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Sound and Fury

Mother Hips

Kiss the Crystal Flake

Camera; April 2007

It’s easy to be swayed by the Mother Hips, especially if you dig rich nuggets from a psychedelic era (they chose the CD title for a reason). This is a guitar band, first and foremost; from the “London Calling”-esque ringing that opens the CD to the later Stones swagger, the band catalogues cool riffs and makes them its own. The vocals get split by songwriter/guitarists Tim Bluhm and Greg Loiacono, both of whom aspire to sound like a hungrier Don Henley. After all, Henley probably spent more money on the blow he snorted off 17-year-olds’ asses than the Mother Hips have made in their career. Fortunately, the Hips aren’t quite so jaded. -George Yatchisin

Mammatus

The Coast Explodes

Holy Mountain; April 2007

Mammatus is a rock/psych group from Santa Cruz whose second album, The Coast Explodes, lives up to its title and is a thrilling listen from start to finish. The record is book-ended by two long tracks, “Dragon of the Deep, Pt. 3 (Excellent Swordfight)” and the title track. These are deep journeys into the heart of lumbering percussion, echoey vocals, and punishing guitar solos. Despite its menacing vibe, Mammatus isn’t afraid to indulge its prog-rock desires either, and this gives each song a levity that is desperately missing from so many self-conscious contemporary metal groups. File The Coast Explodes under heavy listening and ignore at your own peril. -Max Burke

Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom and the Ys Street Band EP

Drag City; April 2007

Upon a first listening of Joanna Newsom, it’s not uncommon to wonder: What is this? Is it a twisted Bjrk? Is it a possessed, back-from-the-grave Billie Holiday? Nope, it’s Joanna Newsom, with all her haunting vocals and evocative instrumentation. Newsom’s incredible 2006 album, Ys, more than hinted at oddball greatness, and this three-song EP proves her initial most-loved status wasn’t a fluke. Although the disc only contains one new song (the other two are re-recorded), the final product here feels strangely fresh and healing. Lead track “Colleen” is ethereal, evocative, and emotional. Hear this and enter the wonderful world of Joanna Newsom, a chanteuse so desperately needed in these sour times. -Brier Random

Norah Jones

Not Too Late

Blue Note; January 2007

I have to admit that upon hearing the first notes of Norah Jones’s voice singing “Come Away with Me,” from her debut album of the same title, I was instantly in love. Of course, I’m sure it helped that I was completely smitten with the person who first turned me on to her, but in any case, since then, I’ve become a veritable Jones groupie. In Not Too Late, her third release, she’s had a hand in writing all the songs, and, like her other two albums, reveals a remarkable facility to cross genres. This is her jazziest, particularly on tracks like “The Sun Doesn’t Like You” and “Until the End.” And when the end comes with “Not Too Late,” I start the CD all over again. -Felicia M. Tomasko

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