THE BLAKES
Let it Loose
(Red Dear Records)
The Blakes are Seattle’s best export right now. There I said it. Yeah, and I meant it. I wasn’t sold on the new songs right away, but, nope, nope, now I am. The live show is undeniably fantastic, but this debut full-length, which, if there were any justice in the world, would be flying off shelves at your local Virgin Megastore (or Hastings), is so full of great dancey, jangly rock ‘n’ roll that it’ll make you cry in wonderment. Or at least dance like a maniac (maaaaaaniac on the floor…).

THE BRIGGS
Back to Higher Ground
(SideOneDummy)
SideOneDummy is a mixed bag for sure-you’ve got your gypsy punks (Gogol Bordello), your girly-punks (Go Betty Go), your Irish punks (Flogging Molly), and your hardcore punks (The Casualties). From all sides, though, what is most important about S1D is that they’ve maintained QUALITY punk music. No Fueled by Ramen flavorings, not even any Epitaph weaknesses, just solid punk music. So punk isn’t your thing? So be it, the integrity of the roster holds up. The Briggs are the label’s newest offering, and they land somewhere in the mix, near the Casualties end of the spectrum, but without the screaming. Oi!-flavored, but more accessible to the mainstream.

EVERCLEAR
Welcome to the Drama Club
(Eleven Seven Music)
Art Alexakis, you had me fooled for most of my teen years. My formative years, dude! I defended you for so long. I said you were misunderstood. I said you were a good guy. I said that you were just about the art, Art, man. I did it for so many years that it’s embarrassing. Now all of my friends who knew me then are like “Dude, you totally blameshifted on that sh**, what gives?” What gives is the truth, friends. I wanted to walk into this latest disc with a clean slate, but the words of former Everclear-er Craig Montoya were ringing too loudly in my mind. Some nasty stuff went down, friends, and where Everclear stands today, with a disc of songs that show no growth, no real conviction, and nothing beyond sad, rehashed themes of absent dads, broken bonds of love, etc, etc, really shows where the career of the band’s only original stands. (That said, please don’t forget how great Sparkle and Fade was though, because, dang, at the time it was so good.)

FORWARD RUSSIA!
Give Me a Wall
(Mute)
Reader, I know there are a lot of synthy pop bands out there right now-and we may have even bent your ear on one too many at this point. For that I am sorry, but please, please, lend your eyes and dollars to this name, which will likely be one of the biggest things of the coming months. Forward Russia is fer real, yo. Forget what you even think you know about synth pop and just invest in this. No more needs to be said … Except, just, PLEASE. I love you so much and this really matters to me. It’s so good.

THE HIDDEN CAMERAS
Awoo
(Arts & Crafts)
The Hidden Cameras shares that “bigness” of acts like the Arcade Fire and Architecture in Helsinki. That bigness, that feeling that the room is jam-packed with smiling faces that are slowly, carefully taking over your brain and closing in on your thought processes. There’s always that trickley piano line playing underneath that seemingly-innocent pop number that you both can’t help but hum along to, but also can’t help but think this might be the last thing you ever hear alive. And maybe that’s okay, because, shoot, Joel Gibb and crew, cult-ish or not, make ya feel quite alright, don’t they? Or do they…

LA ROCCA
The Truth
(Dangerbird)
Forgive them the clichs in the title track and Dublin-originated La Rocca will likely win your heart. This disc feels like an old friend-both a little too familiar, and so very welcome. La Rocca is a band with a smoky barroom mentality, but the sound and the offerings here are clearly so very much better than that. Lead-off track “Sketches (20 Something Life)” is both fortunately and unfortunately the best song on the disc-it gets you in, but you might find yourself looking for something to top it. Overall, though, the progression of the disc will keep you listening.

LADYFINGER (NE)
Heavy Hands
(Saddle Creek)
Oh, Omaha, I hardly knew you had this in you! This screaming, pounding anthemic rock! I’ve not heard it from you! Must be those outsiders, those folks not born and raised in your native lands, in this band that are making it sound so unlike your norm. Don’t get me wrong, the norm is frickin’ unbelievable… but this, ooh la la. This reminds me a little of your like-structured (read: incestuous) label peer, three.one.g-this intensity of sound and propulsion. It’s like a marriage of the two mindsets. MIND BLOW.

MASTADON
Blood Mountain
(Reprise Records)
Is it possible to attain new heights of progressivism when you’ve already defined the far progressive reaches of the metal genre? This age-old question is answered atop Blood Mountain-elevation: infinity. The new LP is filled with some serious noodling (“Bladecatcher”), but this album also packs a serious crunch (“Crystal Skull.”) Excellent cameos from Neurosis and the Queens of the Stone Age. Take the time and climb Blood Mountain, the view from the top is like nothing you’ve ever heard.

THE MELVINS
Live at the Big Easy, Spokane WA 9/15/06
Few bands are as relentlessly innovative and long-lived as the Melvins. Their newest trick? Adding a second drummer achieving the impossible task of making their sound even heavier. The result was a completely different show from the last time they came to town. I thought I felt some tugging on my pant leg-but it was only monstrous soundwaves. Material from the forthcoming record sounded great.

TRAINWRECK RIDERS
Lonely Road Revival
(Alive)
Trainwreck Riders never quite manage to live up to my expectations of Alive Recordings experiences of the past-namely, Two Gallants. They tour together, they recorded their debuts for the same label… but it’s unfair to compare. After all, Two Gallants is a diamond in the rough, a perfect pearl emerging from a sea of rough, rough, ugly waters (of bands). Trainwreck Riders are mellower, twangy-er, and, fittingly, not quite as exciting. But! They are still worth checking out. Just don’t go into it with “Two Gallants: The Sequel” on the brain.

VIVA VOCE
Get Yr Blood Sucked Out
(Barsuk)
I’m all about the cute couples making pop music-love The Rosebuds, those Mates of State kids, those Dresden Dolls. But dammit if the best thing about husband-wife duo Viva Voce isn’t that they just … rock. And rock hard. They’ve got the cutie-pie faces, but when Viva Voce is playing, whether on the stereo or on the stage, there’s no mistaking their hard-nosed vintage rock. Amen.

YO LA TENGO
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass
(Matador)
Can Yo La Tengo even be reviewed at this point? Hmm, maybe. This album title kicks the ass of all other album titles in the history of album titles.