On the new album "Sugar Sugar Whomp Whomp," St. Louis' favorite funk-jazz brass band broadens its palette to spread hip-hop, Latin, rock, country and gospel tones across its always colorful style. The title track, featuring a nice guest spot by Dave Grelle of the Feed on organ, is classic Funky Butt Brass Band: plenty of jazz chops, buckets of soul and truckloads of funk.
The complex, in-your-face art rock of Cleveland's Mr. Gnome belies just how fun it can be. "Melted Rainbow" isn't just artsy; it's a gloriously poppy, simply thrilling, slightly psychedelic anthem.
The Lowest Pair has a timeless old-time sound. Promo photos aside, Kendl Winter and Palmer T. Lee make no pretensions to authenticity. On a track like "Moving On," the beauty of their harmonies and intricate banjo-and-fiddle arrangements speaks for itself.
Memphis, Tennesse isn't generally thought of as a hotbed for chamber-folk music, but it depends on your vision of "chamber" and "folk." The vision of Memphis Dawls -- featuring a varied cast of musicians, including Holly Cole, Jana Misener and Krista Wroten -- is as inspired by classic Memphis soul as it is the complex, emotional pop of Big Star (the group recorded in the hallowed halls of Ardent studios). The new song "Please Don't Leave Me Now" expresses a string-drenched yearning that defies narrow definitions.
On his new album "Boxers," veteran songwriter and rocker Matthew Ryan takes the gloves off. You could call it a back to rock 'n' roll basics album, if your idea of basics is pure conviction, unvarnished commitment, "busted chords and a broken voice." The title track, especially, expresses a fierce commitment to justice and to the elusive dream of rock 'n' roll. It's the sound of an artist who still believes that promise is worth fighting for, worth keeping.
A UK band centered in the duo of Sam Swift-Glasman and Lisa Sara Jenkin, Springh makes grungy but poppy, alternately-tuned but catchy rock music. The B-side "My Head in Clouds" captures the thrill of '90s alt-rock without a trace of rank imitation.
To quote Robert Christgau: This is punk rock. With a guitar-and-synth-and-drums attack, and a message summed up concisely in its title, "Decadence," by Memphis, Tennessee band Nots, holds absolutely nothing back.
All kinds of '60s pop illuminate "Home Again," a new track by Dam Gila (aka Adam Gil of Chicago band YAWN): Beach Boyish harmonies, Byrdsian guitars and T. Rexian proto-glam.
Recorded under the sparest of conditions -- apparently just two microphones and an open door -- Gwyneth Moreland's "Little Black Flies" finds the Northern Californian in a timeless, contemplative folk mood that lingers long after the small but lovely song is through.
New York City band Hollands (husband-and-wife duo John-Paul and Jannina Norpoth) lets it all rip -- clever lyrics, charming harmonies, a string interlude, a whole lot of groove and even more fuzz -- on the new track "Great White Shark." A song with so many elements shouldn't have so much bite, but somehow its orchestral-rock teeth sink in deep.