THE BLAKES
The Blakes
(Light in the Attic)
Since signing to Light in the Attic in mid-May, Seattle’s heroes of garage rock, The Blakes, have amped up their previously-released self-titled and churned out a disc that’s even a sparklier diamond in the rough that you’d thought it. New track “Run” is a show of new direction and focus for the band, while the new intro on “Don’t Want That Now” is pretty much the best thing that could have ever happened to an already unbelievable song. Watch for the Blakes’ rise to fame in the coming months.

Atmosphere
Sad Clown Bad Summer
(Rhymesayers)
I confess: this is my first exposure to Atmosphere. The subtitle for this 5-song e.p. says “Accompanied by piano.” It’s true, it’s a rap cd with piano licks on each track. Three songs have low-slung deep funk groove that I love and two songs have a semi-disco beat that is less lovable. But the whole package is worth it just for the track “Sunshine,” which has immediately vaulted high into my list of all-time summer party songs. Excuse my pun but I’ve tasted the Atmosphere and I’m ready to breathe some more.

High on Fire
Death is this Communion
(Relapse Records)
Well this is as close as you’re ever going to come to surviving a full-on anvil attack. And I’m not talking Wile E. Coyote bonking you on the head; I’m talking Dawn of the Dead snuffed-out head trauma. Not just once or twice in the course of the album, thousands and thousands of episodes of blunt force exploits. Now I like getting conked on the head as much as the next guy, but sometimes this exercise can leave me wanting a little bit. High on Fire excels as sleazy endurance, but after three previous full-length beatings it’s a bit difficult to muster up the strength for more Metal abuse.

LE LOUP
The Throne of the Third…
(Hardly Art)
When I heard about this band, signed to Seattle’s Hardly Art, from someone clear on the other side of the country, it seemed all signs pointed to a need to check it out. Hardly Art isn’t your average indie label-it’s kid sister to indie behemoth SubPop (and takes its name from a fabulous Thermals song, I’ll add) -still, it’s carving a niche by releasing some seriously good music. Arthur & Yu’s release over the summer is followed by this disc of ambient, perfect-dissonance-heavy pop tunes, which have me singing some heavy praises.

MOVING UNITS
Hexes for Exes
(Metropolis)
It’s often the case that the electro pop stars who prove most rousing on the stage fall flat on their recordings. The thing about Moving Units is, well, they don’t. They are one of few bands that you can see live time and time again (or for the very first time), find yourself dancing nonstop, only to come home, drop one of their discs into your stereo, and experience the same results. Moving Units is a FORCE on the stage, but can also be found equally captivating in the comfort of your own home. That’s not a show of mediocrity in either aspect, it’s proof positive that they are one of the best in their field.

THE PINE HILL HAINTS
Ghost Dance
(K)
There is a reason that K Records makes an appearance in these reviews nearly every month (and it’s not just because they flood my mailbox with discs). Be it Pine Hill Haints, or C.O.C.O. or Adrian Orange before them, K is releasing ingeniously innovative music (now, but always too), and we’re all quite lucky to be in such close proximity to such greatness. Haints is a fireside hoe down that ebbs and flows with a desire to both reminisce and throw caution to the wind.

Pissed Jeans
Hope For Men
(Sub Pop)
Now that Henry Rollins has moved on to the boob tube, his throne is fair game. Who better to rattle their saber at the Rollins legacy than Pissed Jeans. In what amounts to a loud and screechy 41 minute affair, Pissed Jeans let you know who’s boss. Their exceptionally evocative name conjures up a heaping dose of coarse, vulgar, poorly groomed doom. The music conjures up gargantuan days of yesteryear filled with the Cows, U-Men, and a steaming clump of Tad. There’s really no need to shower if you’ve pissed your jeans.

SMILE BRIGADE
Take the Precious Edge off this Treacherous Ledge (Tilton House)
There’s not much I despise more than a band that’s typical. You can copy that which came before you (uh, and everyone does of course), but at least work hard to really excel at it. Make it your own or even sound like a carbon copy, but be really, really good at it. If you’re not putting the effort into that, you’ll end up typical. The rad packaging on Smile Brigade’s new disc can’t hide what’s inside. I love the Northwest locals, but only when they can keep from being typical. Insert frowny face.

Turbonegro
Retox
(Cooking Vinyl USA)
I don’t know that I’ve ever “been down” with the concept of the joke band. Sure the Ruttles, Spinal Tap, Ray Stevens, and Weird Al all have their place in history, but what about a band theatroils in sarcasm, deviance, and sexual vagaries. Turbonegro’s got all that and its chiseled in a mountain of crunchy deathpunk. Their latest, Retox, doesn’t move too far from the oddities of previous efforts. Lyrical content like “…this painted boy’s gonna eat forever so…feed me, feed me, coz everybody loves a chubby dude” leave me amused and confused. Just who are these foul-mouthed undesirables playing a joke on? Me or themselves?

TWO GALLANTS
Two Gallants
(Saddle Creek)
After their recent stop in Seattle (with support from Portland’s stars-on-the-rise Blitzen Trapper), Two Gallants proved themselves the current keepers of my musical heart. Their third full-length, self-titled, acquired shortly thereafter only cemented the position. Naysayers may call out the slicker feeeeel of this record, but still at its heart is that which we all love most about the San Fran duo-the down-on-yr-luck, blues and country-injected rock that grabs hold of our gut and won’t ease up. Adam Stephen’s gnarly growl details the Gallants’ characteristic storytelling, while Tyson Vogel backs him with his unmatched ferocity behind the kit. These two prove in every moment that they are two of the most powerful and memorable performers and musicians currently in music, not to be ignored.

THE VULTURES
Jubilee
(Art Fag)
I’ve only heard two songs off of the Vultures’ debut album, but it’s enough to make this assessment: spazzhighkickholycrap! When I lost the Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, I’ll admit, it felt that the world, well, it might just be ending. With that nearly a year behind me now, I’ve learned to move on, and so have the members of the seminal punk band. Brandon, he’s got the perfect Prayers (which recently added Chuck), and Chuck has his Vultures (and, ok, multiple other projects… these boys were never much for band monogamy). These two bands are both unbelievable, and if you’ve missed this opportunity to check either out, delay no more. Most recommended: The Vultures – “Vulture Land,” The Prayers – “Clandestino.” Holy moley, yeah?