EDITOR'S NOTE: Every month in Reverb Monthly we aim to review every new local release. What follows is all of the 703 releases--from local bands and labels--that we reviewed. We're sure we missed some. And we apologize for the omission. It was nothing personal. It had nothing to do with the quality of your music. Tell us all about our oversight--and your forthcoming 2013 release--by sending a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
*The 1 Uppers, The 1 Uppers: If the countrified snark of a tune like "Cadillac Truck" (towing the lyrics "You look like a dick") doesn't make you grin, then the driving, train-like rhythm and pedal-steel sheen of their dead-on Smiths cover "How Soon Is Now?" is sure to.
*7 Horns 7 Eyes, Throes of Absolution: Both bludgeoningly heavy and darkly introspective as it races across time signatures, moods, and tempos, wowing with its technical proficiency at each turn.
9 Lb Beaver, Paradise Awaits: This is sloppy, four-chord, beer-guzzling punk rock with songs about partying in North Korea and girls from Yakima.
*214, Tulum: Producer Chris Roman toasts the Mayan coast with a title track of gently rolling bass, wafting synths, and sly whispering.
26000 Volts, Anger Issues: If punk is dead, nobody told these guys. Anger Issues rockets through 22 tracks with enough grit and cojones to power a small car.
*A Dark Horse, A Dark Horse: James Parker and Hugh Rodgers' pretty, folksy indie is more than commercial-radio-ready.
AAIIEE, See You in Seattle: Making a garage-rock concept album about the 1962 World's Fair is a lot like painting the Space Needle a garish shade of orange: a bad idea in theory, a worse one in practice.
*The Absolute Monarchs, 1: From the shredding on anthemic "Killing the Old" to the jangled, dissonant guitars of "Sharp," Absolute Monarchs rock hard and keep a heavy hand on the volume, but stay within tight songwriting parameters.
The Acoustic Reign Project, Arc: Do you like free jazz? If so, you'll probably dig Arc.
The Adarna, The Adarna: Melodic pop-rock that is both competent and catchy, with a production style and vocals that sound ready for rock-radio airplay.
Afraid of Figs, Safe: A paradigmatic power-pop record. Clean, simple, prominent guitar riffs and energized drums drive this album, backed by harmonious vocals.
Alabaster, Unraveled: This EP is filled with big guitars, big vocals, and a glossy production that removes any edginess that may have poked through.
Alex's Hand, Madame Psychosis: A bizarre quartet of tunes that jumps among rock-musical resemblances ("Stalker"), Zappa-inspired weirdness ("Laura"), and Jesus Lizard heaviness ("Robot").
Mathew Anderson, Wrist: Dark, slinky techno that goes from dubby to bumping with the flick of a, well, you know.
Animals in Cars, Motion Blur: This year-old Seattle quartet shows a fondness for early Merge and Matador Records bands like Sebadoh and Pavement.
James Apollo, Little War, Little Less: Brooklyn transplant Apollo enlisted Damien Jurado to produce this album of restrained, dusky baroque pop.
At the Spine, At the Spine: At times raging, at others restrained, this band is at their best when they combine big riffs with big choruses, as on "Meteorite."
Atomic Bride, Dead Air: Psychedelic garage punk that's part B-52s, part Dead Kennedys, and part Groovie Ghoulies.
Autumn Electric, Make Me a Tree: Folksy indie rock with a pop sweet tooth, with an occasional surge of electric guitar and solidly crafted songs.
*Avatar Young Blaze, The Humble Villain: At times pop-culture-referential, at others surprisingly personal, Av continues to flex like few can.
*Avatar Young Blaze, Soviet Goonion: The most interesting moments come when AYB pushes himself to rap abstractly over left-field beats, or when he's at his most unapologetic.
Azure Shift, "I Can": These guys like Alice in Chains. A LOT!
Caspar Babypants, Hot Dog!: Chris Ballew's fifth album as a children's Pied Piper contains more of his irresistibly lovable, plinking sing-alongs and a whole new cast of cute animal characters.
Caspar Babypants, I Found You!: Chris Ballew enlists the help of friends like Rachel Flotard and John Richards for another set of catchy, cheery children's tunes.
The Bad Tenants, Eloquent Scoundrels Vol. 1: New-school Seattle hip-hop that doesn't aim to be political or deep; it's just laid-back, easy, beat-driven listening.
The Badlands, The Badlands: Straightforward party punk meant for chugging PBR in dives. Frontwoman Ginnie Ko's low growl recalls Joan Jett after several packs of cigarettes.
Bakelite 78, What the Moon Has Done: With jazzy scats, Dixie guitar plucks, accordion and trumpet pairings, and the occasional duet, Bakelite 78's new album woos even the most prudish listeners into smirking smiles.
Barcelona, Not Quite Yours: This record is not nearly as good as 2007's phenomenal Absolutes. But it's rangier, and thus marks a successful effort to ditch local critics' Coldplay-copycat assertions.
Jim Basnight, Introducing Jim Basnight: At his best, Basnight is a poor man's Mick Jagger, which is still pretty rich.
BattleCry Melody, Vanquish: If the Bloodhound Gang were virgins, they'd sound like BattleCry Melody.
*Battles, "White Electric (Shabazz Palaces Remix)": Shabazz Palaces flips Battles' tense guitars into a spaced-out bed for typically snarling yet laid-back raps.
David Bavas, Make It Rhyme: Acoustic Americana that's at its best when the mandolin and pedal steel have kicked in. On the sparser arrangements, Bavas' singing has trouble carrying the melodies.
The Bears Upstairs, The Bears Upstairs: Safe for the family, this EP is fun, jolly, and great for children.
Beat Connection, The Palace Garden: Solidifying Beat Connection's shift from hazy, hypnagogic house duo to an electro-pop four-piece in the vein of Cut Copy or Delorean is a smart move, maybe, but The Palace Garden is still more promising than fulfilling.
*Beat Connection, "Think/Feel": An incredibly svelte song, shimmering and liquid-smooth as a clean pool of water thanks to the easy-pulsing beat, the bell-like marimba, and guest vocalist Chelsey Scheffe's serene intonations.
The Beautiful Sunsets, Coalminers & Moonshiners: Male/female harmonies highlight this LP, which blends traditional folk songs and a few covers with the band's twangy originals.
Daily Benson, Casa Verde: Benson's debut features her soulful and sultry voice—think Fiona Apple or Feist—with darkly introspective songs to match.
*Bent, Bent: It's odd to feel nostalgic about a group that hasn't existed for long, but Bent is a beautiful mixture: indie folk fused with a '90s twangy rock band.
Big Chocolate, The Red: Recent SoCal/Portland transplant Cameron Agron, aka Big Chocolate, plays right into the favor of any Skrillex/Deadmau5 fan here, with big-ass drum tracks and CGI drops.
*Big Wheel Stunt Show, Wonderful LIFE: Everything from the gritty, raw recording to the twangy, booming electric guitar—especially on "Bud'Der"—screams Zeppelin.
Jordan Biggs, Brooklyn: Singer/songwriter Biggs pens safe adult-contemporary tunes that, combined with a flaccid backing band, could be Matchbox 20 B-sides circa '96.
Billy the Fridge, Old Fashioned: Jake One, Sabzi, MTK, and Mack Formway help make this novelty act entertaining.
Jherek Bischoff, Composed: Initially composing his songs on ukulele, Bischoff then recorded one instrument at a time, spawning his visionary and inventive orchestral harmonies.
The Bitter Roots, Chiaroscuro: The Bitter Roots are nothing if not versatile. Stylistically, their sprawling Chiaroscuro goes from Alice in Chains to moe and back.
Black Hat, Spectral Disorder: Nelson Bean, aka Black Hat, explores some interesting sounds here (especially on the opening track, "#00000"), but they take patience to appreciate.
Black Nite Crash, Drawn Out Days: Equal parts '90s alt-rock and contemporary indie rock (is there even a difference anymore?) a la The Big Pink.
*Black Science, An Echo Through the Eyes of Forever: Seventies-flavored psych-rock with more pop sensibility than your average nostalgic Seattle quartet.
Bladaow, High Tek Lowlives: This three-song EP sounds mixed but not mastered (online anyway). Moreover, the instrumentals outplay the MCs, as their styles and deliveries are still developing.
Blak Mic, "Hearts & Soul": A fun free-time release that's worth at least a quick spin.
*The Blakes, Art of Losses: The Seattle trio taps The Jam, Stones, and the Strokes, but never feels wholly derivative on its third LP, thanks to an individual aesthetic which blends all the above into a series of cheery melodies, blankets of reverb, and waves of nostalgia.
Blame it on the Girl, Vaya con Dios: Female-fronted, gothy metal with all the ferocious vocals and speedy guitar work you could ask for.
The Blanket Truth, Urban Wildlife: This is the most aggressively twee album you'll hear all year.
*Havi Blaze, "I'm a Murderer": Blaze treads on tired subject matter here, but neither his singing nor his rap flow have ever sounded so smooth.
*Erik Blood, Touch Screens: An incredibly lush album, loaded—but never overloaded or unbalanced—with space-bound synthesizers, thick and propulsive rhythm sections, and not just walls of guitars but also curtains, carpets, and mod lounge furniture of the stuff.
Blood Orange Paradise, Blood Orange Paradise: The influence of Dischord Records and post-hardcore greats like Fugazi and Jawbox figure heavily into this eight-song record, simultaneously raw and tightly wound.
Bloodshot Barrels, Bloodshot Barrels: These tunes are thrashed-up, death-soaked gold, featuring lightning-powered time changes and John Powers' made-for-metal vocals.
*Blooper, Go Away: This EP's jangly, fuzzed-out garage-pop tunes are irresistibly catchy and primed for the coming summer months.
*Blue Light Curtain, Clouds in Our Hair: Much of this shoegaze group's album sounds like it could have been recorded in London circa 1990.
*Blue Sky Black Death, Aquatic Reverie: In-house producers for rising 206 rapper Nacho Picasso, Blue Sky Black Death's latest beat tape provides dreamy, underwater beats just on the cusp of evaporating into the rap cloud.
*Blue Sky Black Death feat. Skull & Bones, "Casualties": Though these days every rapper who raps over an identifiable Blue Sky Black Death instrumental is likely to be compared to Nacho Picasso, rhyme duo Skull & Bones (Caz Greez and Bolo Nef) prove their worth by spitting some convincing nihilist bars.
Blue Star Creeper, Climbing Down From the Moon: Songs about the mysteries of the universe ("Clues") fit the group's psychedelic-rock sound, while an electric cello adds an element of folk.
Blvd Park, The Sound: A rootsy gang of ex-Californians who stretch their old-tyme aesthetic to mercifully elastic boundaries.
Sonny Bonoho, "ATTN:": The ARE's nicely sampled beat (and DJ Rhettmatic's scratches) bring out the best in our wacky local hero.
Sonny Bonoho, "Concubine Juicy": Area freak Bonoho takes his oddball act to its logical end, blurting mainly nonsensical lyrics in a semi-coherent pattern. But the smashing MTK beat is a stylish rework of some classic soul, which makes the song worth a spin.
Sonny Bonoho, The Vag: Bonoho's songwriting is at its best when he has classically styled rap instrumentals like "Jus Met Her Tonight," "Coogars," and "Attn - $onny Bonoho" to work with, and in those moments he has some definite pop appeal.
Books on Fate, Memory: Sweeping New Wave synths nestle into dark pop-song structures reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen and The National.
*Boy Fruit, Demonology: Murky, clattering instrumental hip-hop that aims to reference both Dilla and Black Dice—and which damn near succeeds at such lofty goals with its weird grooves, glitchy rhythms, and free-roaming float.
BRAD, United We Stand: The perfect disc to throw in with the cargo pants and golf club you're planning to send Dad for Father's Day.
Noel Brass, Jr., Future Noir Soundtracks: The Afrocop bandleader puts forth some hazy atmospheres here, with warbling synthesizers, lingering piano notes, and slathered-on mood in lieu of giddy-up.
Bréag Naofa, Bréag Naofa: Deep, sludgy death metal with those growly, timber-rattling evilcore vocals you either really dig or you don't.
A Breakthrough in Field Studies, A Breakthrough in Field Studies: This quintet twists indie pop-rock to its will. Upbeat and joyous, "Waves on the Ocean" is the type of song that erupts and feels bigger than itself.
Jon Brenner, Pisces Pieces: An interesting modern composer whose minimalist instrumentals fuse electronica, post-rock, and the avant-garde into hypnotizing sonic seascapes.
Bright White Lightning, Bad Teeth: This chip-rock band's sound sits somewhere between the raunchy Euro dance sounds of Ed Banger Records and the spacy jams of the Ninja Tune label.
Brite Lines, Make Shift: Poppy folk-rock, plumped up with strings, that occasionally employs zany instrumentation, but which is most effective when it takes a straightforward approach and lets the songs' emotional brevity speak for itself.
*Brokaw, Interiors: Big, buzzing riffs and fuzzy bass lines mixed with a bit of angular, experimental free-for-all.
*Broken Water, Tempest: Nineties-vintage Olympia indie rock, with serious shades of Sonic Youth in the deadpan male/female vocals, bursts of sludgy noise, and resilient melodic figures.
Brothers From Another, Taco Tuesday: Besides repping Seattle as well as anyone, this youthful hip-hop duo's latest is polished and poised beyond its years.
Buildings on the Moon, World's Away: Newt Gingrich may want buildings on the moon, but Buildings on the Moon just want to rock you with their progressive hard rock.
Sera Cahoone, Deer Creek Canyon: On her second Sub Pop release, Cahoone continues to mine the familiar "country noir" sound that defined the soulful acoustics of her SP debut. With the help of producer Thom Monahan (Devendra Banhart, Vetiver), Canyon rings with serene moments and thoughtfully spun lyrics.
Captain Midnite, All This Will Fade: Featuring guest stars like Georgia rapper Kyle Lucas, these tracks run the gambit from ambient to hip-hop.
*Brandi Carlile, Bear Creek: The best album of the Ravensdale-born artist's career. Carlile's voice is more self-assured, and the songwriting is as compelling as ever, straddling the strong side of the adult/country divide.
*Cascadia '10, "Apophistry": This single from the Afrobeat ensemble is engaging, danceable, and—critical for an instrumental track—never boring.
Cascadia '10, "The Secret Is Out": The spicy Afrobeat from this Seattle nine-piece sounds like it could have fallen right off a Budos Band album.
Case+Ctrl, Case+Ctrl: This debut mixes Chris Cornell's yarl, Radiohead's ambient sound, and Billy Corgan's guitar tone for a post-rock layer cake perfect for fans of heavy '90s rock.
Certain Inertia, Wednesdays: Pleasant but familiar hybrid of alt-country and jamtastic dad rock.
*Cex, Presumed Dead: An album of ambient electronic bass music, with a low end that sounds depth-charged even on earbuds.
Kristin Chambers, Endless Road: Listening to Chambers is impressive yet somehow vacant, like hearing a musical-theater pro nail "All That Jazz" during a karaoke competition.
*Chaos Chaos, S: Asy and Chloe Saavedra have moved on from the precocious pop that defined Smoosh, the band they formed as tweens. Chloe's tribal beats and Asy's whimsical vocals on this dance-rock EP are the duo's most interesting and mature material yet.
William Charney, Tempestuocity: This local jazz composer's straight-ahead originals are more developed than the last time we checked in, but they still lack a sense of urgency and originality.
*Chastity Belt, Fuck Chastity Belt: The four songs on this debut EP pair the stripped-down punk-funk aesthetic of C.O.C.O. with the direct, at times risqué, lyrical charms of Be Your Own Pet.
Chris Mess, Chris Mess: Guitar-driven, glammy power pop from a quartet of Seattle scene veterans.
Christa Says Yay!, Monster Love Machine: Easygoing female-fronted alt-rock with a heavy '90s vibe.
*Clam Hamr, Womb Service: Though the punk gets poppy at times, they ride the waves like punks (the good kind) rather than popsters, and have a killer time doing it.
Andy Clausen, The Wishbone Suite: An elegant chamber-jazz composition that unites wild improvisation and frenzied syncopation with elements of classical composition, flashes of pop, and buoyant, melodic themes.
C-Leb and The Kettleblack, The Kettle: These gentlemen take a very Austin approach to C&W, melding the rougher elements of twang (occasionally with modern electronics) to make music perfect for tossing back a whiskey shot floating in Rainier.
Cloud Person, Anchors in the Sun: This eclectic folk band mixes Native American flute and tambourine with keyboards and accordion. Whimsical with a slightly psychedelic feel, Cloud Person sings mostly of romance gone wrong.
Jill Cohn, Beautiful I Love You: The Eastern Washington pianist and guitarist offers more of her brand of adult-contemporary coffeehouse rock, featuring her warm voice and delicate melodies.
Cold December Way, Electrified: Too bad it's not the mid-'90s, because these guys would be a kick-ass opener for a Gin Blossoms/Goo Goo Dolls/Dramarama tour.
Cold Lake, Better Living: This aggro punk-metal quartet serves mega-heavy chromatic riffs on their five-song EP.
Kaylee Cole, Into the Woods: These older songs, staples of Cole's live performances of the past few years, showcase piano and her resonant, smoky voice.
*Keith Comeau, Nelson's House: Indie pop with distinctive vocals and serious teen angst meets a toothache-sweetness vibe.
The Connerys, The Connerys: Three dudes play four-chord garage rock with distorted vocals and reverbed guitars that give the songs a surfy vibe.
CopperWire, Earthbound: Best seen as an allegorical statement regarding life and the Ethiopian diaspora. The simpler truth is that it's an adventurous album that sounds good on quite a few levels.
Jonathan Coulton & John Roderick, One Christmas at a Time: A must-have for the McSweeney's set, this collaboration often sounds like Junta-era Phish.
*Country Lips, Touched: Good-ol'-fashioned honky-tonk music, with guitar twang, foot-stompin' rhythms, and a rebellious streak a mile wide.
*Craft Spells, Gallery: This EP finds the Stockton-to-Seattle transplants tightening their '80s new-wave sound, pulling back Idle Labor's gauzy curtain of reverb to reveal bright yet sleepy hooks.
*A Crime of Passion, Consume:Receive: Rich with intricate guitar solos, stop-and-go breakdowns, and spastic, bottomless vocals.
Crown Hill, Crown Hill: This folk-rock album has a urban feel, with electric guitars and country rhythms. Poppy vocals and catchy melodies make it enjoyable yet slightly forgettable easy listening.
Crybaby comp: Highlights include scuzz punks Stickers and Haunted Horses, melancholic acts Sad Faces and Sam Miller, and the Royal Eyes' Smiths-descended "17 Hours."
The Crying Shame, EP One: Seasoned, feel-good twang-pop with simple melodies and cool, harmonic vocal play.
Daega Sound/Kid Smpl, No Northwest Cycle 2 EP #3: This EP pairs Daega Sound with Seattle's Kid Simpl (and Keyboard Kid on the remix) for takes on dubstep (respectively) lurking like Shackleton and aqueous like Burial.
*Branden Daniel & the Chics, Keep 'Em Flying: We now live in a world where the trippy soul of King Khan and the pseudo–garage rock of Kings of Leon hold court equally in a single band.
Danny the Street, Prom Is King: Songwriter Jared Mills deals in darker, more straightforward rock textures. On occasion, like the last minute or so of "Since October," the music comes regrettably close to sounding like Nickelback.
*Dark Time Sunshine, ANX: Onry Ozzborn and Chicago producer Alex Zavala combine their talents to produce a dense yet accessible sophomore record with plenty of electronic, spacy flourishes.
Daughters of the Dead Sea, The Killroom Sessions: The debut EP from this all-girl West Seattle trio features '90s-sounding hard rock that veers from Sleater-Kinney to Vendetta Red.
Dave Matthews Band, "Mercy": The Wallingford songwriter spikes the first single from his forthcoming album, Away From the World, with witless platitudes sure to inspire Facebook natives for four minutes and 35 seconds.
Thaddeus David, "By Any Means": The beat is dark and echoey, but Thad's verses aren't as strong as they've been in the past, and Parker's chorus is too faux–Dirty South.
Thaddeus David, "Jones": The State of the Artist MC exercises his sharp lyricism over five minutes of spliced, mutated Nas beats. The result is creative and strong enough to serve as more than mere promo.
Daydream Johnny, Burn Me Down: Soundtracked by an EP of the same name, this short film follows its flawed, somewhat greasy protagonist (Tulsi's alter ego, Daydream Johnny) from high points and hot hands in a dice game to a money-less escape from Seattle—and from his girl.
Daydream Vacation, "Clever Is Not My Best Excuse": Head Like a Kite mastermind David Einmo crafts another powerful pop track here, and vocalist Asya de Saavedra sings beautifully about moving on.
Dead Man, Filthy Blues: This band plays the kind of bluesy garage rock favored by several other guitar/drum duos in this town, namely The Grizzled Mighty and My Goodness.
Dead Winter Carpenters, Ain't It Strange: Instrumentally, "East on 8" and "Cabin Fever" are exhilarating, but the excessively countrified vocals detract from the experience.
*Deadkill, Deadkill: This is Black Flag–inspired punk rock; it's raging, it's in-your-face, and it's all over before you know it.
*Jarv Dee, Dopamine: Some highly entertaining (and intermittently comically misogynistic) rhymes that add up to another W for the south-end collective.
Demon Dogs, Demon Dogs: Old-school metal that worships at the altar of Iron Maiden and Mercyful Fate, hitting all the requisite notes, including double bass-drum patterns, harmonized guitar riffing, and soaring lead vocals.
*Demon Hunter, True Defiance: All over the place: fast, slow, intense, beautiful, momentous.
*Demon Hunter, The World Is a Thorn (Deluxe Edition): Gorgeous, unrelenting, and excellently crafted.
The Den Mothers, Oh Yes . . . This Rocks!!: Fast, raw, raspy, and offensive—this is a huge middle finger to the concept of music.
D.evolution.Aires, Cestui Que Vie: An eclectic group of influences emerge, from groovy, fuzzy rock to Hendrix as interpreted by The Minutemen to psychedelic blues. The playing is solid, but there's no through line.
*Brennan Dignan, Idaho: Each track plays like something escaped from a round of campfire confessions, lending to its airy, lonely, vulnerable, and lyrically chatty sound.
Dog Shredder, Brass Tactics: Lightning-quick time changes, epic shredding, and prog-metal thrashing make this Bellingham trio's three-song onslaught of sound a robust follow-up to their 2010 self-released Boss Rhino EP.
*Don't Talk to the Cops!, Let's Quit: More of the playful dance rap and quick-hitting audio antics that have endeared DTTTC! to local fun-havers over the past year.
Dub & Jender, Oly 2 Bham: With Auto-Tuned hooks and horribly generic rhymes, it sounds as if these guys are still trying to find a good place to begin.
Dub Lounge International, 2011 Live Compilation: The smooth grooves are a bass-heavy grab bag of experimental roots music with a warm, soulful message ingrained in each song.
Dull Knife, Dull Knife: The dark ambient noise—digital tooth-grinding and buzz saws, white-noise wind howl, and spooky, chain-rattling ambience—is all strangely relaxing.
*Tom Dyer, I Ain't Blue Anymore: This twisted Americana adventure is a Waitsian take on the blues, particularly in the arrangements and the experimentation with instruments like the bulbul tarang, charango, and melodica.
Dyme Def, Yuk the World: A large collection of solid material that charts the progress the group has made as artists and, perhaps, people.
*Earth, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II: Their sludge days long buried, Earth continues to mine the dark, rusty acoustic drone laid out on this album's prequel.
*Tom Eddy, The Bread Maker's Blues: Eddy incorporates jumpy Latin-influenced percussion rhythms and lightly strummed guitars alongside his lovely, fluent vocals.
*Eighteen Individual Eyes, Unnovae Nights: Pulses with feverish melodies, thick, buzzy guitars, and Irene Barber's luxuriant vocals.
*Eternal Fair, Eternal Fair, Vol. 1: Eternal Fair's prog-rock ambitions are largely fulfilled on this EP, which recalls My Morning Jacket by way of '70s power-trio sensibilities.
EvergreenOne, "Bangin'": Though he packed in quite a few rap clichés here, I dig Ev1's fury.
Everything Points Up, 2.0: Formed by two members of power-pop group the Glass Notes, 2.0 features spry guitar-pop songs augmented with synthesizer and drum machines.
*Everything Points Up, Everything Points Up EP: Creative, adventurous, indie electro-pop from the guys behind local rock act the Glass Notes.
Explone, Telescope & Satellite: Uncompromised indie pop that oozes nostalgia for bands like Queen and R.E.M.
The Fabulous Party Boys, The Fabulous Party Boys: Electric saxophone and trumpets pierce through thumping tuba and guitar to create a record full of jazzy soul and foot-tapping.
Fall of 1920, Collide: These 55 minutes of slow crunch show promise, but would be sharper in half the space, and with a good dose of hustle and focus.
Fast Arrow, Alibi: This synth-pop duo's production abilities are abundantly clear, but the songwriting lacks the hooks to keep up.
Fated Empire, "Bannermen": Released as a promo single for the official launch of Fated Empire Records, this track contains a verse from all four FE players (Graves 33, Sarx, Name the Uncanny, Vice Vs.) over a battlefield-ready tuba loop.
*Father John Misty, Fear Fun: An intricately orchestrated album that incorporates careful touches of organ, mandolin, and, at least once, whistling, all tied together by Tillman's strong, fluid, surprisingly pretty vocals.
Feverton, Apestrut: This three-song EP combines hip-hop, funk, and electronica into a whole that feels insubstantial despite the 10-piece band's maximalist approach.
*Fey Moth, White Blind: Every track on this synth-pop trio's latest LP could be a single. Looping bass lines are layered with dreamy, hook-laden melodies to create compulsively listenable tracks that will lodge in your head for days.
Fight the Current, Bridge: With a sound akin to what Lifehouse's would be if that band worshiped John Mayer, Fight the Current puts together a solid album of grainy, emotional alt-rock.
Ben Fisher, Roanoke: This singer/songwriter/busker leans on the folk canon of the '60s with another set of carefully finger-picked, plaintive ballads.
The Flavr Blue, Pisces: Lace Cadence, Parker Joe (of State of the Artist), and Hollis (of Canary Sing) drop their inhibitions and dive into down-tempo vocal trance like pros rather than like the crossover hip-hop/R&B artists they are.
Zach Fleury, Be Still, Neverland, Egypt: This frequent session player steps out on songs like "Neverland, Egypt," which showcases his smooth vocals and skilled guitar picking.
*Floods, "A Toast (to the Fallen)": The first new offering from the Saturday Knights' Barfly is spacey and dark, and his words are beautifully solemn and anthemic.
Fly Moon Royalty, Dimensions: Aside from top-notch jam "The Birthday Song," this five-song EP slips on its uneven moods, and Action Jackson's rhymes can't keep up with his high level of production.
*Fly Moon Royalty, Fly Moon Royalty: Adraboo's radiant pipes carry a confident spunk, and MC/DJ Action Jackson's smooth mixing skills lend the songs a vintage soul feel.
*Footwork, +JMBVM: Guest vocalist Jamie Braden Von Mooter (JMBVM) adds some witchy rant and howl to Footwork's heavy rumble and angular bass-guitar jags on six tracks, most of which shudder and jolt by in two-minute bursts.
Foreign Friends, Measurements: This electronic group never quite comes into its own sound on its debut EP, but it knows how to dynamically synthesize its electro-pop influences, from New Order to M83.
*Fort Union, Fort Union: This three-piece makes hybrid pop-ambient-acoustic tunes like "No More Executions," an infectious pop anthem that's part Shins, part Stealers Wheel.
Fox and the Law, Scarlet Fever: Fuzzed-out guitars and reverb-drenched vocals are the backbone of this debut full-length from a Seattle quartet that pulls as much from the White Stripes as the Strokes.
Fox and the Law, "Feel So Blue" : Carves out a happy medium between the sludgy blues and up-tempo punk of the band's earlier work while sticking fast to their garage-rock ethos.
*Fox and the Law, "Something Bad": Based around a Black Keys–worthy descending blues riff and some snarling vocals from frontman Gy Keltner, this might be the best song of the band's still-brief career.
Oliver Franklin, When the Moon: Psychedelic rock and experimental synth effects rule most of Franklin's first full-length, but the warped guitars are broken up by a couple of slow, piano-driven ballads that showcase Franklin's evocative songwriting and clear vocals, which bring to mind those of Tim Booth from the British rock band James.
French Letters, Here There Be Serpents: Long-playing tracks like "Cheapside" echo the vocal theatrics of Nick Cave or the sputtering lyrics of Craig Finn, unraveling with visceral spoken-word and spacey guitar solos.
French Letters, In Tongues: Fusing spoken-word poetry, jazz, and rock into a 10-track album is no easy feat, but French Letters has pulled it off wonderfully.
*Fresh Espresso, Bossalona: P. Smoov and Rik Rude's raps are as tight and attitude-packed as ever, and Smoov's productions are his best yet, marked by triumphant horns, smartly flipped samples, and some credibly rattling beats.
*Fresh Espresso, Jupiter: The five-track EP consists of smashing, synthy P Smoov beats and saucy Rik Rude/Smoov raps that are just as stylish and sexy as the rest of their portfolio.
Friends & Family, "Laura in the Woods" b/w "Vermin": Quirky indie pop from an eight-piece band that aims for a New Pornographers or Broken Social Scene sort of thing, only goofier and with more elaborate costumes.
Lindsay Fuller, You, Anniversary: Gravelly, loosely mystical vocals and nuanced instrumentation, which ranges from solo piano to Silver Bullet-esque revelry.
Garage Voice, The Messenger: This trio fuses bright guitar rock with churchy organs and gospel-inspired lyrics, with pristine and punchy results.
Geist and the Sacred Ensemble, In Search of Fabled Lands: A droning, slow-sprawling crawl marked by acoustic twang, rattlesnake percussion, and cracked ritual chants.
Benjamin Gibbard, Former Lives: This album strikes an optimistic tone, anthologizing (and celebrating) the past through the prism of Gibbard's distinctive songwriting.
Gibraltar, Storms: Gibraltar may look like a bunch of teachers in a summer band, but their edgy, twanged-up power pop is one of the best local debuts of the year.
Give It to Me Rusty, Pioneer Square Recordings: Buskers Aaron Zig and Noah Dassel take stories of the city's homeless and translate them word-for-word into lyrics for their harmonized folk songs.
*The Glass Notes, As the Building Crumbles: The slight twang in the air makes this album a kind of power-pop/Americana hybrid, like Soul Asylum as interpreted by the Jayhawks.
*Go El Grande Go, ExTant: For fans of Jeffrey Lewis, Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, Captain Beefheart, and all those other misunderstood folky weirdoes who aren't even considering commercial viability when they create music.
Go El Grande Go, Number 3: For the very generous, songwriter John Goodfellow's third album could pass as conceptual art, a sort of academic deconstruction of the folk song. But for the pragmatic, it's practically unlistenable.
Go Periscope, Wasted Youth: A digital juggernaut rich with deep melodies and indie-rock stylings. This two-piece has created songs that dip and grow without forgetting their purpose: This music is meant to be heard live.
The Goblin Market, Beneath Far Gondal's Foreign Sky: This album is inspired by Emily Brontë. From Colin Meloy's mind, this would be a recipe for pretentious disaster. In Goblin Market's humbler hands, however, it's a surprisingly pleasant, melodic listen.
Golden Gardens, The Covers: A wispy, ghost-like affair of trippiness, this album of covers is soothing dream-pop at its best.
Golden Gardens, The Eden Sessions: The entire release is essentially one long, meditative guitar strum with a few whispers and hums.
Golden Gardens, How Brave the Hunted Wolves: Trip-hop beats with singer Aubrey Bramble's just-out-of-reach vocals, this duo crafts dreamy, gothic guitar-and-synth odysseys that, sonically at least, resemble The Cure circa Disintegration if they had known about shoegaze.
*Golden Gardens, "Transparent Things": These airy vocal notes tucked into the nooks and crannies of watercolor synth streaks and wavering guitar chords would befit both a windows-down summer drive or a rainy-day stroll.
Good Co, Electro Swing for the Masses: Good Co pairs classic swing sounds with pulsing electronic beats in the background. It misses the mark and comes off as inconsistent instead of unique.
The Good Hurt, You Are Here: These hooky pop-rock songs often err toward the saccharine, but frontman James Lanman does boast some fundamentally sound songwriting abilities and a radio-ready voice.
Philana Goodrich, Arrows for Everyone: Every song here sounds like it could be on the soundtrack of a Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal buddy-cop movie.
Jess Grant, Innocent Invader: Occasionally grating but mostly graceful, Grant sounds a bit like Elvis Costello, or Anthony Kiedis on stripped-down Chili Pepper ballads.
*Grave Babies, Gothdammit: Surly goth posturing and noisy treatments belie some ingratiatingly poppy tunes. For all the shrill guitars and reverb-muddled moping, it's almost as if these guys are having a good time.
GravelRoad, Pedernales: "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean" is the season's first solid drinking song (you'll need a whole pitcher). "Monkey With a Wig," the front side of this single, is sophisticated bar-band blues at its most riffalicious.
GravelRoad, Psychedelta: GravelRoad manages to put its own stamp on psychedelic blues, a clichéd genre defined by recitation.
Graves33, Banner for Boxed In: Graves' rhymes still come sealed in his stuffy-nosed monotone, but they've taken on a more personal, direct subject matter (see "Horns of Oblivion"), which has not only made him a more relatable MC, but all the more intriguing.
Graz, Teenage Bassland: The Kent-based producer's latest pairs "Luv 2 H8 (Seattle)," a clever but grating novelty song about Seattle clichés, with trashy dubstep remixes of "Bad Romance" and "Baba O'Riley."
The Great Um, What the People Want: This Seattle trio play KEXP-style indie rock with clean guitar tones and an affinity for '60s British pop like the Kinks and indie icons like Pavement.
Green Pajamas, Death by Misadventure: This LP is the psychedelic pop band's 30th release, a remarkable feat, and its brightest spots are the lusher arrangements which feature strings and horns.
*Grimeshine, rip.mpc: Pro beats that cherry-pick from jazz, classic rock, and beyond.
Groove for Thought, Inspired: The Seattle group, which appeared on NBC's The Sing-Off, is incredibly cohesive and fun, and their voices explode on each track.
*Grynch, Perspective: When Grynch's songs center less around specific things and more around his personality and unique take on the world, as they mostly do here, his skill as an MC is fully realized.
Guns of Barisal, Westinghoused: The whirlwind of electric guitars and percolating drums on this instrumental metal trio's first LP is similar to that of Swarming Hordes, another local metal band that forgoes lyrics and focuses on thrashing instrumentals.
Gavin Guss, On High: Guss' second solo album glows with buoyant pop melodies, vibrant guitars, and crisp production.
Gavin Guss, "Riga in the Fall" b/w "Place in France": Guss has a voice so pretty and melodic he actually pulls off a cover of the naughty "Place in France" (yes, the song from your childhood in which the ladies wear no pants).
Hannalee, Cucurbita: This trio discusses joy and light while dustings of harmonica, music box, and organ fill out their version of the new Seattle sound: feel-good folk.
Hanssen, Statement of Work: Three tracks of glossy techno, from dance-floor pulse to night-driving cool to ambient, with three remixes that stretch the originals further in each direction.
Harbor, Harbor: Despite Harbor's serene cover art, the local trio's debut delivers dark, heavy alt-rock. Chad McMurray's deep tenor, over driving drums and thick guitar riffs, recalls Soundgarden circa Superunknown.
The Hardcount, Life & Death: The Hardcount are a little bit punk and a little bit twangy, which mostly makes them sound like Supersuckers, which isn't a bad thing—especially if it's Saturday night and you feel like drinking.
The Harmonica Pocket, Apple Apple: These indie-acoustic children's songs have an international feel, mixing in harmonicas, reggae beats, and Spanish-inspired melodies.
*Rachel Harrington, Makin' Our House a Honkytonk: Harrington is both fresh and referential, with a songwriting style very reminiscent of the premier honky-tonk honeys of yesterday, namely Loretta and Dolly.
*Haunted Horses, They Set Us Fevered Water: Spooked but still snorting and kicking, the local duo tears up dark, dirge-y noise rock (and one druggy interlude of a title track) that recalls the Horrors' early garage squall and Liars' weirdo witch trials.
Elke Hautala, Love Songs for a Post Modern Paradise: Often accompanied by nothing more than an acoustic guitar, Hautala's vocals strive for great things, and sometimes reach them.
Heiress, Early Frost: These hardcore/slowcore champs enlisted storied rock engineer Jack Endino for this somewhat trippy 10-track voyage.
Carson Henley, 100 Hours: Henley's second album is reminiscent of '60s R&B and soul but stays modern with piano accents and jazzy guitar riffs.
Hey Beautiful, Gone: This three-song EP approximates the subtle dream-pop of a band like Low, but too often the droning arrangements don't do enough to support Mackenzie Buchanan's serviceable voice.
Hi-Life Soundsystem & Langston Hugh Hefner: Love, Weed & Other Vices: A mix of their patented self-aware party-rap with some cooled-out later-night scenarios.
Hills of Elysium, This Lost Generation: September Garland's potent, screaming vocals will either make you want to headbang your heart out or shoot yourself in it.
*The Hive Dwellers, Hewn From the Wilderness: Some of the funnest, friendliest, and most spirited ramshackle indie pop Calvin Johnson's done since Beat Happening—high praise around these parts.
JD Hobson, Where the Sun Don't Shine: Hobson's brand of bluesy Americana is steeped in rich outlaw tradition.
Coty Hogue, When We Get to Shore: Live at Empty Sea Studios: Banjo-picker and Appalachia expert Hogue shares her love of traditional folk songs and a whimsical take on modern classics in a lusty, ringing alto.
*The Hoot Hoots, Appetite for Distraction: Wrapped up in lyrics about ghosts and Pac-Man, the Hoots damn near define goof-pop.
*The Hoot Hoots, Feel the Cosmos: This quartet's EP is six tracks of joyous pop-rock, replete with analog synth, overdriven guitar, and a singer whose voice occasionally recalls James Mercer's before he started making adult-contemporary music. This is the rare local "power pop" band that actually can write pop songs.
Horace Pickett, Anatomy: This nerd-rock band has an affinity for '80s New Wave, and their third LP is filled with quirky, angular songs that recall Devo above all, but also incorporate a broader range of influences.
*The Horde and the Harem, A Long Midwinter: A richly dynamic milieu of Menomena and The Negro Problem, with an infusion of Ben Folds-iness for accessibility's sake.
*Hotels, Cinemascope I: This promising EP combines two of the '80s' most influential musical trends—new wave and post-punk—to great effect.
*Hounds of the Wild Hunt, El Mago: The album's beer-soaked, Westerbergian jam "Ragged All Week" is the haggard anthem of 2012.
How to Operate Your Brain, How to Operate Your Brain: Clean and tight guitar rock replete with interesting riffage and a lot of obvious heart.
iji, Yerself: Yerself coaxes stunning warmth from track after track of mid-tempo, hand-woven funk.
*Impossible Bird, Impossible Bird: An absolutely stellar combination of upbeat alt-folk that's mesmerizing and radiates talent.
In Cahoots, In Cahoots: "Borrowed Time" and "Triggerheart" have beautiful instrumentation and an addictive attitude.
Indijinis, The Kill Zone 102.6: Serviceable gangsta hip-hop that includes one of the strangest boasts you'll hear all year: "Indijinis is sick/Like The Chronicles of Riddick."
Infinite Loop, Hyper Palace: This youthful production duo's sense of irony is more developed than its music, which veers between vocoder-laced electro-pop and hip-hop-leaning instrumentals.
The Insurgence, Elimi-nation: With the occasional appearance of an umlaut over the u in their name recalling fellow Seattle band The Accüsed, The Insurgence plays a similar hybrid of punk and thrash with socially conscious lyrics, chromatic guitar riffs, and shouted vocals. There's not much melody to be found, but there's not supposed to be.
The Intelligence, Everybody's Got It Easy but Me: Lars Finberg and crew pump out nervy, poppy garage rock with such industrious regularity that it would almost feel like a mechanical exercise if it weren't so lively.
The Interruption, Bowery Cowboys: This six-minute EP sounds like a really out-of-tune Marcy Playground meshed with the idea of ambient, lo-fi garage rock.
Into the Storm, Captains: Screamer Oliver Reeves could stand to go easy on the vocal-cord shredding, but the music beneath it all is a delightful punch in the face.
Irukandji: Physics of Fusion, Awakening: Reggae- and funk-infused hip-hop that features impressive vocals and rhymes from dual vocalists Sola and Phoenix.
*Jackrabbit, A Better Place: Spun into an intricate web of bluegrass, Americana, and rock, A Better Place is as transparent as it is honest.
Dylan Jakobsen, Long Way Home: Light on wince-inducing balladry and favoring more mature, surprisingly folksy pop songs like the harmonica-laced "Kids."
Dylan Jakobsen, Tell Everything: Even if soft, acoustic-driven pop-rock isn't your thing, don't be so quick to write off Jakobsen. There's something honest and inspiring in his approach.
The Januariez, Authentic: The band's foundation is funky guitar lines a la "Been Caught Stealing" from Jane's Addiction or Mother's Milk–era Chili Peppers, but without the punk energy that made both groups great.
JAR, Humans: Packing equal parts angst, heart, and technical prowess, Humans is a stunning release by a three-piece collectively younger than Ozzy Osbourne.
The Jefferson Rose Band, Seismic: A chill, afro-funk summer cocktail.
The Jesus Rehab, Drunken Hillbilly Fight Bar: Plucky indie pop with a heavy '90s angle a la Everclear and Third Eye Blind, with a little Pavement and Weezer thrown in for credibility.
Ayron Jones and The Way, Baptized in Muddy Waters: This blues-rock trio's debut EP is an impressive introductory vehicle for their Hendrix-influenced frontman's gritty, soul-baring vocals and wondrously fluid electric-guitar soloing.
*Joy Wants Eternity, The Fog Is Rising: The third album from this Seattle post-rock band is ambient and gorgeous, as walls of guitar give way to syncopated grooves and gently picked guitar lines.
*JusMoni & WD4D, Queen Feel: Listeners can simmer in WD4D's erotically paced instrumentals and JusMoni's sexually charged lyrics on this six-track EP to their hearts' (or whatevers') content.
Just Like Vinyl, Black Mass: The first single, "Bitches Get Stitches," is a good representation of the record: a slow, heavy groove that morphs into dueling guitar parts with a melodic vocal line atop it all.
Jus'Tina, Live to Love: This singer/songwriter's powerfully robust and rich voice shines on tracks that combine easy-listening, jazzy instrumentation with warm piano and vibrant synth.
J-Pros, Level Up: Earnest lyrics (check out the nostalgia trip on "Lunch Lines & Assemblies") coupled with straightforward beats.
JVigil, JVigil: JVigil's debut album has some outwardly slick-sounding production, but that fact can't mask the songs' uninspired dullness.
Katie Kate/Keyboard Kid, "Houses" remix: Producer Keyboard Kid throws down some syrupy synthesizers and hi-hat stutters behind Katie Kate's vocals.
Key Nyata, Two Phonkey: Garfield High's Key Nyata continues his goth-rap lyricism here over vintage-sounding West Coast (and mainly self-produced) beats.
*Keyboard Kid, "Challenger": Keyboard Kid fills the channels with the chatter of artfully splayed blips and synthesizer beats that equal his most amazing piece to date.
Keyboard Kid, Digital Blunts: A collection of typically cloudy, 8-bit-inflected beats from the Seattle-based producer.
*Keyboard Kid, The Transition EP: Keyboard Kid takes some heady bass pulses on a ride through an echoey synth forest as electro-snare trees fly by and filter-crushed samples babble in the background.
*Kid Smpl, Escape Pod: Four tracks and one remix of floating, aqueous synth ambience, deep muffled beats, and echoing vocal textures, all more than a little reminiscent of Burial's radical reconfigurations of dubstep and R&B.
*Kid Smpl, Skylight: Soundsmith Joey Butler, 22, has mastered the desirable electronic art of adding texture to sound. Close your eyes, and his music manifests as soft or jagged shapes floating over a dark desert valley.
Killer Canary, I Am My Own Molecule: Easily digestible pop-punk with some generically catchy vocal hooks from the band's most unusual element, drummer and lead singer Zak Andree.
Killing Jenny, Whatever: Singer Noelle Rimestad sounds like Pat Benatar, but unlike Benatar's 1979 debut, Whatever lacks a "Heartbreaker."
*King Dude, Burning Daylight : As King Dude, a black-clad death-country crooner in the style of an exhumed and ghoulish Johnny Cash, TJ Cowgill stretches his voice to a low, bellowing moan.
Kingdom Crumbs, "For the Birds": The lofty future-funk beat fits the song's avian subject matter well, and indulges the group's most laid-back inklings.
*Kingdom Crumbs, Kingdom Crumbs: An impressively produced, intelligently penned album from Seattle's increasingly prolific Cloud Nice collective. KC has come through here with one of the best LPs to hit the scene this year.
*Kingdom Crumbs, "Pick Both Sides of My Brain": Upon what is perhaps Tay Sean's most captivating instrumental, the KC MCs drop some easy-flowing, pro-grade rhymes.
Davidson Hart Kingsbery, "Two Horses" b/w "Stuck in Washington": DHK's gravelly country twang saddles up nicely on these two tracks of pedal steel–steeped Americana rock.
Davidson Hart Kingsbery, 2 Horses: Songs of heartache and heavy drinking are tailored for Kingsbery's raspy croon. A reverb-washed, roots-rock guitar keeps things good and country.
Kissing Potion, Gimme Love: With a stereotypically funky horn section and big vocals, this is the kind of band whose chill energy and pro execution would pull you into their whole set at an outdoor festival.
Kladruby Gold, To the Terminal: The singer is practically begging for guidance—part "I have a cousin in Texas" and part funk-soul-folk-rock—while the rest of the band prays nobody notices.
Chris Klimecky, This Journey: Klimecky's voice is so misplaced that the whole experience is simply uncomfortable.
Klover Jane, Tattoo'd Kandy: In the distinct style of Soundgarden, Klover Jane's wailing vocals and sludgy guitar demand you crank the volume up to 11.
Klyntel, "Love Is Here to Stay" (out now, self-released, klyntel.com): '90s R&B in the tradition of Blackstreet and Motel Jordan that would have fit snugly onto the Space Jams soundtrack.
Chad Knight, Shy Daydreamer: Knight flexes his muscle on a variety of styles, jumping from hip-hop to reggae to alt-rock, but it feels more like an unfocused artist's identity crisis than a fully formed voice.
Simon Kornelis, Simon Kornelis: Smooth, guitar-driven folk with nods to Oldham, Young, and Kozelek.
Kung Foo Grip & Giorgio Momurda, Indigo Children Tales From the Other Side: Lyrics are occasionally dark, but always smooth.
*La Luz, Damp Face: Shana Cleveland and Marian Li-Pino's all-girl quartet jives surfy, woozy guitar riffs and psychedelic keyboard solos with soft, cascading vocals, making for a genially easy-rolling pop sound.
Sam Lachow, "23rd Avenue": Lachow's beat is simple yet effective. His verses are short but also enjoyable.
Sam Lachow & Raz, 5 Good Reasons Rising lyricist Raz shines on this five-track EP, and although his delivery sounds a little less natural, beatmaker Sam Lachow rhymes respectably as well.
Jordan Lake, Consistency: Sounds exactly like Barcelona with some slide guitar thrown in.
Lake City Poets, Lake City Poets: If you like spoken-word music touching on subjects as diverse as window washers, clinophobia, and photography, read by a guy who sounds sort of like The Dismemberment Plans' Travis Morrison, this album might be the hottest release of the year.
Land of Pines, "Dead Feathers" b/w "Follow the Leader": The new single from this hooky and youthful Seattle quintet is a blast of jumpy energy, prettily led by the lucid Kessiah Gordon.
Landlord's Daughter, The Passengers: Emo almost to the point of being overwrought, this folksy dad-rock fusion is earnest in both delivery and musical ambitions.
Mark Lanegan, Blues Funeral: The grunge icon trades distortion and mystique for cheesy guitar effects and misplaced irony that liken him more to the Dandy Warhols than Screaming Trees.
Lanford Black, Lanford Black: The success of acts like Pickwick and Allen Stone have made soul twinned with twang a hot Seattle commodity. If you find either of those acts appealing, Lanford Black will make you very happy.
Tim "Too Slim" Langford, Broken Halo: Sunday-morning blues from a singer/guitarist who sounds a whole lot like Lyle Lovett.
Lanty Big, Cool Ass Beats Vol. 1 : This 30-minute, free-flowing beat symphony draws samples from a huge variety of sources, though their presentation (mainly drum patterns and tempos) gets a little stale at times.
The Last Temptations, Penny Dreadfuls: A smooth and delectable release full of slow rock, eerie melodies, and toylike jingles.
Lazer Kitty, Ruins: Instrumental jams are a tough racket, but "improvisational space-rock trio" Lazer Kitty do a fair job here—background music, maybe, but pleasant enough at that.
Leeni, Headphones on Your Heart: Years past chiptune's micro-moment, local Gameboy girl Leeni returns with a "fifth anniversary" remake of Headphones, plus an apt 8-bit cover of Lana Del Rey's "Video Games" for timeliness.
*Legato Bebop, Jargon: An odd, borderless solo album that builds and drifts from ambient din to full-on grunge-crunching rock to fluffy hip-hop beats to Panda Bear/Fleet Foxes–derived harmonies.
Legato Bebop, Proximity: Experimentalist Patrick John White runs the gamut here from manic, eerie, haunted-house synth melodies ("Stray Dog Strut") to the heart-swelling romanticism of the standout track, "Perpetual Love."
*Legendary Oaks, These Narrow Bars of Light: Rootsy without falling prey to Northwest folkies' tendency to hump a bale of hay, Legendary Oaks' superb sophomore effort is loose and sunny, evocative of the Byrds, only on way less acid.
Bruce Leroy, Leroy: Classic hard rhymes from Tacoma that come across strong.
Let's Get Lost, House of Cards: Easy, breezy indie pop punctuated by bluesy guitar riffs and laden with lush harmonic hooks you'll be humming for days.
The Life, Alone: Admittedly, it'd be a lot cooler if a new band sounded as retro as this 1987 re-release, with its chorused guitar tones and New Wave melodies, but if you've played your Big Country and Simple Minds records to death, this ought to scratch your itch.
Local Dudes, Better Place: Chockablock with mercilessly straightforward rock and roll, Local Dudes' debut LP straddles the line between Van Halen and the Black Crowes, with none of the latter's poignancy.
The Local Strangers, Left for Better: When Aubrey Zoli and Matt Hart relax and sing in harmony, as they do on the glorious "I Will Let You Down," they sound lovely. When duos sound this good together, there's no need for either member to go it alone.
Locomotives, Moving Machines: A spectacular grab bag of earnest, psychedelic folk.
*Logic Probe, Full Glitz: This local duo has been making dark, downbeat electronic tracks since 1998, and the IDM-inflected Full Glitz feels like the result of years well spent in the lab.
*Lonesome Shack, City Man: Lonesome Shack's driving country blues and psychedelic Americana reveal yet more versatility among the tight-knit Cafe Racer crew, a group of UW students and friends who play everything from free jazz to folk.
Long Distance Poison, Signals to a Habitable Zone: Two 20-minute tracks of hypnotic analog oscillations, drones, melodies, and effects, designed to be beamed into space in search of intelligent life as part of the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World's Fair.
Longboat, Instant Classics: Longboat continues with eclectic Richard Cheese-meets-They Might Be Giants-esque nerd-pop about buses, mastodons, and other often-passed-over song subjects.
Lost Dogma, The Ghost You Left Behind: Lost Dogma's sophomore release is a country-flavored rock record rich with three-part harmonies and tuneful choruses.
*Low Hums, Low Hums: This album was partially recorded in a cistern at Fort Worden State Park, and that cavernous, eerie environment perfectly complements the band's dark country-psych.
*Lowlands, The Largest Armies: A beautiful, harmonious experience of happy layers, The Largest Armies is a gem of an indie-rock album.
Lowmen Markos, Flames: This 25-minute, four-song EP never gives into post-rock's tendency toward melodrama and bombast; its abstract instrumental rock songs simmer instead of boiling over.
Lozen, Para Vida: This Tacoma female duo plays angular, arty metal, sometimes en español. The best moments happen when the ladies lay back a bit to harmonize and get all Breeders-like, like on "Le Dragon."
Fatal Lucciauno, "Big Bro (Action Jackson Remix)": This showcases the MC's untouchable delivery as well as any, and Fly Moon Royalty's DJ Action Jackson bends his 'hood observations into an underworld love song.
*Fatal Lucciauno, The Message: Lucciauno's hard-core yet introspective lyricism strikes gold over Jake One's pristine production.
Fatal Lucciauno, Respect: A gritty, street-soaked sound of brooding beats and smooth-lipped lyrics.
*Luck-One & Dekk, Beautiful Music Part 2: Portland/Seattle MC Luck-One and collaborator Dekk show off their individual talents while making highly listenable songs.
The Luna Moth, Speak Destination: The nonstop crescendos get lost in a sea of constantly-beating-you-over-the-head trance music that barely breaks yawn-worthy.
Lux, We Are Not the Same: Electro duo fuses synth-rock, New Wave, and a dance-floor-ready sound with poppy nods to every genre from '50s bop-rock to '90s grunge.
*Luxe Canyon, Luxe Canyon: Brothers Kyle and Matt Nielsen's eponymous debut is a strikingly well-produced, fundamentally sound electro-pop record.
Whitney Lyman, Wandering, Wondering: This multi-instrumentalist's gentle voice is the anchor of her 10-song release, which comprises mostly baroque pop ballads.
Joey Lyon, What Makes Me Tick: In Seattle, or anywhere else, anyone who picks up an acoustic guitar bills himself as a songwriter. Lyon manages to stand out by casting his songs against a piano-driven rock template, rather than a folk one.
*Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist: A (sometimes too) dramatic production with striking moments of clarity; its main fault is that it sets out to accomplish too much.
Magnetic Circus, Elementary Particles: Well-executed electro-psychedelia meets elements of metal, gothy mope-rock and sci-fi nerddom.
Magnetic Circus, We Die in Fire: Somewhere in this album's fusion of heavy rock, lo-fi recording, and ambient sounds is a strong disconnect in timing, tone, and delivery.
*The Maldives, Muscle for the Wing: This solidifies the Maldives' position as The Band's heir apparent, with Jason Dodson's pure, pretty voice featured adroitly.
Manooghi Hi, Silence: Most successful when it blends riffing electric guitars and Indian-inspired chants, led by Bombay native Mehnaz Hoosein's piercing vocals.
*Ali Marcus, Americana Hotel: Marcus' strongest asset is her storytelling ability, which draws on topics from personal family history to currently political ones for an enjoyable, albeit light, folksy Americana experience.
*Graig Markel, Graig Markel: Markel's delivery is sleepy, but occasional lap steel, piano, and ukulele give the record a warm ambience.
mars upial, Data Puss: Falls into the nebulous realm of IDM, featuring glitchy beats and thick smears of synthesizer and sounding like a less-nuanced version of Four Tet.
Vicci Martinez, Vicci: The poppier tracks don't do justice to Martinez's natural raw soulfulness, but her powerhouse vocals still manage to shine through.
Massiah, "Homage": Packed with overly literal rhetoric that might have cut deeper had it come out before MCs like Immortal Technique blew the lid off the niche.
*The Maxines, Drugstore: For just two people, they make a helluva lot of racket, taking turns singing lead vocals and playing fierce and pounding simple riffs.
Ken McAllister, Ken McAllister: Rooted in folk and inner reflection, this album is basically a slow-moving, 40-minute ballad of soft guitar-plucking.
Jacob McCaslin, Calm Before the Storm: At 17, McCaslin can be described as nothing other than an old soul, channeling John Mayer through his polished, bluesy guitar riffs and vocal vulnerability.
Leslie McMichael, Peter Pan: This harpist's gently tuneful, Celtic-flavored original music for the 1924 silent film Peter Pan makes for soothing, meditative listening on its own.
Matthew Meadows, "Smokehouse": A blues-rock bar jam that isn't hip, but isn't trying to be.
Midnight Salvage Co., What You Hope For: Pure blue-collar, beer-drinking heartland rock, a gritty, stripped-down folk-roots panorama somewhere between Asbury Park Springsteen and The Hold Steady.
Debbie Miller, Measures + Waits: Miller's sweet vocals and restrained melodies give all the songs a clean and peaceful aura.
*Eric Miller, City Lights: A pop chameleon in the best sense of the word, Miller sounds as though Loudon Wainwright III accompanied Robyn Hitchcock to a bar where the Traveling Wilburys and Chet Baker happened to be hanging out.
Joy Mills, Trick of the Eye: Rings with an unhurried cadence, rich in lyrical imagery and twangy pedal steel.
*Gabriel Mintz, In Safety: Gabriel Mintz's vinyl single comprises two tracks reminiscent of David Crosby. If Melissa Etheridge decides to have another kid, Mintz should be her sperm donor.
Minus the Bear, Infinity Overhead: Following a less-than-well-received exploration into bawdy electro-funk on 2010's Omni, Minus the Bear returns to their proggy roots with this even, climax-less collection of songs featuring steely vocals and lots of guitar noodling.
The Missionary Position, Consequences: This album sounds like lead singer Jeff Angell's hometown of Tacoma: a little past its prime, bluesy and boozy—yet virile enough to rip your jeans off and fuck you quick and hard in a bar's back lot.
Mizz Honey Bucket, American Ho: The Lady Honey Bucket (pronounced "bouquet") delivers a screamingly fun record of Ke$ha-like carousing anthems.
MK Speed Dial, Here It Is: Bursting with the healthy exuberance of the best pop-rock, via jagged guitar riffs, whipping tempos, and effusive vocal melodies.
Moraine, Metamorphic Rock: If you like your jazz bopping and meandering but filtered through the haunting, heady lens of '70s prog-rock and world music, then Moraine is the perfect trip for you.
*Cahalen Morrison & Eli West, Our Lady of the Tall Trees: This fine bluegrass duo will make you want to kick off your shoes, roll up your jeans, and dance in a creek.
*Mount Eerie, Clear Moon: Phil Elverum's sonic palette has steadily expanded, taking in black metal, drone, Twin Peaks synth pads, and now spooked-out jazz to augment his acoustic explorations.
*Mount Eerie, Ocean Roar: A companion album to May's Clear Moon, Ocean Roar in many ways feels like an odds-'n'-sods collection of outtakes (the black-metal riffing of "Engel Der Luft"; an ambient interlude; the title track's choral funk), but it's no less compelling a Mount Eerie album for its variability.
Mount Eerie and Selector Dub Narcotic, "Distorted Cymbals" b/w "Angelpoise Cymbals": Mount Eerie balances rhythmic groove, typically plaintive vocals and piano, and blurts of muddy guitar.
*Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band, Prehistory: The songs on this EP are mellower than their energetic-bordering-on-frenetic 2009 debut, and more in the dark, moody vein of 2010's "misunderstood" (read: critically maligned) Where the Messengers Meet.
*Mts. & Tunnels, Mts + Tunnels: This debut album is cozy, old-school garage rock filled with bluesy guitar riffs punctuated by vintage horns.
Mural Gleeous, The Burlap Shuffle: Flirting between indie folk and spaced-out psychedelic rock, Mural Gleeous is sort of like a shot of your least favorite vodka: painful, but honestly kind of good in a way you can't explain.
*Murder City Devils, "Every Day I Rise" b/w "Ball Busters in the Peanut Gallery": The band approximates its old swagger boom on "Every Day," but "Ball Busters," with its martial snare rolls, delicate guitar phrases, seasick bass, and wavering organs, sounds more appropriately weathered.
Murder Party, The Vue: Like a less-quirky B-52s without Fred Schneider and with fewer dancy bits, Murder Party have the Eastside on the brain.
Zoe Muth, Old Gold: This six-track mini-album—mostly covers—offers folksy takes on artists like John Prine, Anna McGarrigle, and Dock Boggs.
*MxPx, Plans Within Plans: As they hit their 20-year mark, MxPx sounds better than ever, deftly merging catchy, Costello-influenced pop-punk with an occasional hardcore breakdown or foray into power pop.
*Naomi Punk, The Feeling: The songs' discernible melodies and choruses are washed over with the clamor and clang of metallic-sounding guitars, walloping drums and cymbal crashes, and strangely spirited vocals so thin and echoing they almost sound disembodied.
*Naomi Punk, "Voodoo Trust": Bewitching, thanks to the woozy electric guitars and chanting, high-pitched vocals.
The Navins, Time to Go: Retro and pleasing, especially for those 35 and over who like their rock 'n' roll with a bit of grit and an equal amount of melody.
Neighbors, John in Babeland: An agile album of fuzzy power pop and indie rock with hints of twang in some corners and British invasion and American garage in others, led by sometimes gawky but largely endearing vocals.
*The New Law, The Fifty Year Storm: Down-tempo, indelibly chill (but definitely not chillwave), and easy to get lost in.
Dangerfield Newby, Life in Another Time: Keyboard and electronic beats blend with audio samples and sounds of cheering crowds, though the best instrument of all is Jeremy Best's voice.
Nez Lightning, Demos: If Arctic Monkeys were constantly tripping on LSD and had an unhealthy obsession with math rock, the end result would be some weird hybrid of complexity and cohesiveness that still wouldn't even begin to rival Nez Lightning.
*nice nate, i hate you moshe.: Headphone candy for the beat head in need of a fix. Get familiar.
nice nate, milo.: There are a fair number of down moments on milo., so finding consistency in his songwriting is nice nate's next step.
Stephen Nielsen, Mystic City: Nielsen falls into that vein of folk rock that sounds down-home without being at all country, and his honestly emotive storytelling is quite listenable.
*'Night, Sweet Pea, A Little Line of Kisses: Beautifully serene and calm, Alyse Black's voice is the most gorgeous sound on the album, which includes a cover of "Over the Rainbow."
The Nightcaps, Crowd Control: This rap duo's sophomore album features slick, sample-heavy production from a full staff of promising locals.
Nine50Nine, Hollow Bones: As Nine50Nine, drummer Dave Krusen (Pearl Jam) and vocalist Ty Willman (Green Apple Quick Step) bring a hard edge to their brand of Southwestern country rock.
*NoRey, NoRey: This five-track release will make you want to quit pruning your pubes, live in a yurt, do mind-expanding drugs, and take group showers.
*Andrew Norsworthy, The Key & the Cross: The sixth LP from this Anchorage-born Seattle transplant is a blues record, a departure from Norsworthy's usual folk sound. The experiment pays off, with traditional blues arrangements alongside more folk-leaning fare.
Nouela, Chants: Nouela Johnston's new album includes dark and moody tracks that highlight her heavily impassioned vocals and lyrics and eloquent, classically trained piano playing.
Nu Era, "Marvelous": The Andrew Savoie–crafted beat is hard-edged, but NuEra comes off too much like an M.O.P. impersonation.
The Numbs, "Freaks Easy": Plays like a heat-warped reggae record—sinister tropicalia that recalls Black Dice and Excepter.
*OCnotes, Emerald City Sequence: The Seattle studio wizard returns with a conceptual audio-visual treat: his own twist on the 1978 Afro-celebratory The Wiz.
*OCnotes, Moldavite: This 33-song epic from one of the great Seattle talents features neck-snapping beats, intricately layered drums, mind-warping studio effects, and expertly spliced snippets of sound.
*OCnotes, Pre Future Post Modern Love Songs: aka AlienBootyBass: PFPMLS is full of endlessly inventive rivers of sound to be swept away in.
Omega Moo, Viva La Moovolution!: These breakneck bar-rock shout-alongs have enough going on to warrant repeat listens.
Orca Team, Restraint: This record stays true to its name—there's nothing heavy or overblown about these easy, bouncy surf-pop melodies.
*Origami Ghosts, It Don't Exist: Somewhere between the Moldy Peaches' anti-folk and Modest Mouse's jangled guitar pop is this third full-length from sextet Origami Ghosts, chock-full of hyper-earnest ballads, "meow/meow" refrains, and infectious, accordion-inflected indie rock.
Orkestar Zirkonium, Too Hot for Sleep: This horn-heavy 13-piece's sophomore effort is the perfect soundtrack for an Eastern European wedding.
Kris Orlowski & Andrew Joslyn, Pieces We Are: Backed by a 17-piece orchestra, Joslyn's sweeping compositions, featuring Orlowski's honeyed baritone, strike an ethereal chord.
Out Like Pluto, Take Over: The smidgen of anger and attitude on songs like "Rocco" plays a lot like Taylor Swift would if she wore Converse and listened to Simple Plan.
*Out on the Streets, We Buy Gold: Few records explode out of the gate with the grandeur and passion of this EP.
Parker & Lace Cadence, Imagination: This EP would sound good in the background while you're laying low with a date.
*Party Box, Space Fighter, We Heard the Future: Gritty, raw, and poppy, Party Box is a slow-motion version of Kings of Leon eight years ago.
The Past Impending, The Past Impending: Most songs on this debut EP feature some combination of finger-picked guitar, gently brushed drums, syrupy cello, and gruff, yearning vocals.
*Gregory Paul, The Fremont Abbey Sessions: The hiss of analog tape and cavernous natural reverb add a layer of pathos to Gregory Paul and Holly Merrill's transcendent harmonies.
Paul Lynde Fan Club, Killer Lilies: They haven't focused intently on one target yet, but expect an explosion as soon as they do.
*Robin Pecknold, "Olivia, in a Separate Bed": Pecknold's acoustic-guitar strumming and high, airy voice easily carry this meditation on an unraveling love.
People Bomb, East Korea: This group of teenagers from Kirkland reference both Devo and the Dead Kennedys. They haven't gotten there yet, but these kids are going places.
*Perfume Genius, Put Your Back N 2 It: The album's remarkable concision is indicative of an artist who knows exactly what he wants to say.
Petty-P, "The Incredible": Petty's overanimated rhymes have notably improved here, and DJ Erok's beat definitely helps things along.
*The Pharmacy, Dig Your Grave: A righteous punch of bang-up garage rock.
The Pharmacy, Josephine: A poppy, pretty sweet little EP from a band the freakin' New Yorker called out as basically a scam to hang out in a van, party, and get girls coast to coast.
The Pharmacy, Stoned and Alone: The Pharmacy's first full-length since 2010 plays more like a collection of singles than a cohesive album, but atones for the repetition with a barrage of bite-sized garage-pop hooks.
*The Physics, Tomorrow People: TP doesn't pack a whole lot of radio-style singles, but it doesn't get much better for the guys than tracks like "Drink With You" and "So Funky." When The Physics are on, they're on fire.
*Nacho Picasso & Blue Sky Black Death, Lord of the Fly: Picasso continues his barrage of comic-book-villain raps as fantastically vulgar as they are creative.
Pickled Okra, Sounds Like Chicken: A jumpy and carefree collection of bygone-era bluegrass, spirited harmonies, and murder ballads.
J. Pinder, Careless: Seattle MC Pinder shows off his ability to lay down thoughtful verses and radio-ready hooks.
J. Pinder, "Never No": The Kuddie Fresh–produced beat pulls out all the stops—organ, brass stabs, gospel backup vocals—and meshes well with the fairly archetypical lyrics about the hip-hop industry.
*The Piniellas, Without a Fight: These Ramones-loving nice guys serve up a platter of throwback riffs, mashing up early-'60s innocence with the derelict, rebellious instrumentation of NYC punk.
Police Teeth, "Bellingham Media Blackout": The first single from Police Teeth's self-titled album is a gritty slice of shout-along bar rock that recalls Fugazi at its most propulsive.
Police Teeth, Police Teeth: Although the propulsive punk on this trio's fourth album is a bit one-note, the big, jagged guitar riffs never hamper the songs' incisive energy.
*Pollens, Brighten & Break: This magically transportive swirl of dissonant choral chants, polyrhythmic percussion, and African trance-inspired structures is a triumph.
Polyrhythmics, "Pink Wasabi": This reggae-and-soul-spiced instrumental will be a tasteful addition to your summer barbecue mix.
Poor Moon, "Holiday": This teaser for the Fleet Foxes offshoot's full-length debut is a lo-fi, Henry Mancini–esque nod to '60s lounge.
Poor Moon, Illusion: Forgettable and unfocused—the product of a band that sounds sure they want to make a record, but not certain of much else.
Poor Moon, Poor Moon: A more nuanced effort than their debut EP, but this talented bunch is still searching for the best application of its pluses.
*Posse, Posse: Posse makes the understated sort of indie rock that bands like Pixies and Sonic Youth made classic in the '90s.
*Posse, Some Dongs: Each of the three members of this local garage-rock band individually covered a Bill Callahan song; each cover sounds so pleasant and lovingly executed, it's impossible to pick a favorite.
Post Adolescence, "What You Would Call Socialism (I Would Call Civilization)": Power chords, fuzzy guitars, and bright refrains fuel this pro-Occupy anthem aimed at the Tea Party and conservative news media.
*Prestige, Restrain From It All: An incredibly fierce and potent album for fans of nonstop, uncompromising metal.
*Princess, Welcome Winter: Princess comes through with some thunderous, vintage-sounding heaviness here, a feeling that's really driven home by the album's muffled recording.
*Prism Tats, "Death or Fame": This deliciously minimal single is composed of a series of metallic guitar riffs and keening, highly memorable vocals.
*Prism Tats, Vacant & Impatient: This 7-inch comprises two fast tracks of dirty, trashy guitar pop ("Vacant & Impatient" and "Haunt Me") alongside the earthy, mopey, and compelling "Know-It-All."
Producer Snafu, Songs of Sorrow: Sixteen relatively homogeneous tracks of classical piano and breakbeats, a combination that works nearly as often as it sounds completely incongruous.
Prom Queen, Night Sound: Celene Ramadan's '50s-pop project utilizes sultry vocals and dreamy, slumping instrumentals to create a sound at once unique and vintage.
The Purrs, "Rotting on the Vine" b/w "You, the Medicine, and Me": The first track on this veteran psych-pop outfit's new 7-inch is cleverly caustic and self-deprecating; the B-side takes a more somber turn.
Proud Wonderful Me, Proud Wonderful Me: Pairing goofy vocals with '70s-reminiscent garage rock, this debut EP is lighthearted and fun.
*Ryan Purcell and The Last Round, Pick Me Up: A perfect country-rock album; the title track shimmers.
Purty Mouth, A Night at the Opry: Featuring dueling male and female vocalists, there is no "alternative" in this band's brand of country, as reverent to George Strait as to George Jones.
Q Dot, "Indivisible 2.0": The Tacoma artist put together a nice, gentle piano beat for the occasion, but his lyrics are disjointed and drag the song down.
*qp, Go Dum: qp's bass track is both more engagingly hollowed-out and more rhythmically hyperactive than the hyphy to which it nods.
Quickie, "Phoenix Jones": Quickie's homage to our local man in tights is beyond-polished pop-punk.
The Quiet Ones, "You Are a Trial": This wobbly alt-rock track suffers under the weight of too many ideas.
*The Quiet Ones, Version Suicides: These 10 covers span a spectrum of rock from Blitzen Trapper to Steely Dan, but with small touches that remain devotedly faithful to the original.
RA Scion, Beg Borrow Steal: This blisteringly angry EP is a tribute to the Anonymous movement, but songs like the hard-driving "Beg" hit home regardless of the political context.
Luke Rain, Rain Shine: This MC has a familiar flow that, while well-executed, cannot be called wholly original.
*Raz, "They'll Speak": Raz, aka Razpy, spills some powerful thought over a ruminating string backdrop that works beautifully.
Recess Monkey, In Tents: Silly age-appropriate lyrics with more-than-tolerable melodies.
Red Jacket Mine, "Amy" b/w "Any Major Dude Will Tell You": "Amy" is full of breezy pop melodies and plenty of doo-wops that will have you humming for days.
Red Jacket Mine, "Bellar & Bawl" b/w "Grow Your Own": Another shot of Big Star revivalism from some of the city's finest apostles of '70s pop.
Red Jacket Mine, "Listen Up (If the World is Going to Hell)" b/w "Rosy Days": Radio-ready vintage Top 40 flirting with soul that could blend right in on a mixtape next to Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers.
Red Jacket Mine, "Poplar Bluff": Boasts easy, mellow instrumentation, a compelling chorus, and frontman Lincoln Barr's sweet, smooth, and unassuming vocals.
Red Sea, Planets Align: Red Sea is not at all contemporary. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you're into classic rock like Pink Floyd.
Geoff Reed, The War Ain't Over: This joke-rap EP, featuring horrendously cheesy beats and even worse lyrics, has one saving grace: It's less than six minutes long.
The Riffbrokers, The Green Key Will Let You In: Roots-centric rock, like a low-key Sun Volt, that could benefit from the occasional up-tempo surge.
Ripynt, "Blast Off": This single shows again that while Ripynt is a decent lyricist, his songs sag when they dwell on clichéd rap subject matter.
Clemm Rishad, "The Beginning": Tacoma's Rishad fills in raps with his usual calm over a pleasing soul-sampled beat.
River Giant, River Giant: This soulful three-piece takes chamber folk to the edge with lusty, rowdy riffs, bluesy jams, and low-end bass lines.
Roaming Herds of Buffalo, Roaming Herds of Buffalo: These eight tunes craft a catchy, quirky, up-tempo pop sound filled with perky hooks.
Liz Rognes, Topographies: This Spokane songstress' lilting, articulate soprano and impressive range are just as captivating on her second full-length album.
Alessandra Rose, You Are Gold: Dusky vocals, penetrating pop compositions, and capable backing from the likes of Rusty Willoughby and Christopher Jones make this a plush and well-conceived debut.
Sam Russell, "I Am the Ghost" b/w "When I'm Gone/Talk About Heaven": This local folksinger's new single is poignant in its restraint and subtlety; the flip, a simple acoustic-guitar-strummed, perfectly harmonized duet with Kate Noson, is even lovelier.
Sam Russell, The Water Balloon: An album whose genre-hopping—blues, '60s rock, power pop, and adult-contemporary balladry, to name several—is proficient but disjointed.
*Sam Russell, The Year of the Cow: Gorgeous and haunting, the optimal soundtrack for a dark, rainy night when the chips are down.
Sad Face, Cheer Yourself Up: For the most part this EP is more "sad face" than "cheer yourself up."
Sailor Mouth, Fair Winds: The sounds of Sabbath, early Soundgarden, and the Melvins loom large on this Seattle band's debut.
Sampson and McDean, Low Hangin' Men: The kind of record that attempts to blend humor and country music (think "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"), and that you'd seek in your grandparents' record collections for the poop jokes.
The Satellite 4, Street Food: Specialists in smooth, contemporary lounge music sweetened with some soulful organ and jazzy good vibes.
Says, "Only X": Sedate yet uneasy mood rock whose spaciousness, avant-jazzy and electronic touches, and general melancholy owe a great deal to Radiohead.
*Screens, "Maia": The second single released by this new, tough-to-categorize West Seattle band eases into a trippy bossa-nova groove but doesn't get carried away in the euphoric possibilities.
*Screens, "Netherlandia": Intelligently written and layered to perfection, this relaxed future-pop number is melodically pleasing yet delightfully experimental.
Scriptures, Scriptures: This feels like a 40-year trek through the desert (in a good way): parched, wandering instrumental rock, with guitar slides that sound like hawks diving.
Seapony, Falling: The most interesting songs here, "Nothing Left" and "Never Be," zip up the energy and riff a little louder than Seapony's past fare.
Seapony, "What You Wanted": Seapony thrums and buzzes with a happy energy before it starts wandering into monotone territory.
Sebastian and the Deep Blue, Plastic Parts: Genre-bending, feel-good, casino-party-band music that dabbles in white soul, funk, and pop.
*Secret Colors, Higher Views: 35 minutes of meandering, layered guitar and synth reveries; long loops fading over each other; notes dripping off in loose clustered patterns more than in concrete melodies.
Serial Hawk, Buried in the Gray: Slow and heavy chromatic riffs blend the stoner rock of Kyuss with the Northwest sludge of bands like Tad and the Melvins.
Aaron J. Shay, None the Worse for Wear: As the album progresses, Shay softens bitter first impressions with sweet backup harmonies and his jaunty uke.
*ShewHorn Jonez and His Super Sonic Patriots, Steamin' With ShewHorn Jonez Vol. I: An interestingly low-fi take on summer hip-hop jams that occasionally veers into Kool Keith–esque territory.
Shivering Denizens, Baker-Whiteley: A concept album set in a coal-mining town, yet its tracks are far from high-minded—as if you took the Drive-By Truckers and stripped them of all authenticity and darkness. Fun? Absolutely. Memorable? Not really.
Sic Ill, Techdemic: The poor mixing, overly simple keyboard beats, and goofy rhyme style combine for a forgettable EP.
Silicon Girls, Rana: Vertiginous, breakneck music complete with wobbling guitars, bratty vocals, and one educational number ("Greatriot!") that solemnly recites some Presidential similarities between Lincoln and Kennedy—kind of as if Sonic Youth taught your history class.
Silver Bullet, Manifest Destiny: A retro hard-rock sound with lyrics as inane as those of the '80s cock-rock bands they emulate.
Mike Simmons, Sunburn: Simmons blends hard-core twang with bar-band rock on this guitar-driven, booze-flavored record.
Tommy Simmons, Someway, Somehow: Tracks that range from cocktail soul so mellow it would make Robin Thicke blush to John Mayer–esque secretary rock.
Slant Rhymes, "Hall Pass": This mid-'80s reissue begins with the promise of a Casio-fueled fun ride, but comes to a screeching halt when the vocals/lyrics kick in.
Slashed Tires, Assure: A mixed bag of dub-influenced electronica and barely listenable noise-rock sludge, with the best songs sticking out noticeably from the melody-less majority.
*Smokey Brights, No Sheer Force of Will: The band's AM-radio-meets-indie-folk sound becomes even more refined with the addition of lady harmonies and power-pop prowess.
The Soft Hills, This Bird Is Coming Down to Earth: The Soft Hills achieves wonderfully textured harmonies but could stand to rethink their lyricism.
*Sol, Yours Truly: Combining a suave, nonchalant flow with polished, playful production, Sol's sophomore LP is a pitch-perfect hybrid of pop and hip-hop.
Song Sparrow Research, Song Sparrow Research: Loose, dreamy pop and lush, sweeping melodies mark this local five-piece's debut release.
Leezy Soprano, United We Ball: Soprano has an easy delivery that makes his often harsh lyrics go down smooth.
Soul Senate, Good Side: A six-song EP of original tunes and booty-shaking grooves, led by singer's Felicia Loud's rich, exuberant vocals.
Soul the Interrogator, "Remainder": Hesitant brag-rap with boring cadences.
Soundgarden, 22 seconds of "Live to Rise": It sounds more like Audioslave than Soundgarden. It's not bad. But, like the rest of the awkward rollout of Soundgarden 2.0, it's a bit frustrating. 22 seconds? Really?
Wes Speight, Hackneyed: The common feature of Speight's languid, arty alt-rock songs is darkness; he often sounds like a male version of Chan Marshall.
The Spittin' Cobras, Year of the Cobra: Resurrecting the all-too-underappreciated genre of '80s heavy metal, Alx Karchevsky's roaring vocals ignite this punk-influenced speed-rock outfit.
Spoke, Ghost: Spoke's smooth voice unfortunately gets Auto-Tuned a couple of times, but when it's left bare, his emotive tone rings clear and strong.
Spoonshine, Song of the Sockeye: This Anacortes-based Americana band weaves lively string instrumentation and punk rhythms into 10 jumpy, jam-based folk tunes.
Spurm, Spurm 3: The GGNZLA house band goes out with one last blast of horn-y, strangulated punk spunk (and one Who cover) before TV Coahran and crew split for other projects.
Spyn Reset, Four Dimensional Audio: This predominantly instrumental album takes the listener on a unique journey from dental-office jazz to Luscious Jackson and back.
Static Producer, 1: Tracks like "Bleed Our Bones" boast an interesting country/grunge mixture that's original, if a tad overbearing.
Station to Station, The S2S EP: This new wave-lovin' quartet throws in a turntable and presents an alternate ending to the mashup of rock and the DJ booth. An interesting, encouraging debut.
Steezie Nasa, "Art of War" ft. Nacho Picasso: Not the best of verses from two of Cloud Nice's B.A.Y.B. MCs, but they prove effective at setting the atmosphere all dark and filling it with gloomy imagery to match.
*Stephanie, "Cell 44": The discernible, danceable hooks break through the noise via keyboard melody and Wil Adams' operatic vocals.
*Stephanie, One Glove: Rigid dance-punk drumming, effects-laden waves of guitar, Wil Adams' theatrical vocals, and songs equally likely to break into scrappy rave-ups or extended jams.
*Stephanie, Trill Bundles Vol. 1 & 2: This collection re-imagines Stephanie's moody post-punk as thizzed-out dub and awesomely shitty cloud-rap instrumentals. Sick stuff.
*Joshua Stephens & the Girls From Ipanema, The World Was Made for Men: Their lo-fi sound is rough around the edges and complemented by the singer's gravelly vocals.
Shannon Stephens, Pull It Together: On her third release, this Seattle songwriter and former Sufjan Stevens bandmate achieves her most gorgeous work to date.
Stereo Creeps, Ultrasound by Satellite: Nineties alt-rock that goes to bed at night dreaming of a solid pop hook.
*Ken Stringfellow, Danzig in the Moonlight: Notes of Posies-style power pop and sweeping '70s rock a la Big Star ("History Buff") mingle amid a range of twangy pedal steel, synth effects, and vocal play.
Suburban Vermin, Danger and Destiny: Six songs of no-frills punk rock with dueling male/female vocals that don't fall squarely into either Ramones-core or old-school skate-punk territory, but somewhere in between.
Sugar Sugar Sugar, Sugar Sugar Sugar: This hesher's delight is an homage to wind-whipped, '70s freeway rock.
Sundries, All Good Daughters: Indie-grunge with a dash of soul, Sundries weaves smooth angst with beautiful guitar picking and intricate backbeats.
Sundries, "I Found Perfection": Boasting propulsive rhythm and the powerful, pleading singing of frontwoman Sadie Ava, whose vocals have a richness and maturity that belie her 19 years.
Suttikeeree & WD4D, After School EP 2: Jams full of head-nodding beats, gleaming synths, and the odd, cut-up hip-hop shout.
Swearengens, Devil Gets Her Way: Honky-tonkin' twang, gritty guitar work, and two-stepping tunes keep Seattle's rich alt-country tradition alive.
*Sweet Secrets, Color Force: A debut full-length that gently straddles the line between the sweeping guitar rock of the early '90s and the lush indie rock of the '00s.
Sweet Water, "Hey Living"/"Get High Clover": Sweet Water's latest 7-inch is palpably awful butt-rock.
Swingset Showdown, Short Bus Ruckus: 19 goofy, piano-fueled tunes that are fun, but pretty much hit the same note many, many, many times.
The T-Bagging Bandits, Fist Full of Whiskey: With their old-timey country-rock sound, the Bandits should live in the South. Instead they reside at Snoqualmie Pass, play electrified versions of Johnny Cash tunes, and sing about, as the album title suggests, getting drunk all the time.
TacocaT, Take Me to Your Dealer: A-side lead "Spring Break-Up" details the neurotic disintegration of a relationship over some of the band's tightest, poppiest punk yet.
TBASA, Good, Good, Good: TBASA has wandered into a compelling sound—a space-rock/trip-hop hybrid.
*Tea Cozies, Bang Up: Back with another dose of raucous, organ-laced garage pop.
The Tempers, Together We Are the Love Vortex: These three siblings play pleasantly hooky dance-rock with a clear New Wave influence.
Gabriel Teodros, Colored People's Time Machine: Each song Teodros writes is an earnest statement that approaches current world issues with a love-first attitude.
Thaddillac, Adayzndalyfalayk/One Man Trash Can Band: An original take on guitar-based funk from local character Thaddeus Turner.
Thee Gene Rotten Fairies, "Craps 4 the Devil" b/w "Graveyard Tard": The A-side is a peppy song about the devil; the B-side is anchored by a surf-guitar riff and lyrics about a handicapped zombie.
*THEESatisfaction, awE naturalE: Impressive for its sheer diversity of sounds.
Theoretics, Plenty of Anything: The five-piece backing band does a decent lounge act, but vocalists Chimaroke Abuachi and Mark Hoy add little to the mix.
*This Providence, Brier: "You're Mine" has a classic, surfy feel, while "In or Out" is a catchy track for fans of West Coast rock.
Rosie Thomas, With Love: On top of her usual subdued sweetness, Thomas' vocals take on a noticeable extra vigor.
Three Ninjas, Live at the Monkey Grind: Mashups of found sounds, hoarded beats, and tweaked pop samples; the result sounds a little like listening to three radio stations at once.
Thurston and Staga, "Rock the Spot More": The track drags on a bit long, but serves as a nice playground for MC Staga Roach's flamboyant style and naturally musical delivery.
*Tiki Joe's Ocean, Soul of the Sea: Andy Nazzal has created a serene but vigorous, Latin-lounge-influenced album that's straight-up addicting.
*Ticktockman, Ticktockman: Ambitious early-aughts riff rock pumped through a tunnel of fuzz and polished for radio on the other end.
Tip to Base, No Consequences: Quirky and incredibly upbeat, Tip to Base offers funk fans an excuse to get up and dance.
Tokyoidaho, Tokyoidaho: On this synth-rock group's self-titled debut, the most relaxed songs are the best, like the meandering mid-album number "The Ballard of the Teenage Shut-In."
Tomten, Ta Ta Dana: Contains two supremely elegant pop songs that belie the band's youth. The title track is smooth and stately with a longing organ melody; "So So So" is a blithesome, head-bobbing tune.
*Tomten, Wednesday's Children: Ten elegantly composed songs with robust guitars, rich organs, stately melodies, and worldly titles.
The Torn ACLs, Make a Break, Make a Move: Effete indie pop that verges on twee.
The Torn ACLs, Real Risks: The ACLs expand from the relatively bland indie pop of January's Make a Break, Make a Move with tighter songwriting and more sonic variety. It's a promising step forward.
Trip Like Animals, The Bubbleator Sessions: TLA's EP is filled with riff-heavy psychedelic hard rock, with a vocalist who owes a debt to Layne Staley.
The True Spokes, The True Spokes: This quintet mixes up mellow, harmony-dense alt-country with an occasional feel-good pop groove.
*Kate Tucker, Ghost of Something New: This new EP is just as pleasant as any of Tucker's prior releases. Tucker is also hotter than a mouthful of ghost chiles. Why she hasn't blown up yet is beyond us.
Type, Bad Tattoos Vol. 1: This album works with some legit production to mixed results, but as always, the guy is good for a few smiles.
Uglyhead, The Garden: Hard-industrial bordering on electro-grunge—a peculiar mix of strangulated vocals and mid-tempo drumming with synth arpeggios and unidentified, swarming noise. Good, menacing fun.
Uncle Pooch, Oneirophrenia: For fans of throwing up their fists and scowling, Oneirophrenia plays like a sludgy Korn cover album minus vocals.
Union Street Orchestra, Dangerous World: Syrupy emo pop from Kirkland that's heavy on piano- and acoustic guitar–fueled breakdowns and wide-screen horn and string arrangements.
Unnatural Helpers, "Hate Your Teachers": UH mastermind Dean Whitmore's rowdiest, angriest cut yet.
*Unnatural Helpers, Land Grab: "Pop-punk" has become a near-meaningless descriptor, but in this collection of relentlessly punchy two-minute songs, these guys do it the right way—hooky, abrasive, and judiciously concise.
Urban Seeds, Grow: Easygoing, sample-free R&B that alternates between smoothed-out MC rhymes and soulful, reggae-influenced vocals.
*USF, Universal: This EP is the sweetest, most accomplished electronic chill-out the local duo have made yet.
Usury, The Benefits of Traveling Alone: There are some clever ideas on the latest from Seth Sommerfeld's DIY folk-punk project, but his speak/sing delivery isn't strong enough to hold the songs together.
Uzi Rash, I Forgot: Bleary-eyed, marble-mouthed, smart-assed jangle punk that hangs out halfway between the rock-'n'-roll garage and the back flap of the circus tent where the carnies go to smoke between freak shows.
VALIS, Minds Through Space and Time: With a psychedelic grunge sound, VALIS recall a time when three-piece bands rocked harder than modern groups four times their size.
Art Vandelay, "Hey Zeus!": Aside from a sharp chorus, Ricky Pharoe's lyrics are too clichéd and self-referential to live up to the delightful mindfuck he's gotten us used to.
*Art Vandelay, "Vitiligo": MC Ricky Pharoe drops a couple of Christ-critical verses here that are as heavy as producer Mack Formway's distorted beat.
Art Vandelay, "Walter White": Ricky Pharoe's verses basically follow the story of Breaking Bad's protagonist, which is just the kind of skewed pop-culture subject matter that suits him.
Variable, Medic: It would be unfair to call this producer's four-song EP abstract, but these instrumental electronic compositions do tend to prioritize texture and beats over melody.
*Variable, Sleeper Files: The rhythms play with aqueous synth splashes and various sharp bits of sound data in a way that occasionally implies plot, but atmosphere is the real star here.
Various artists, Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly #27: Another fine compilation showcasing local artists like songstress Alicia Amiri, melodic chillsters The Music of Grayface, and a smattering of national talent.
Various artists, Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly #28: Booty-shakin' tracks of the electro variety that flow together like your favorite summer playlist.
Various artists, Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly #29, No Guitars: In what has to be curator Levi Fuller's most controversial compilation to date, BOW 29 features keyboards, winds, banjos, mandolas, percussion, voices and more, but not a single axe.
*Various artists, Ball of Wax Audio Quarterly #30: Going themeless, Levi Fuller compiles acoustic power pop, dark dance, and other eclectic songs with solid results.
Various artists, Coastal Sightings: Cairo Records' annual compilation scans the breadth of a small but fertile scene—from analog electronics and ambient noise to abrasive no-wave punk.
Various artists, Head East: This comp, recorded in the The Old Fire House's media lab, ranges from sax jazz and slap-bass funk/rock to the usual indie and several entries of acoustic folk.
Various artists, Soul of Seattle: Local label Empathy Records has gathered some of the finest soul and R&B music the town has to offer in this 16-track compilation (a special nod to Mycle Wastman and Malice & Mario Sweet).
Various artists, The Undercaste Mixtape: A couple of keepers on this mixtape deserve repeat listens, but far more earn a skip.
*Various artists, What's Up Seattle: A solid and diverse mixtape primer on what's happening in our city's fertile underground—from Dude York to Haunted Horses.
Vinca Minor, Capital of Sorrow: Matt Menovcik's songwriting largely lives up to the sorrow in his second album's title: ponderous, self-serious ballads augmented by synthesized strings and his ever-straining voice.
Viper Creek Club, Hot Lights: A disappointing batch of cringy electro-emo, every thick kick or synth line marred by Mat Wisner's strangulated howling.
Virgin, Virgin: The slight touch of irony that accompanies naming a '70s-style cock-rock band "Virgin" is far cleverer than any of the monotonous bar-rock tunes featured here.
The Vonvettas, Monster: Exciting, robust, and pleasantly layered, but it screams to be played in front of a crowd.
*Rocky Votolato, Television of Saints: Votolato's eighth full-length is an archetypal Seattle folk record—but it's both pretty and unpretentious, and he's a skilled enough songwriter to convey a message without beating you over the head with it.
Vox Mod, CAPSULE: This local electronic artist presents a massive 22-track collection of lost pieces that will get under your skin.
Vox Mod, Spectrum (Remixes by Vox Mod): This live-electronics dude tackles tracks with vaporizing synths, solid beats, and an overall light touch.
*The Walkabouts, "My Diviner": The Walkabouts spend 10 minutes building anticipation on the back of meticulous atmospherics and slick Americana.
The Walkabouts, "Soul Thief": Over torrents of pulsating guitar and organ, singer Chris Eckman crafts a menacing ode to escapism.
*WaMü, Viafuckt: An appropriately anarchic album of primal-scream and skronk therapy, sax and violins, things falling apart.
Kristen Ward, Last Night on Division: Ward's powerful vocals and guitar work roughen up the usual female-fronted alt-country thing on this stellar effort.
The Washover Fans, Live at Empty Sea: These hicksters unpretentiously cover a bunch of songs (from The Velvet Underground to Foo Fighters) that showcase a wide array of influences.
The Way We Were in 1989, Floating Islands: The songs on this EP roll fluidly into each other, and all display a marked contrast of dueling male and female vocals, breakup themes, and edgy tempos.
Wayfinders, Wayfinders: Lo-fi garage sounds, folk harmonies, and a freewheeling take on '70s rock place Wayfinders somewhere between The Velvet Underground's stripped-down style and T. Rex's glam rock.
*Edmund Wayne, Edmund Wayne EP: A breathtaking album of mellow, serene, and inspiring alternative folk.
We Say Bang!, Ignite: This album features sporadic bursts of bright crash, fast snare rolls, and distorted guitar that beg to be seen live.
Western Haunts, Ambassador: Western Haunts turns up the reverb and slaps on layers of synth and slide guitar. It's less immediate than its predecessor, but no less interesting.
Western Medicine, In Transit: WM's brand of psychedelic garage rock hits the mark with tracks like "Belly of the Beast," a spot-on vision of the Sonics, fronted by Josh Homme.
Wickerbird, The Crow Mother: This debut is an oddly soothing collection of indie-rock lullabies full of hushed harmonies and ambient fuzz.
The Willow Collective, Underground Sky Soaring Collective: An intriguing eight-song LP full of haunting and fantastical tunes, though at times the guitar riffs seem to clash rather than coalesce.
Willow & the Embers, Radio Sky: West Seattle's Willow has a haunting and ethereal voice, and her songs can take on the same traits.
*Wings and Wounds, Wings and Wounds: Emo rap is alive and well in the Northwest, with Graves 33 providing dark backdrops for Sarx and guests' gruff rhymes.
*Kendl Winter, The Mechanics of Hovering Flight: A rootsy, raspy register and light accents of psychedelic banjo make for a bluegrass sound that's as indie as it is Appalachian.
Wiscon, Wiscon: This female-fronted band plays a strain of dark new wave that's powered by vintage synths and driving bass lines.
Witch Gardens, R-I-P: Sprightly guitar lines and G-rated lyrics split between leisurely female harmonies and taunting sing-song chants, with an all-around easy summer vibe.
Within Providence, Within Providence: Gregg Neville's solo project sounds like the gothic cousin of Duran Duran. His debut EP puts out a pop-synth sound with a dark edge.
Wizdom & Epidemmik, Unearthed: Epidemmik's soul-sampled beats work well over the album's 10 tracks.
*Wolf Hotel, Good Bye: Packaged inside a 32-page hardback book bound, written, and illustrated by MC Barfly himself, this is hardly your ordinary EP.
J. Wong, The Statue of Corrupted Endeavor: This singer/songwriter's first full-length builds on the Pacific Northwest folk canon with expressively tender, finely arranged tunes like "I Just Can't Do It."
*X-Suns, X-Suns: Each track is a mini-orchestra, layered with dazzling guitar and backbeat, without an emphasis on speed.
The Young Evils, Foreign Spells: TYE boasts a sharper, darker sound; more vocal variety than the unison voices they'd become known for; and a touch of edgier attitude, most evident on "Devil's Barricade."
*Young Fresh Fellows, Tiempo De Lujo: The latest from this Seattle institution (31 years and counting) is 12 songs of quirky, poppy garage rock.
Younger Shoulder, Younger Shoulder: Sweet, lo-fi indie pop with classical-guitar elements and emotive, whispery vocals.
Your Favorite Book, Remember the Narwhal: If acoustic folk-punk is your jam, you'll find something to love here.
*Yuni in Taxco, Prizes: A self-made jungle of jangly surf guitars, Kraut-y keyboard riffs, and dueling vocal lines.
Zarni, Zarni: Zarni de Wet, the keyboardist/singer from Campfire Ok, goes solo on this EP, which sees the singer/songwriter dabble in emotive, Grey's Anatomy–ready ballads and jangly pop.
*Zephyrs, Order of the Arrow: This youthful Eastside duo delivers ardent guitar-rock tunes that play like short, heady huffs of air.
LOCAL LABELS' OUT-OF-TOWN BANDS
Abandoned Pools, Sublime Currency: Though "Unrehearsed" gives the vibe of an '80s-inspired synth album with an abundance of smiles and electronic drums, "Billion" kicks in like a psychophrenic nod to Trent Reznor and The Social Network soundtrack.
Anberlin, Dancing Between the Fibers of Time: A greatest-hits album spanning the band's three phenomenal minor-label releases before they jumped into the majors, each track is a sad reminder of their glory days.
Anchor & Braille, The Quiet Life: Over layers of serene harmony and a steady beat, "Find Me" is the soundtrack for grabbing a friend and cruising around anywhere.
*August Burns Red, August Burns Red Presents: ABR creates a cheery, snowy world of shredding guitar, pounding drums, and even some soft/pretty guitar solos.
August Burns Red, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen": Captures the traditional melody while giving it a metal flavor, complete with finger-splitting guitar solos and slow-mo breakdowns.
*Daniel Bachman, Oh Be Joyful: This Philadelphia finger-picking guitar whiz's latest album comprises seven instrumentals, which combine classic American rags with a drony spirituality more common to sitar music.
*Beach House, Bloom: A strong album that reinstates the band's warm and familiar dream-pop sound while venturing in a few new directions.
Beachwood Sparks, The Tarnished Gold: Recalls Simon & Garfunkel's tranquil harmonies, but with considerably fewer memorable melodies.
Becoming the Archetype, Celestial Progression: The music on this remixed, digital EP version of their March release is honestly top-notch, if not a tad overwhelming.
Becoming the Archetype, I Am: At first listen, I Am doesn't suggest much growth from the Atlanta death-metal band. Stick with it, however; tracks like "The Eyes of the Storm" and "The Time Bender" are actually dripping with technicality and fervor.
*Becoming the Archetype, "O Holy Night": Ominous and chilling, this single begins with children softly singing over piano.
*Black Marble, A Different Arrangement: Drum-machine beats drive spare guitar and synth melodies, the vocals drip with melancholy, and everything has the mournfully spare sense of space of New Order's earliest post-Curtis recordings.
*Black Marble, Weight Against the Door: Five tracks of mopey bedroom dancing that borrow from Joy Division way more credibly than that Mickey Mouse shirt did.
Blessed By a Broken Heart, Feel the Power: A fun mixture of glam rock and power metal, Feel the Power incorporates speedy, crying guitar solos that burst right out of the '80s.
Jeremy Camp, Christmas: God With Us: Camp puts an upbeat, modern twist on holiday classics. His voice shines best on the less-poppy songs, like "O Come O Come Emmanuel."
Jeremy Camp, I Still Believe: The #1's Collection: Camp's deep, grainy voice meshes perfectly with the driving, upbeat instrumentation on this showcase of hits.
Canyons of Static, "Wake/Drift": Soundscape-style indie rock that makes for an epically indulgent instrumental mood-core trip.
Capital Lights, Rhythm 'n' Moves: Rewinding the airwaves to 2006, Capital Lights play a nostalgic brand of pop-rock that's reminiscent of Hellogoodbye meets We the Kings.
*Chain and the Gang, In Cool Blood: Ian Svenonius and the Gang's latest collection of howling garage and mod soul is their best stuff since their 2009 debut.
*Michael Chapman, Rainmaker: Chapman's as proficient at singing and songwriting as he is at guitar-slinging.
Children 18:3, On the Run: An energizing record of palm-muted guitar and poppy, upbeat drums.
The Coathangers, "Merry Go Round" b/w Heavy Cream, "Toasted": Atlanta garage gals the Coathangers thread a jagged, catchy dance-punk guitar riff through an appropriately circling beat on "Merry Go Round"; like-minded Nashville band Heavy Cream follows with an equally fun punk charge.
The Coathangers, "Smother" b/w Davila 666, "No Crees Que Ya Cansa": The language of punk is universal on this 7-inch split between Atlanta bad girls the Coathangers and Puerto Rican hellions Davila 666, who offer, respectively, organ-flaring rawk and a tinny, drum-machine-driven guitar wipeout.
*Corin Tucker Band, Kill My Blues: Bursting with wailing vocals and domineering guitar riffs, Tucker's clattering new LP shrieks a lot harder than 2010's 1,000 Years.
*Debo Band, Debo Band: The Ethiopian diaspora picks up some klezmer-punk kids via Boston's Jamaica Plain, and they makes beautiful grooves together.
*Deep Magic, Closed Eyes: More delectable ambient music from local label Debacle Records and Seattle artist Alex Gray (aka Deep Magic), full of soft washes of sound, synths wavering like wind chimes, and the sparest penny-dropping percussion.
*Deep Time, Deep Time: This Austin boy/girl duo plays organ and drums, but that's too small to describe their cool-headed yet fractured pop sound.
Father John Misty, "I Would Love You": This easy, barroom-anthemic single is far livelier and open-ended than the light-footed acoustic records that dominate J. Tillman's solo catalogue.
feedtime, The Aberrant Years: Everything this Australian power trio made between 1978 and 1989, including inspired covers of the Beach Boys, the Stones, and the Animals.
Fergus & Geronimo, Funky Was the State of Affairs: Lo-fi garage rockers overplay their tongue-in-cheek shtick on this unlistenable mess—a shame considering the promise of its predecessor.
Fergus & Geronimo, "Roman Tick": Soft-core, tongue-in-cheek pop-punk pastiche from a pair of dudes capable of much better.
*Ruby Fray, Pith: Fray's debut record moves from freak-folk to wistful balladry to skewed indie pop, often in the span of a few songs. It's a bit unfocused but never boring, and indicative of an artist with lots of room to grow.
*Gap Dream, Ali Baba: This bedroom project is the work of Gabe Fulvimar, whose spacey, mumbling vocals make him sound like a computerized Lou Reed.
Gaytheist, Stealth Beats: Presumably a gaytheist is a gay atheist, but judging by this Portland band's blitzkrieg full-length, it's also someone who knows how to write pulverizing, hardcore punk songs.
Laura Gibson, La Grande: The subdued instrumentation and Gibson's soft-spoken vocals make for some gorgeous moments.
Aaron Gillespie, Echo Your Song (Live): Naysayers came out in droves when Gillespie parted ways with Underoath, but it's clear why he left; this is an uplifting album from a man who obviously needed a change of scenery.
The Glorious Unseen, Lovesick: The album varies drastically from the indie-rock vibe of "Brand New" to the soft strum of "Can a Nation Be Changed?"
David Hahn, Apocalypse Cow: The title track is a industrial mashup of the Bush administration's drumbeat to war, porn, and W.'s comments about not waiting for the mushroom cloud.
Haste the Day, Best of the Best: That this band ever got to the point of having a greatest-hits album is remarkable, given there are almost as many former members as current members.
The Helio Sequence, Negotiations: The Helio Sequence's indie rock has always been pristine and polite, carefully polished by two studio perfectionists, but Negotiations adds new layers of sonic character.
The Helio Sequence, "October": Same solid drumming and fluttering, crystal-clear guitar tones you can always expect from this Portland duo, but the reverb-rich vocals for some reason hit a more emotionally resonant note than in much of their merely pleasant stuff.
Horse Feathers, Cynic's New Year: Firmly rooted in Americana, every element of the record seems to shine and sparkle with clarity, even as singer Justin Ringle struggles with his own mortality.
Hunx, Hairdresser Blues: Fuzzy pop songs that remain memorable for their plain-spokenness.
Husky, Forever So: A Sub Pop–signed Australian quartet making soft, classicist folk rock in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash and ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Aren't we done with this stuff yet?
Hyland, Finding Our Way: Hyland melds the instrumentation and upbeat vibe of Mutemath with the faith-based pop-rock feel of Anberlin.
*Iron & Wine, "One More Try": Sam Beam's unlikely and exquisite cover of George Michael's 1988 #1 hit, reworked with celestial organ, clarinet, and strikingly effusive vocals, is a reaffirmation of Michael's underrated genius as a songwriter.
Jaill, Traps: Sunny, slightly psyched garage pop, favoring clean electric guitars and acoustic strum and led by Vincent Kircher's warbly but tuneful singing.
K-Holes, Dismania: K-Holes make dirge-y, ritual rock full of dirty guitars, crashing drums, squealing saxophone, and witchy moans.
*King Tuff, King Tuff: This eclectic Vermont musician's sophomore album falls somewhere between '60s pop, '70s glam, and scuzzy beach rock. It's immediate, uninhibited, and catchy as hell.
*King Tuff, "Screaming Skull" b/w "Love Potion": On this clap-happy, ultra-catchy track, King Tuff pledges, "I'll give you my heart and my soul/All I want is your screaming skull."
*King Tuff, "Wild Desire": Carefully fuzzy overdriven vocals, totally carefree, joyriding guitar melodies and singing, and lo-fi static so honest you hear the cassette recorder click off at the end.
KJ-52, Dangerous: On the whole, a letdown. The hip-hop side is really great; it's when the kind-of-rock is added that the songs become saturated.
Kutless, Believer: A solid mixture of alt-rock and hard rock, Believer's biggest strength is its range.
La Sera, "Please Be My Third Eye": Lo-fi darling Katy Goodman is more polished on this teaser to her March LP Sees the Light.
La Sera, Sees the Light: Vivian Girls' Katy Goodman brings spunk and hooks aplenty to a record in which she's looking for her place outside the garage.
The Letter Black, Hanging On by a Remix: Though a good bit of their hard edge is covered by the dancier, electronic feel, it's impressive to hear the evolution of songs like "All I Want."
Love and Death, Between Here & Lost: Ex-Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welsh has pieced together an album that's addictively honest and instrumentally superb in its own right.
Maga Bo, Beyond Digital Mix: This Selector and Seattle expat currently resides in Brazil, and this DJ mix hosted by local label Automation is an appropriately dizzy survey of dirty global beats.
*Magic Trick, Ruler of the Night: Tim Cohen's glum guitar-and-piano ballads have evolved into subtly expansive things here, fleshed out with smart percussion, flutes, and faintly echoing choruses.
Manafest, Fighter: Meshing rap and hard rock into a decent musical conglomerate that's a tad niche-y for the average person.
*Maps & Atlases, Beware and Be Grateful: Beware contains Maps & Atlases' trademarks—intricate guitar lines and fret-tapping, Dave Davison's squalling vocals—but the songs have an added hypnotic pop zing and sheen.
*Spoek Mathambo, Father Creeper: Rooted in spacy electronica and hip-hop while incorporating rock and funk stylings reminiscent of TV on the Radio's more experimental work.
Matt & Toby, Matt & Toby: The latest from Matt Carter and Toby Morrell shines with piano, acoustic guitar, and upbeat vocals.
Memoryhouse, The Slideshow Effect: Comparable to an afternoon nap—sweet, soothing, and relaxing, but nothing to get too terribly excited about.
*Menomena, Moms: Loose, freewheeling, and—a first for Menomena—relaxed. It's the band's best album since 2007's Friend and Foe.
*METZ, METZ: The Sub Pop debut of this Toronto trio claws and pummels its way through 11 opaque tracks of savage guitar riffs, brutalizing percussion, and thick walls of reverb.
*Mogwai, A Wrenched Virile Lore: A remix album of 10 stretched-out and reworked versions of songs from Mogwai's 2011 Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.
The Museum, My Only Rescue: A fresh take on the guitar-driven pop stylings of the late '90s.
My Heart to Fear, Lost Between Brilliance and Insanity: Lost is littered with clean, screaming vocals, eerie keyboard, and uplifting harmonies.
MyChildren MyBride, MyChildren MyBride: In a genre diluted with drop-D tuning and pounding instruments, MyChildren MyBride does its best to stand out, but the record as a whole feels like a regurgitation of everything else.
Nada Surf, The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy: Lots of big, bright, hook-laden power-pop songs, but little innovation.
*Niki & The Dove, Instinct: This Swedish duo create icy-sharp synth-pop with a sexy, edgy sheen.
Nine Lashes, World We View: Nothing more than an homage to every angry, palm-muted, distorted rock band before them.
Nobunny, "La La La La Love You": An adenoidal garage-pop throwback on the front with a pretty, leisurely toy-piano serenade on the B-side.
nonnon, El Socialismo: Dripping with energy, El Socialismo is a lively, spastic record with a serious case of multiple personality disorder.
Bebo Norman, Lights of Distant Cities: This singer/songwriter captures a personal religious journey in 11 rich, beautifully written songs.
Nü Sensae, Sundowning: A Vancouver, B.C., punk trio that digs deep into Hole, Led Zeppelin, and their peers to produce a growling grrrl-rock sound with shards of punk and metal in the mix.
Nü Sensae, Tea Swamp Park: Nü Sensae plays doomy, gloomy punk riffs which Andrea Lukic screams over, and which would make the perfect soundtrack for a slasher-flick killing spree.
*Obits, "Let Me Dream if I Want To" b/w "City Is Dead": How a bunch of grown men can sound so angrily bitter toward the world is beyond me, but Obits manage to pull off cranked-up codger better than anyone.
The O.C. Supertones, For the Glory: This Orange County, Calif., Christian ska band has created a unique sound that's both heavy and light, with upbeat brass and rough punk vocals.
*Tara Jane ONeil, "Sirena" b/w "Rainbow Connection": "Sirena" is a wholly peaceful lullaby composed of warmly strummed guitars and brushed drumbeats; "Rainbow Connection" chirps and bobs with a similar sense of magic.
The Overseer, We Search, We Dig: The Overseer displays an impressive amount of depth and talent here, mixing tempos, chord progressions, and all-out emotion for a heavy and refreshing dose of hardcore.
*Peace, The World Is Too Much With Us: Peace mixes melancholy post-punk progressions with the uniquely half-sung melodies of singer Dan Geddes.
Poema, Remembering You: Everything it would appear to be and more: songs about lost loves, future flames, and hopeless romanticism.
Rabbits, Bites Rites: A nine-minute schizophrenic onslaught that could easily double as the soundtrack to a low-budget slasher/horror film. It may be messy and chaotic, but it's a great way to burn off extra steam.
Ramona Falls, Prophet: Brent Knopf's new songs pop with layers of harmonic vocals, pretty piano melodies, and the occasional jolting guitar riff.
Wendy Rene, After Laughter Comes Tears: Appreciators of the current soul revival will find themselves helpless against the power of Rene's majestic howl.
Retribution Gospel Choir, The Revolution EP: This group lets Low's Alan Sparhawk air out songs too rocking or power-poppy for his slowcore day job.
Rocky Loves Emily, Secrets Don't Make Friends: Middle-school girls will find hundreds of hours of quality material, no doubt, but I suspect this album was written exclusively to play in Journeys.
Schwarz, "Earthlink": This dark, hollowed-out angular dance track features elements of chiptune and electro-club that could succeed in the right late-night setting.
*Sent by Ravens, Mean What You Say: An exemplary example of powerful, aggressive rock that's both uplifting and intricate.
Shearwater, Animal Joy: Jonathan Meiburg's stately, soaring soft-rock balladry finds a fitting new nest at the increasingly "indie/adult contemporary"–friendly Sub Pop.
Solid Home Life, Solid Home Life: An album of lo-fi folk that could have benefited from a little more studio direction, or a drummer capable of keeping a steady beat.
States, Room to Run: Peel away the Paramore-esque vocals and distorted guitar, and you're left with nothing more than semi-catchy, mildly danceable choruses.
To Speak of Wolves, Find Your Worth, Come Home: This album is a bit spastic, opting for long stretches of screeching guitar and haphazard yelling instead of legitimate breakdowns.
*Total Control, "Scene From a Marriage" b/w "Contract": The deadpan drag of this single's guitars, drums, and wounded vocals aptly evokes the grueling slog of an unraveling marriage.
Underoath, Anthology 1999–2013: This anthology is stacked, with songs spanning from the band's 1999 debut Act of Depression with vocalist Dallas Taylor all the way to 2010's Ø (Disambiguation).
*Various artists, Country Funk: Dale Hawkins, Gray Fox, and Mac Davis are just some of the names you'll find on this truly feel-good collection that features lots of twangy Telecaster goodness and booty-shakin' bass lines.
Various artists, X 2012: With 20 tracks ranging from metalcore to crunk rock, there's literally something for everyone.
*Wax Idols, "Schadenfreude": Female-fronted punk rock from San Francisco, all sharp-angled guitars, pelvic-thrusting bass pulses, and Elastica-like attitude for days.
*The Wedding, No Direction: Rooted in punk rock but unafraid to flex the occasional pop muscle, No Direction is full of gang-chorus vocals, fast drums, and intense instrumentation.
*White Woods, "Where Did You Go": Coathangers singer/guitarist Julia Kugel takes time off from bratty punk rock to craft (what else?) twee, fairy-forest folk songs—but surprisingly good ones.
Wolves at the Gate, Captors: With throat-bursting screams and powerful, throbbing instrumentation, Wolves at the Gate flexes its best hardcore muscles on Captors.
Write This Down, Lost Weekend: Underwhelming at first, tracks like "See Ya Never" and "Red 7" are actually quite vocally impressive, with a refreshing mixture of harmonized screaming and singing leading the punches.
*Yellow Ostrich, Strange Land: The New York trio's second LP, all raw guitars, thrumming percussion, and strident vocals, is every bit as outré and charming as their first, last year's The Mistress.