Steve Reynolds Exile (429 Records;
January 2006)

Echoing sounds of Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams,
and Elliott Smith, singer/songwriter Steve Reynolds’s poetic lyrics
and extraordinary guitar work create a powerful folk-inspired rock
sound. Together with his slightly raspy voice and the raw nature of
his performance, Reynolds’s debut album features an array of moods.
From the heartfelt ballads of “Market Fool” to the upbeat,
foot-tapping “Dear Rose,” Reynolds’s songs evoke emotions from
guilt and indulgence to love lost and rediscovered. The haunting
lyrics of “Only Son” pay tribute to his writing skills and the
sweet sound of the old-fashioned love song “Satellite” proves his
ability to draw from the past. The mellow, soothing motif of the
recording makes this album perfect for everything from road trips
to nightly gatherings with friends. — Stephanie Cain

Drums & Tuba Battles Olé
(Righteous Babe Records; 2005)

A marching band geek’s delight – apparently it’s
cool to play a tuba. The granddaddy of brass anchors the low end of
this rebellious album with unprecedented dynamics. Complemented by
guitar, drums, vocals, and a gaggle of effects, the six extended
tracks on Battles Olé challenge the listener to the fullest. Every
song on this disc seems to traverse a variety of moods. The
sinister “Two Dollars” gives way to the funky aggression of “Four
Notes of April.” The staggered phrasings of the latter might be
Olé’s only vocal triumph. The fittingly named “Magnum Opie” reveals
the jazzier persona of Drums & Tuba. An astral voyage of sorts,
it makes one crave the band’s groovier side. — Tyler

The Robocop Kraus They Think They Are the
Robocop Kraus
(Epitaph Records; February 2006)

In the newly revived department of rock bands
aspiring to emulate the Talking Heads, the Robocop Kraus takes the
prize. That said, it is a good record for its resuscitated genre
and is full of funky bass lines and subtle electronic transitions
between tracks. Good job, boys, or should I say das Muttersöhnchen,
you German scoundrels? If these guys ever get popular over here,
they are definitely getting sued by David Byrne, and though the
songs were quite catchy at times, I simply could not escape that
thought. A line from the principal track, “After Laughter Comes
Tears,” contains the sentiment “we are working / hardly working,”
which sums up this point quite nicely. — Patrick Moore

The Flaming Lips At War with the
(Warner Bros.; April 2006)

The Lips are one of my favorite bands ever, okay?
In the ’90s, no one was better (not even Sonic Youth). Since
Yoshimi, however, they have been worshiping false idols, and this
Mystics album is just another step down the path to musical
irrelevancy. The lyrics are banal, the music is hyper-processed and
derivative, and Wayne’s vocalizings have lost their personality.
Honestly, holding this album up to Telepathic Surgery or The Soft
Bulletin is an exercise in the most awful disappointments. If
you’ve come to these Okies late in their career, this set of gizmos
will probably dazzle you just fine. But like a betrayed disciple,
I’m going elsewhere for my mysticism. — Derek


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