These L.A. dream-pop kids named themselves in tribute to a liquor store located at the corner of Sunset and Silver Lake boulevards, but they don't seem like a particularly boozy bunch. On Carnavas, the Pickups' debut full-length, manicured mid-'90s guitar fuzz wages careful battle against frontman Brian Aubert's pinched indie-boy whinny; neither side really wins, so the music moves along deliberately on the precise tension produced by that sonic scrimmage. It's a much more methodical sound than what you'd expect from, say, a band called Seattle Suds. Smashing Pumpkins is the obvious (and oft-mentioned) touch-stone, and the comparison is not without its usefulness: Aubert's voice shares a certain adenoidal insistence with Billy Corgan's, and bassist Nikki Monninger drives the tunes with the same sort of forward motion D'Arcy used to muster back in the Siamese Dream era. But the Pickups don't share the Pumpkins' tendency toward prog-pop pomposity, especially as rendered on such monuments to extravagance as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. There's a lean, whittled-down urgency to Carnavas—particularly in Christopher Guanlao's drumming, which pitches nearly every tune at a faster clip than dream-pop kids typically prefer—that gives Aubert's writing a sexy push, something Corgan forfeited long before the Pumpkins broke up. So maybe they don't pick up beer at Silversun Liquor. Can you buy Red Bull there? MIKAEL WOOD
Silversun Pickups play the Capitol Hill Block Party main stage, 10th Avenue and East Pike Street, www.capitolhillblockparty.com. $12 all-day pass. All ages. 4:30 p.m. Sat., July 29.
The Lost Takoma Sessions
I'm really digging Drag City's recent stabs at diversification, as the Chicago imprint expands beyond indie rock and releases more and more obscuro American folk. That CD reissue of Gary Higgins' 1973 LP, Red Hash, possesses a totally killer West Coast, David Crosby vibe. And now the label has orchestrated the official release of what was supposed to be Mark Fosson's 1977 debut for John Fahey's Takoma Records, which went bankrupt before the record could ever be released. The aptly titled Lost Takoma Sessions reveals a young, fleet-fingered axman mutating instrumental acoustic blues into a kind of modern classical folk music, which of course is exactly what Fahey and his other great discoveries had been doing since the late '50s. But unlike Fahey's alchemical and very tactile fusion of Indian classical and the blues, as well as Robbie Basho's full-throttled mystical drone, Fosson's skill and style feel smoother, lighter, cleaner, less psychedelic, and far more sober; these 12 compositions exhibit a sense of late-'70s, New Age refinement instead of '60s-bred experimentation, although a couple, "Quarter Moon" and "Frozen Finger," are fairly heady. I'll definitely be spending more time with Fosson's music, but unlike Takoma's Bashovia disc, I won't be mixing with it the vaporizer and Jameson's—probably just a cup of steaming green tea and a tranquil Saturday morning instead. JUSTIN F. FARRAR
Tapes 'n Tapes
What has Minnesota ever really contributed to music? Well, there's Prince. Oh, the Replacements might have played a role. And yes, Hüsker Dü had some impact on modern rock. OK, let's rephrase: What has Minnesota contributed to music lately? And please, don't bring up Soul Asylum. The Land of 1,000 Lakes can add another band to the list, as Minneapolis' Tapes 'n Tapes are unleashed upon the world, buttressed by the hype machine of music blogs, Time magazine's summer album list, and those generally in the indie-rock know. This four-piece isn't really part of any current musical fad; instead the members approach their craft by looking back to their ostensible roots—in this case, Pavement, the Pixies, and Talking Heads, the progenitors of so many bands lighting up the collective consciousness these days. From the opening strains of "Just Drums," with vocalist Josh Grier's high-pitched words cutting precisely through its shuffling percussion and bass under scratchy guitar, to the spaghetti-Western, barroom riffs of "Insistor" to the frantic pace and stop-and-start vocals of "Cowbell," the Tapes expand upon their influences. Granted, this is a young band that takes an occasional misstep; the instrumental "Crazy Eights" feels unnecessary and overwrought as soft background "ooh"s overtake a grungy blues riff, and "Manitoba," a lilting waltz, feels like it's been lifted from the Win Butler songbook. Stumbles aside, Tapes 'n Tapes are an innovative and inspired new band already on the way to bigger and better things, and this auspicious debut is one to watch for. JONAH FLICKER
The Flying Luttenbachers
The Flying Luttenbachers, aka Weasel Walter's no-wave quartet, are back with Cataclysm, the 18th album of their 16-year career. As usual, there is chaos maintained, no words, and splintering guitars, plus Partch-esque minimalism, wonkified. Also as usual, the liner notes include a whomping moonshoot of a thesis. "The music on this album concerns the fatal confrontation between the iridescent behemoth and the void," writes Weasel. I don't buy it. Sure, color and chord can sometimes "say" more than words ever could, but that doesn't mean that you can tell me what to think. This is frustratingly hypocritical, because Weasel is punk to the core. He'd sooner commit seppuku than sell out. Nix the notes, then, and head straight for the yawning stretch of "L'Ascension" (an Olivier Messiaen cover) or the excellently thumpy clang of "Insektoid Horror." To those, I give a full-hearted amen. MAIREAD CASE