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Slipped Discs (Part 2)

Artist: Death Ships Album: Seeds of Devastation Label: Faithful Anchor Image:

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Don't be thrown of by the band name or album title. This isn't a dire black-clad excursion into drone and sludge. On the contrary it's about as far from that as you can get. Iowa City's Death Ships have crafted a remarkably nuanced rock record that bleeds ever so slightly into alt-country. It's a sound that, depending on how you hear it, has the band either straining at the confines of their heartland roots or pushing past them with a respectful nod and wave. At the album's best, the songs on Seeds of Devastation begin as proper salutes to the country rock sounds of John Cougar Mellencamp, Buffalo Springfield or the Byrds, but that propriety never lasts too long. On "City Never Sleeps", "Great American", and "Knocks Over Time", those sweetly-spun melodies spiral into acres of guitar distortion and rising waves of drums and searing vocals. Primary singer-songwriter Dan Maloney's impressive control over his songs, wringing maximum emotional weight out of a riff or a phrase, is all the more impressive when considering this is Death Ships first release. The bar has been set high. Peter Funk

Multiple songs [MySpace]

Multiple songs [Streaming player]Death Ships: Seeds of Devastation

Artist: The Elected Album: Sun, Sun, Sun Label: Sub Pop Amazon affiliate: iTunes affiliate: Image: Insound affiliate: US Release Date: 2006-01-24 UK Release Date: 2006-01-23

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Rilo Kiley front woman Jenny Lewis's burgeoning solo career has gotten attention, but vocalist and songwriter Blake Sennett is coming into his own with side project the Elected's second album, Sun, Sun, Sun. Sennett's songwriting comes from a place somewhere between adolescence and full-blown adulthood. He sings in his delicate, choirboy voice about lost love, nostalgia, and the ever-growing difference between where you come from and who you are. Sun, Sun, Sun sails along with bittersweet pop songs "Fireflies in a Steel Mill", the country-influenced "The Bank and Trust", and the swaggering blues of "Did Me Good". When Sennett sings, "It made me feel sweet and sad / Warm, proud, and young", he could be describing the feeling that Sun, Sun, Sun gives you: the feeling of missing, the bittersweet pang of memory. There's no gimmick to the Elected, they're just making music to help many of us navigate our twenties, and they do so with a gentle, knowing, optimism all their own. Maura McAndrew

Not Going Home [MP3]

Multiple songs [MySpace]

The Elected - Did Me GoodThe Elected: Sun, Sun, Sun

Artist: Field Mob Album: Light Poles and Pine Trees Label: Geffen Image: US Release Date: 2006-06-20 UK Release Date: 2006-07-17

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What made Light Poles and Pine Trees one of the best albums of 2006? Was it Smoke and Shawn Jay's region-defying lyricism? Was it their elastic delivery? Their ear for wild beats? Their sense of humor? Yeah. But more than anything, Field Mob's third album is just fun. It's not disposible. It's not a guilty pleasure. It's not escapism. It's an album full of sometimes-topical jams by a couple of dudes from Albany, Georgia who genuinely enjoy their time in the studio. While many stars in Atlanta dropped albums this year, Field Mob's sleeper is the only one I'm still playing. Andrew Friedman

Multiple songs and videos [AOL Music]

Multiple songs [MySpace]Field Mob: Light Poles and Pine Trees

Artist: The Figgs Album: Follow Jean Through the Sea Label: Gern Blandsten Image: US Release Date: 2006-11-14 UK Release Date: 2006-11-20

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Records like the Figgs' Follow Jean Through the Sea are habitually ignored by year-end lists, because music critics have an unhealthy obsession with ambitious grasps for profundity. Pop music needn't be epic, obscure, and formless; it demands self-discipline, definition, and strict constitution, all of which Follow Jean Through the Sea -- an impeccably written, smashingly performed power-pop record barely over half an hour -- has in spades. Guitarist Mike Gent and bassist Pete Donnelly share songwriting and singing duties, as usual, but this time around their predilection for one-upmanship stings like a grudge-spurned sparring match. Gent's stocky riff-driven songs, like the tongue-in-cheek "Regional Hits" and moody "City Loft Home", are rousing complements to Donnelly's fast-moving nuggets, like "Don't Hurt Me Again" and "Let Me Hold You". Don't let records with longer runtimes and loftier concepts keep you from hearing this, probably the most satisfying LP of the Figgs' 20-year career and certainly one of 2006's most exhilarating 30 minutes. Zeth Lundy

Multiple songs [MySpace]

The Figgs - Hobble SkirtThe Figgs: Follow Jean Through the Sea

Artist: Lisa Germano Album: In the Maybe World Label: Young God Image: US Release Date: 2006-07-18 UK Release Date: 2006-07-24

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An incomparable singer/songwriter/arranger/multi-instrumentalist with vision, Lisa Germano released her best album this year. Did anyone notice? In the Maybe World is intimate and grand, raw and soft, dark and light. Within a dream-state milieu, it presents perspectives on death, the mystery and immediacy of it, on the split between the corporal and maybe-afterworlds, and on the puzzles of mortality, in terms blunt and fanciful. It sounds like no other album, presents its own absorbing universe. Whispered sadness, lust, mourning and questioning are orchestrated with the overblown grace of a golden-age Hollywood musical, but played out inside the quiet, unsteady mind of one person. This album has the precision of poetry and the demeanor of an extended lullaby -- a swooning, lush, intoxicating one. Dave Heaton

Live performance and interview on PRI's Studio 360 (uses RealPlayer) [MP3]

Lisa Germano - Red ThreadLisa Germano: In the Maybe World

Artist: The Green Arrows Album: 4-Track Recording Session Subtitle: Analog Africa No. 1 Label: Alula Image: US Release Date: 2006-02-14 UK Release Date: Available as import

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The Green Arrows was a Zimbabwean pop group whose career spanned the 1970s from beginning to end. It received its first press notice in 1969 and broke up between 1979 and 1980 when the lead singer and two of his fellow band members fell out over an amount of money. This retrospective, assembled by a devotee, came out last February and doesn't seem to have attracted very much attention, which is a shame because the music is outstanding -- brisk guitarwork coupled with the languorously moist, between-the-toes squash of a band in love with its wah-wah pedal. If you think that Zim-pop was a wasteland until Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi came along then this should change your mind. And the written record of the group's history in the liner notes is extensive enough to stand as a reference work on its own. All in all, a beautiful piece of work. Deanne SoleThe Green Arrows: 4-Track Recording Session

Artist: Hacienda Brothers Album: What's Wrong with Right Label: Proper Amazon: Image: US Release Date: 2006-06-27 UK Release Date: 2006-06-26

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In 2006, Van Hunt emerged as the consummate singer/player/producer/songwriter, a fact that was not lost on critics who fatuously compared On the Jungle Floor to the work of The Purple One. The fact is Van Hunt is an exceptional artist in his own right who's yet to realize mainstream or commercial success with his blistering fusion of funk, rock, and soul. That's not to say On the Jungle Floor isn't accessible. Quite the contrary, the 16 full-length tracks (minus one intro and one interlude) on Van Hunt's second album are the best songs your radio station isn't playing. From the unbridled rock of "Ride, Ride, Ride" to the sizzling funk of "Hot Stage Lights" to a rousing duet with Nikka Costa on "Mean Sleep", the songs On the Jungle Floor will surely outlive the multi-platinum competition currently poisoning the barometer of popular music. Christian John Wikane

Multiple songs [MySpace]Hacienda Brothers: What's Wrong with Right

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