Blitzen Trapper - "Wild Mountain Nation"

Blitzen Trapper, the Parson Red Heads, PWRFL Power
(Chop Suey) Portland freak-folkers Blitzen Trapper made the leap to the indie-rock majors with last year's Wild Mountain Nation, a 13-song blast of Trout Mask Replica clatter melded with Grateful Dead–esque groove so odd and inspired it tempted even Beefheart- and Dead-haters to do small, self-contained noodle dances. This year brought Furr, the band's first release for Sub Pop, which finds the previous record's psycho-clatter largely swapped for good old-fashioned melodic songwriting, with odd studio tricks and bright glam-rock flourishes scattered throughout; it's even more lovable than its predecessor. DAVID SCHMADER

Chuckanut Drive - "Ain't Much Action"

Chuckanut Drive, Michael Dean Damron, Williston
(Sunset) The fascist reign of Idiot Country Music continues apace in the mainstream. The first Generalissimo of Suck might've been Hank Williams Jr., but Garth Brooks really forced everyone to walk in lockstep with his generic rock stylings. Thankfully, there are bands like Bellingham's Chuckanut Drive to keep the flame of resistance during this dark regime of awful country. At first, when you hear the steel guitar and aching ballads like the beautiful, broken "Juanita," you're not sure if these guys are some sort of novelty act, but by the time they've finished their set, it's pretty obvious that they're Real Country. Thank God someone's putting a boot in Toby Keith's ass. PAUL CONSTANT

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Safer, H Is for Hellgate, the Apple War, In the Empty City
(High Dive, late) Despite what I may have thought of local rockers H Is for Hellgate after the band's less-than-memorable self-titled debut last year, I just had to listen to this year's follow-up, Come for the Peaks, Stay for the Valleys, after seeing the cover art—it's got two adorable flying puppies on it! Turns out the puppies aren't the only thing Peaks has goin' for it. Hellgate's pounding drumming and wiry guitar work nod to turbulent '90s post-rock, but some songs ("Blood," for instance) come with a somber Pacific Northwest vibe. "Copernicus and Me" is dark and drilling; "Dusk at Devil's Tower" is one part Jawbox, one part Bikini Kill. I came for the dogs, but stayed for the music. MEGAN SELING

Listen to H Is for Hellgate - "Copernicus and Me"

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