Malajhube, Jeremy Enigk, Chad VanGaalen, and The Black Garfield Comp

Malajube

Trompe-l'oeil

(Dare to Care Records)

Parlez-vous français? No? Damn, me neither. With nowhere to turn but Google, I'm faced with the difficult task of deciphering Trompe-l'oeil, the second full-length release from the Montreal-based French-speaking band Malajube. For starters, trompe-l'oeil is French for "trick the eye." Aesthetically, the album artwork is relevant to its title, and just about as weird and a bstract as you can imagine. No wonder Malajube's music is equally as mind- fuckingly limber, dexterous, and chock-full of snappy surprises. On Trompe-l'oeil, the quartet jumps around like a bunch of kids hopped up on Ritalin, carrying themselves from sweeping, crystalline pop songs ("Montréal-40°C," "Étienne d'août") to raps backed by an analog keyboard drum beat ("La Russe"), to hyperactive circus/saloon romps ("Ton Plat Favori"), to a four-on- the-floor punky dance-rock tune ("Fille à plume"), to Heavy Vegetable–flavored pop/metal bipolar change-ups ("Casse-cou"). With Malajube, anything is possible. The music is pretty, chaotic, playful, and catchy as hell. Granted, I can't tell you what exactly they're singing about—cranberry juice? Crabs? Tourette's syndrome? Runny noses? I'm still going to sing along as if I did. TRAVIS RITTER

Various Artists

The Black Garfield Comp

(Haunted Horse)

The Black Garfield Comp is the greatest compilation ever. OK, maybe there're some better ones, but when you throw multiple tracks together of locals Partman Parthorse, Coconut Coolouts, the Unnatural Helpers, and Austin's Old Timerz, how can you go wrong? While these bands have been gracing the Emerald Shitty's smaller stages for a while now (with the Helpers generating a healthy buzz in the meantime), tangible copies of their tunes have been few (and MySpace only goes so far). But now that the Coconut Coolouts core of Ruben Mendez and Lacey Swain are stepping out as record moguls with their label Haunted Horse, we have four tracks each by four of the finest garage-punk outfits around (that's 16 tracks in all, y'all). Things are reasonably kick-started with the Helpers' "Becky Is a Bummer," followed by the askew paranoia of Partman Parthorse's "Police," which features the awesomeness of: "Isn't it my right/To smoke a big fat joint?" But the strongest showing here is the Coolouts, who bring a wagonload of hand claps 'n' fun to their fuzzed-out post-punk ravings "Party Jail," "32 Wives," and the Iggy Pop cover "Funtime." For anyone who misses the Fall-esque sneers of the Charming Snakes, they will no doubt be shitting their pants with laughter upon hearing the "explicit rap version" of "Coconut Weekend" and the riotous rhyme: "I eat my dinner in a doughnut shop/I eat pussy like a hog eats slop/And on the nights I don't get laid/I stick my dick in a jar of mayonnaise." BRIAN J. BARR

Chad VanGaalen

Skelliconnection

(Sub Pop)

The Canadian one-man band that is Chad VanGaalen would easily whup Conor Oberst's and M. Ward's asses in an indie-rock version of American Idol, should one finally get produced. For all the emo heartthrob power and neo-Dylan status that those two may respectively have, neither wields the vibrant psychedelic creativity that bursts forth from VanGaalen's wonderfully scattered mind. His new disc, Skelliconnection, on which he once again plays almost every instrument, starts off with a fuzzy drive as "Flower Gardens" reverberates under VanGaalen's Thorogood impersonation: "You'll be swimming though the p-p-p-p-p-p-p-p-pipes!" The momentum continues with "Burn 2 Ash," a Farfisa-enhanced pop nugget, but things settle down a bit with the programmed beats and synths of "Red Hot Drops" and acoustic reverie of "Rolling Thunder." VanGaalen manages to make lo-fi sound like a Bacharach production as he layers his skeletal arrangements with subtle synth chirps and flourishes. Granted, Skelliconnection is front-loaded with the best material, but that is not to say that the white-boy blues of "Wind Driving Dogs" or the harmonica rock of "Dead Ends" dulls the sheen too much. JONAH FLICKER

Jeremy Enigk

World Waits

(Lewis Hollow)

Jeremy Enigk's second solo album in 10 years begins with church bells, but so did "Disarm," so don't think that detail—or the organ or angelic vocals of Jen Wood (the Postal Service, Juno) on some tracks—necessarily has to do with Enigk's ballyhooed spirituality. "There's nothing wrong with praising, but I have no problem wrestling with God," Enigk recently told Magnet, and his lyrics concern facing that force, as well as terrestrial topics like hunger and romance. Some of World Waits intentionally reprises the orchestral pop patina of Return of the Frog Queen, but its emotional timbre is closer to Enigk's Diary-era songwriting than anything he's done since. Longtime fans might skip the husky experiment "City Tonight" and the more Beatles-esque, string-loaded pieces to arrive at places where vocals shine as the epic element. "Canons," in particular, has that shiver-inducing "Song About an Angel" feel, heralding Enigk's voice as still-crucial in underground music's chorus. RACHEL SHIMP E

 
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