KEY

***** = Masterpiece

**** = Brilliant

*** = Splendid

** = Good

* = Almost

**** MIRAH, You Think It's Like This But It's

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New local releases

KEY

***** = Masterpiece

**** = Brilliant

*** = Splendid

** = Good

* = Almost

**** MIRAH, You Think It's Like This But It's Really Like This (K) If you ever heard Chris Knox's little gem of an album Songs of You & Me or anything by the Magnetic Fields, you understand the beauty of sweet little pop songs and the surprise of how funny a broken heart can be. Like those artists, Mirah's debut album proves that she knows plenty of great pop secrets. Even though some of her lyrical musings aren't entirely brand new—lines from the song "Murphy Bed" remind us of Liz Phair ("We can fuck and watch TV")—Mirah's songs are at once innocent and wise, tender and rocking.—Laura Learmonth

** FENDEL/BURNS, Ring the Bells (Trio) Alto saxophonist Marc Fendel and pianist Ryan Burns are two Northwest jazz kids who met up at the Berklee school in Boston and have been playing together ever since. This live duo set, which includes some solid originals, some seldom-heard Duke and Monk tunes, plus a handful of Jewish melodies sandwiched in between, showcases the kind of relaxed rapport that the two young players have developed, a comfortable swing that is tight without being locked in.—Mark D. Fefer

***** SICK BEES, My Pleasure (Up) Seattle's Sick Bees start their long-awaited second disc with a cut-up sample of a soundtrack to an educational film about Washington's favorite volcano as a lead-in to the absolutely ripping "Saint Helen's." Then Starla and Julio ricochet around minimalist styles, plunging into noisy punk-metal outbursts and wading into tension-filled indie-rock ruminations. More politically piquant than (early) Sinead O'Connor—check out the homage/character assassination of Jane Fonda on "Work It"—and as fascinating as anything that came out of riot grrrl, My Pleasure is most definitely our pleasure, and the only work of sheer genius to come out of Seattle so far this year besides Modest Mouse's latest.—Richard A. Martin

*** WILLIS, Bourgeois Blues (Collective Fruit) In "Trucker's Lullaby," Willis' Tim Seely sings "You still believe I rule the road/found I'm no good without this load/my dreams got flushed down the commode/my only treasure will be towed," over sweetly picked guitar notes and nothing else. It's one of those stop-what-you're-doing-and-stare songs, which is cool, since it's about a car wreck. And while the rest of the EP features songs that allow you to get on with your life, the sparse instrumentation and witty, informed lyrics are solid, soothing, and rooted firmly in the sort of folk-rock that goes quite nicely with vintage Simon and Garfunkel, CSNY, and Uncle Tupelo.—L.L.

** DISCOHESIVE, (-) Space (Discohesive) What is it about "quirky," genre- bending bands of the post-Primus school that makes their singers sound so dithering, like they're either borderline insane or borderline retarded? Maybe it's because they're playing their instruments so damn fast they don't have time to regain enough sense to enunciate properly. Or maybe it's just something for the pothead portion of their audience to identify with. Either way, mushmouthed singing hardly gets in Discohesive's way; it's actually kind of charming and fits in perfectly with the deliberately sloppy playing. And the group's goofy approach makes their jazz-ska-funk-metal-prog-punk kitchen sink into a fun place to visit.—Michaelangelo Matos

**** BILL HORIST, Songs from the Nerve Wheel (Unit Circle Rekkids) If you want to know the currently disturbed state of guitar then you have no more urgent duty than to spin the fiercely beautiful solo improvisations of Bill Horist, one of the leaders of Seattle's avant-jazz movement. Bent scrapes, siren drills, and gulped shrieks are set against a neural/industrial pulse that's as soulful as it is scary. This is noise with feeling, strangely tender and completely mesmerizing.—M.D.F.

*** CHRISTY MCWILSON, The Lucky One (Hightone) Long one of the voices of the Picketts, Christy McWilson moves out on her own here, though she gets a lot of help from her friends: producer Dave Alvin and guests Peter Buck and Mike Mills (R.E.M.), Rhett Miller (Old 97's), and Syd Straw. It's a nice roots record, with a few first-rate tunes (the midtempo stomp "Little Red Hen," the Miller-backed rave-up "Someday") and a bunch of fiddle-fied, strummy wonders that highlight McWilson's ample country voice. There's also a candidate for classic: "Today is Yesterday's Tomorrow," a sprightly waltz with echoing piano and a Beach Boys-like, summery undercurrent.—R.A.M.

*** SPYGLASS, Wake Up Sleepyhead (Pattern 25) Imagine either Robert Smith or Morrissey as a chick. Not hard to do, right? Now imagine the Cure or the Smiths as Northwest bands. Now, while that might be a little bit harder, listening to Barbara Trentalange's darkly cascading and slightly askew vocals and her band Spyglass' clean and wandering instrumentation, it makes perfect sense. Johnny Marr-inspired guitars and crisp, orchestral sounds tempered by rainy days and indie rock.—L.L.

****INTERNAL/EXTERNAL, Featuring . . . (K) Producer/Engineer/ex-Some Velvet Sidewalk keyboardist Paul Schuster asked a bunch of his Olympia-area friends (Lois Maffeo, Calvin Johnson, Kathleen Hanna, Slim Moon, Carrie Brownstein) to collaborate on an album's worth of his songs. The result is 12 tracks of electronic indie rock ranging from lush and trippy to soulful and moving to hard and driving.—L.L.

** SMP, Terminal (ASDR Musicwerks) On their third CD, local industrial-pop trio Jason Bazinet, Sean Ivy, and Matt Sharifi don't even try to hide their influences. Beats straight outta the Wax Trax! crates, on-the-beat white-guy rapping, floating keyboard hooks cribbed from the New Order back catalog—it's all there. And therein lies the appeal: These guys aren't afraid of grabbing your attention with a shameless, likable hook. No, there's nothing original about any of it; the rapping's so cheesy you could cut it into little squares, place it atop crackers, and serve it as hors d'oeuvres, and the beats will win no awards for innovation. But it's broad, appealing, and fun nevertheless.—M.M.

 
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