OFF! - First Four EPs
Best Tracks: "Poison City," "Now I'm Pissed," "Rat Trap"
Punk is dead, except for those few people that choose to keep it alive. OFF! is a supergroup of a bunch of old school punk guys that just want to make the music they love and they do it with complete style. This could have come out in 1980, but it came out in 2010 instead. Total retro album and for fans of this sort of thing, a true delight. (Original Grade: B)
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Sepulcros de Miel
Best Tracks: "Part II," "Part III," "Part IV," "Part VIII"
Essentially a thirty minute jam, Sepulcros de Miel covers a range of Omar Rodriguez-Lopez's usual styles. It's an effective encompassing of what he does and it's a hell of a listen. On this one, Omar is accompanied by his brother, drummer Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, bassist Juan Alderete, and former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist and frequent collaborator John Frusciante. A group of supremely talented musicians, it's amazing that they can simply jam for that long and still keep you entertained without any consistent musical themes throughout except for the synth loop that begins and ends the album. (Original Grade: B)
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez - Cizaña de los Amores
Best Tracks: "No Hay Más Respuestas," "Victimas del Cielo," "Infiel Hasta la Muerte"
Like its spiritual predecessors, Xenophanes and Solar Gambling, Cizaña de los Amores focuses on concise, pop-structured songwriting less than jamming like Omar's usual fare. It's the kind of album that his fans had often wanted him to make and it turns out almost as well as the first two of its type. It lacks in the bombast of Xenophanes and the songs just aren't quite as good as Solar Gambling, but it's another fantastic release of this style. (Original Grade: B+)
The Saddest Landscape - You Will Not Survive
Best Tracks: "Eternity is Lost on the Dying," "Imperfect But Ours," "So Lightly Thrown"
The Saddest Landscape made their return after five years of hiatus this year and came back roaring with their first new material in that time, You Will Not Survive. Despite being a short album, it packs a massive punch to the gut, with seven explosive tracks. The Saddest Landscape is just getting started on their comeback with this album. (Original Grade: not reviewed)
Sed Non Satiata - Sed Non Satiata
Best Tracks: "Les colonnes de soie," "Calle Jaen 23... ou l'antre de la bête"
The French screamo band's new self-titled release is a force to be reckoned with. While some songs run on a little bit long, they're all primo tracks. "Calle Jaen 23... ou l'antre de la bête" in particular is an instrumental with wailing, tortured guitars that reminds one of Pink Floyd's David Gilmour at times. (Original Grade: not reviewed)
Screaming Females - Castle Talk
Best Tracks: "A New Kid," "Fall Asleep," "Ghost Solo"
Screaming Females frontwoman Marissa Paternoster proves once again that she's the queen of the epic riff on Castle Talk, their latest album. The more upbeat songs are fun punk rock to get down to while the slower songs remind one of Sleater-Kinney's indie riot grrrl days. (Original Grade: not reviewed)
Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here
Best Tracks: "Your Soul and Mine," "I'll Take Care of You," "Where Did the Night Go," "Running"
Gil Scott-Heron's battles with drug addiction and illness come through his gravelly voice on I'm New Here, a dark blues album that casts the civil rights activist in a new light. It's a deeply personal album, but it shows no bitterness. I'm New Here makes it clear that Scott-Heron isn't going down without a fight. (Original Grade: A)
She & Him - Volume Two
Best Tracks: "Ridin' in My Car," "Gonna Get Along Without You Now," "I'm Gonna Make It Better," "Over It Over Again," "Brand New Shoes"
Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's project together returns with a new album of old school style folk and country songs. It's a classicist approach to those genres and it seems like they would have been a good fit to play on The Porter Wagoner Show back in the day. In 2010, it's a nice listen for relaxation. (Original Grade: B)
sIngs - Hells
Best Tracks: "Panic Pig," "House," "You're"
sIngs makes heavily distorted, shoegaze sort of music that might remind one of My Bloody Valentine. They don't have very much upbeat material though, focusing mainly on depressing and pensive music, especially on songs like "House" which is mostly an acoustic song. This is their debut EP and it promises amazing things to come. They're already my favorite band in Houston. (Original Grade: A)
Snowing - I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted
Best Tracks: "So I Shotgunned a Beer and Went Back to Bed," "Could Be Better Forever"
Snowing uses the classic 90's template of emo and runs with it. They're a truly classic leaning band, uninterested in following trends of today. That makes them somewhat unique in the current landscape and extremely enjoyable. (Original Grade: not reviewed)