Cate Le Bon – Mug Museum

For a folk singer-songwriter from Wales, Cate Le Bon does a good job of avoiding being what you’d traditionally expect. Her third album, Mug Museum, a psychedelic pop record which blows between hazy wigouts and 60s Parisian pop, is an upwards move for her.

The last statement needs quantifying; take a listen to album opener ‘I Can’t Help You’ or it’s slinking follow up ‘Are You With Me Now?‘. You can just see her lounging outstretched in a hotel in Paris, taking a long drag on a cigarette. While her voice only seems to have one tone and level of volume, she can hold your attention just through the sheer originality of her accent. Tom Jones never actually sounds Welsh when he sings, so hearing Cate Le Bon feels much like she’s singing songs written by Serge Gainsbourg.

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Blitzen Trapper – VII

Blitzen Trapper have been a consistent band for many years now, the formula would have you believe that by their seventh album, aptly titled VII, they should be cashing in on that solidity. For now however they seem content to riff, shuffle and stomp their way onwards at an even pace.

That doesn’t mean that they haven’t evolved slightly though, with their previous two albums, American Goldwing and Destoryer Of The Void, had a slightly 70s FM friendly style of country rock, now they have taken a modern tact, using turntable scratches to that country blues. While it would be farfetched to say this album was rap or hip-hop it does borrow some of the ingenuity you might be more likely to find on an early¬†Gorillaz album. Perhaps it is the jump from Sub Pop to Vagrant Records (Lojinx in Europe) which has brought them to this point.

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Quasi – Mole City

The city of Portland, Oregon has produced some great bands over the last decade or so; The Thermals and Red Fang to name just two, and now Quasi are making waves as well. They’ve been going since the early 90s but haven’t yet made an impact over here, but all that could change with the release of Mole City.

Their time spent as Elliott Smith’s backing band can be heard, layered beneath everything they do, but they are not even remotely as mellow or melancholy. ‘You Can Stay But You Gotta Go’ begins the album as a rocket blasting off with a powerful melody to swing on and grizzly guitars to match, all of which draws you in. There are 24 tracks on this album, but with several tracks barely reaching a minute that might be a little misleading. This is actually a collection of concise bursts of indie-rock.

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Be Like Pablo – The New Adventures

Billed as punk rock for nerds, Be Like Pablo are nothing of the sort. Their debut, The New Adventures, is more like a twee twist on pop-punk, filled with synth and boy/girl vocal harmonies.

Opener ‘The Things You Do’ begins as a dorky ode to a love who won’t look in singer Ewen Watson’s direction. What develops, and it is a pattern which doesn’t take long to realise, is a song of colour-by-number scenarios and mushy sentiment. ‘The Post-it Song’ features lines like “My heart’s not ready yet”, and the back and forth of “Is this good for both of us?”. Such limp lyrics would even embarrass the Mouseketeers. On top of this, the female vocals of Karen Johnston lack conviction while Ewen Watson strains to be so boyish he sounds like a five-year-old yelling for attention.

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Mark Lanegan – Imitations

After releasing a well received seventh solo album last year and an under-the-radar collaboration with Duke Garwood earlier this year you’d expect Mark Lanegan to go into hiding for a while – after all, he took eight years between Bubblegum and Blues Funeral. The man must feel he’s on a role though as he hits the road again for Imitations a collection of covers, something most people mark as either career suicide or genius rejuvenation.

This effort falls between the two, meaning it makes no real dent in his credentials but nor will it wow audiences. These are mostly songs Lanegan heard growing up which does add a sort of elegance about their selection, there is even a nod to his buddy and some-time collaborator Greg Dulli for ‘Deepest Shade’. The pick of the bunch however has to be the bond theme ‘You Only Live Twice’ making you wonder if Lanegan might not be a brilliant, left-field choice for the next bond movie theme.

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The Moondoggies – Adios I’m A Ghost

For a band who started firmly in the punk category as teens, The Moondoggies sure have found an Americana swagger. Fronted by Kevin Murphy, this Washington band might just be ready to challenge the big hitters of the Americana scene.

The opening kick you get from ‘Red Eye’ will sustain you through the tempered ‘Annie Turn Out the Lights’ and ‘Midnight Owl’. Look deeper, however, and the themes present on Adios I’m a Ghost are nothing new; there is yearning, reflection and a strong will to move on from the past. The harmonies are almost on par with Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes, but don’t carry as sweet a melody.

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John Frusciante – Outsides

If you thought John Frusciante had ceased to make music then you are very much in the wrong. While what he does won’t register on most people’s radars he seems more dedicated to the craft than ever. Outsides is his third record in just over a year. Granted this is one of two EP treats, but given the gap between 2009’s excellent The Empyrean and 2012’s Letur-Lefur this is something of a splurge.

With each new piece of music he creates Frusciante details his process and mind-set for it. What he is acting out now he isn’t part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers are his own personal thought-experiments. The time spent with his chum Omar Rodriquez Lopez has clearly left an impression as he is still pushing forward with the synth and electronica mayhem heard on PBX Funicular Intaglio Zone. This time his aim is to focus more on each note and each beat which would explain the over-bearing electronic drums.

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Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt

Katie Crutchfield, better known as Waxahatchee, has graduated from her bedroom recorded debut to a more whole feeling effort. That effort is Cerulean Salt, and despite it being a fairly bare and stripped arrangement it still packs a punch.

‘Hollow Bedroom’ leads you in serenely with only vocals and some gentle electric guitar, like the soundtrack to a Zach Braff movie, but swiftly steps up a gear. ‘Dixie Cups and Jars’ adds a pounding bass drum and constant – if simplistic – bass to march on with. While the lyrics across the album are lent a quaint feeling in their delivery Crutchfield can be quite cutting in her remarks “you’ll remain and I will find a way to leave gracefully”.

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Bosnian Rainbows – Bosnian Rainbows

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez doesn’t know the meaning of taking things slow; the man never stops. With around 30 solo releases alone, the Mars Volta man has put his main band to bed – for now – in favour of Bosnian Rainbows, much to the disappointment of Cedric Bixler-Zavala.

This self-titled debut, then, is to be judged on the band as a whole. Of course, there are shades of Mars Volta but singer Teri Gender Bender is the star of the show, with her proggy, Kate Bush vocals smoothly twisting inside your ear canals. ‘The Eye Fell in Love’ is the catchiest track vocally, while measured guitars swim alongside foreboding synths.

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Middle Class Rut – Pick Up Your Head

If Middle Class Rut had gears then their new album, Pick Up Your Head, would truly rip the gear box out in a psychotic rage. Where No Name No Color had a tempered and balanced sound, there is now disarray and a chunkier vibe. ‘Born Too Late’ begins with a thunderous stampede of drums, but locks into their socio-political lyricism once more.

It’s the obvious but brilliant next step for the band who told America to “lock up their shit” and that “the enemy” was outside the door. Fear abroad and at home bred their debut and made it a scorcher, now the focus appears to be on the lost generation. ‘Sing While You Slave’ owes its message to the underappreciated workers and soldiers, while ‘Aunt Betty’ strains the question, “Why don’t you believe in me?”

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