Voxtrot – Voxtrot (Playlouder/Beggars)This Austin, TX, quintet actually did better recording themselves on their smashing self-released EPs, 2005’s Raised by Wolves and 2006’s Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives. Ultimately, though, Voxtrot wins you over. It’s flat-out brilliant, the work of a youthful band still cresting. When is a great debut album mildly disappointing? When there are qualms with the production.
Bad Brains – Build a Nation (Megaforce)
27 years ago, this magazine took its name from a then-unreleased Bad Brains song, and our debt to them remains incalculable. To this day, just their mention leaves this writer with a Pavlovian reaction like panting. But until this LP, that was all in the distant past. Spread the news: Build is the most exciting Bad Brains LP in 24 years.
Secret Shine – Beyond Sea and Sky EP (Razorblade/Tonevendor)
1990s Brit indie pop–shoegaze straddlers Secret Shine have done us a favor by reforming after eight years; file them under a puny list of bands who’ve put out their best work the second time around.
Maximo Park – Our Earthly Pleasures (Warp)
This second LP is coming out in April from this exciting Newcastle bunch. They could perhaps be faulted for a making an LP that doesn’t break different ground from their debut, but then again, they are so good at it, I stopped caring by my second listen to this. It’s very nearly as great as the first, and that says a lot. It will infect you too.
Bee Gees – The Studio Albums 1967–1968 (6-cd box set) (Sequel UK)
Bonanza!!! A decade before they went disco, relegating their incredible early stuff to an oxymoronic open secret, the brothers Gibb rivaled their inspirations THE BEATLES with a string of credible, lasting hits and great album tracks. In particular, their first three U.K. LPs, recorded in 1967–1968 as a quintet, remain essential. So this six-CD box, with 40 bonus tracks, is the place to get them for $60 you won’t regret spending.
Pointed Sticks – Waiting For the Real Thing (Sudden Death Canada)
In lamenting their 1981 breakup, JELLO BIAFRA called Vancouver’s Pointed Sticks “North America’s Undertones.” All they lacked was that one momentous album. Not any more! Waiting is that truly hot retrospective, easily besting an OK, out-of-print first try, 1996’s Part of the Noise (Zulu Canada).
The Shins – Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop)Third straight excellent Shins LP, even if this one is a little more esoteric, and seems to fall off a little on the second, more mellower half. It’s still enormously engaging!
Fields – Everything Last Winter (Black Lab/Atlantic/WEA)
Everything one hoped for from last year’s 7 from the Village mini-LP on Vice, which combined this fab London quintet’s two import EPs, is realized on this debut LP. Dream pop, a.k.a. “Beautiful Noise,” must be making a real resurgence.
Comsat Angels – My Mind’s Eye (Renascent U.K.)
One-time incredibles who lose their superpowers rarely regain them. This one did. 1980-1982’s’s astonishing Waiting for a Miracle, Sleep No More, and Fiction—all reissued last year by Renascent with the BBC collection, Time Considered—contrasted dark shadows and throbbing, stabbing atmospherics with gripping melodies. Nine years of dabbling in OK-but-lesser glossier synth pop ensued… until 1991’s My Mind’s Eye shocked all and sundry.
The Stooges – The Weirdness (Virgin)
Why is everybody down on this? Were I a Stooge, I’d say: “Screw ’em! They were wrong about us then, when few got it; they’re wrong again now that we’re back and loved!” A little perspective, critics: You’re missing a rockin’ boat.