DIVISION OF LAURA LEE
Already garnering comparisons to Girls Against Boys, Jesus and Mary Chain, and Drive Like Jehu, Sweden's Division of Laura Lee do an excellent job twisting woozy shoegazer rock around antsy post-punk guitar rhythms. Their second release, Black City, is drenched in effects pedals and padded with odd little scraps of noise--wailing sirens, moaning women, honking horns, or dialing phones--thickening the reverb one minute and stripping the material back to a hyperactive punk track the next. The band has the keen ability to slouch into a melodic stupor of electronic noise, stumbling around in a stylishly moody haze for a couple songs before uncoiling a live-wire anthem that reveals a fiercer side (with lyrics like, "I'm not your toy for penetration"). As summer slowly gives way to the darker months, discs like Black City create the perfect union between narcotic numbness and a more menacing fire inside. JENNIFER MAERZ
They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top
As part of the hyped new wave of New York post-punk, the Liars not only sold out clubs they comfortably played a year ago, they also sold out of merchandise, as mainstream standbys like the New York Times started paying attention to the band. They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top was released by Gern Blandsten in 2001 and was just reissued for the masses by Mute/Blast First, in time to continue the spread of good word for the band's fall tour with NYC peers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The disc plays off the same elements that make acts like the Rapture and Radio 4 so appealing: It gives punk a new dance floor makeover. Only this isn't disco in the sense of high gloss, fancy electronics, and velvet ropes. It's the sound of lo-fi basement beats, of drum machines and programmed rhythmic conformity pulsing under mutated vocal squeals, mechanically barked commands, human drum fills, and choppy guitar riffs. The songs throb with white noise until the band sutures the oozing sounds with firm bass lines, countering sonic outbursts with equal parts stoic minimalism (with the exception of the closing opus, "This Dirt Makes Mud," a repetitive four-second loop of synthesized echoes that goes on for a near half-hour eternity). The starkness of this disc is instantly intriguing, as the Liars prove you don't need a lot of fancy tools to evoke perfectly pretentious moods. JENNIFER MAERZ
Songs about Leaving
(Sad Robot Records)
Carissa's Wierd's latest release takes vacating--be it a slow slip away, or a hasty retreat--as its theme, conjuring 12 songs able to strangle that fist-sized muscle residing within your chest. Too self-loathing (or not self-absorbed enough) to be truly emo, Mat Brooke, Jenn Ghetto, et al. once again use dual singing, heavy musical layers, and a morbid sense of self-destruction as ingredients for a record that stings you where it counts. Songs like "You Should Be Hated Here" and "Ignorant Piece of Shit" (on which Ghetto gets to stretch her metallic, Crictor-side-project legs--albeit to a somewhat slower tempo) offer stories of loss, painfully expressed yet beautifully rendered. There is obvious growth from previous records on Songs about Leaving, but the formula remains the same: Carissa's Wierd want you to cry, and quite possibly slit your wrists, and listening to them you welcome the opportunity for both. BRADLEY STEINBACHER
Carissa's Wierd play Sat Sept 7 at Graceland.
(Team Monkey Drive)
When it comes to musician boys and their angst, you have to put up with two equally compelling elements to really learn their lesson. For one, there's the proof of their sensitivity within their very ability to write songs about feelings rather than just writing about fucking gross chicks to cover said feelings up. Second, when you do find a songwriter who knows how to speak his heart and he hates, he usually does it with such unblinking honesty that, well, soon your own heart becomes an instrument of hate, if only for yourself. Pipsqueak consists of one Jerome Sosa and his guitar, and together they dissect characters typical of Seattle's daily Capitol Hill or University existence: the tattooed boys and the girls with pigtails, the penitent drunks, and the observers of both who can't decide whether they want to move on or stay in the life they feel they deserve. Pipsqueak's Un-Happy Hour isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but angst-ridden boys are sure to find something within it, and some might even feel inspired to have the courage to say something about how they're feeling rather than just screw. KATHLEEN WILSON
Team Monkey Drive is a cooperative for wayward bands, 6553 42nd Ave SW, #2, Seattle, WA 98136.