Sound & Fury 2-1-2007

Hybrid I Choose Noise Distinct’ive Records; September 2006

Standing out in a genre that seems to be taking more steps backward than forward, British electronic duo Hybrid have been a breath of fresh air since their 2003 sophomore release Morning Sci-Fi. The Brits have tweaked some serious knobs on this one, churning out remarkably human melodies and percussions from some ice-cold circuitry. With vocals in progressive trance so often sounding tacked on at the last minute, Hybrid’s ability to work their tracks around their singers is a deadly weapon. Combined with some showcasing of their symphonic talents on tracks like “Just for Today,” I Choose Noise is by far one of the best electronic releases of the year.   — Levi Michaels

Richard Cheese Silent Nightclub Surfdog Records; September 2006

For those who have never experienced Richard Cheese and his band Lounge Against the Machine, this holiday-themed CD may not be the most opportune starting point. It’s thick with the cheese that makes Cheese the best mock-rocker on the planet, but it has too many Christmas tunes to be played in the house outside of the holiday season. This time around we’ve got the DK’s “Holiday in Cambodia,” Madonna’s “Like a Virgin,” Modern English’s “Melt with You,” Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus,” and, of course, Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.” On the Christmas tip, we get those barking keyboard dogs doing their best “Jingle Bells” and an assault on Charlie Brown’s “Christmas Time Is Here.”  — Matt Kettmann

The Shins Wincing the Night Away Sub Pop; January 2007

Though the first single off Wincing the Night Away picks up right where 2003’s Chutes Too Narrow left off, the remainder of The Shins’ latest release marches forward in directions both surprising and enjoyable. While holding fast to the whimsical lyrical elements that endeared so many to the band’s previous efforts, frontman James Mercer takes the time here to delve a bit deeper and get a bit darker. Trading in hints of twee pop twang for a slew of synth beats and slide guitar riffs, the band comes off sounding decidedly more mainstream rock than offbeat indie without losing their integrity. — Aly Comingore

Kris Kristofferson This Old Road New West Records; March 2006

Even if you’re tired of the old-guy-produced-by-young-guy movement (Cash, Diamond, Bourke), you’ll love This Old Road. Down-home and dusty, with a bucket of bile thrown in, Kristofferson holds nothing back. Don Was’s forceful production puts Kristofferson’s muscular, commanding phrasing right there in the middle of the speaker, punching away at you like a boxer. Kristofferson has always sounded crusty and craggy, and now, at the age of 70, that guise truly suits him. This is pugilistic and gentle, angry and sensitive, caustic and soothing, all at the same time. And just try to tell me that’s not how you were feeling on a daily basis during the glorious year of 2006. — Derek Svennungsen

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