ink was spent on Bellingham, WA’s burgeoning music scene), this collection of the best of their hometown arrived in our mailbox. From the artwork, to the thank yous, to the track listing itself, this disc is nothing but a celebration of the Bham music scene, and it’s just so refreshing to see. Though it kicks from the punk-rocking Neckties to the much more somber Jenni Potts, the disc has no trouble maintaining focus on the greater purpose: showcasing its wide range of talent. It would be amazing to see something similar arise in Spokane (has it? if so, please share), something that picks up the reins of Karli Fairbanks’ Christmas albums (which do a fabulous job of highlighting local talent) and shows all that Spokaloo boasts year-round.