Reckless Burning
(Burn Burn Burn Recordings)

It's a foregone conclusion that the No Depression set will flip over this nearly flawless debut from former members of Whiskeytown, Hominy, and Citizen's Utilities. What's less clear is when the buzz will catch on with fans of evocative, slow-tempo indie bands like Low, Catpower, and the Mojave 3. There's no denying that this is a country-folk album: Sykes' husky alto embodies the wise, weary warmth of a classic rural storyteller, and those traits are easily magnified by Bruce Wirth's spooky accents of banjo and lap steel and the graceful presence of violinist Anne Marie Ruljancich. But the overall tone doesn't fit neatly into a country niche, primarily because of guitarist Phil Wanderscher's contributions and Sykes' broader pop sensibilities. Listening to the bleak, beautiful, distorted guitar shudders on the title track's introduction or the sorrowful, Throwing Muse-y refrains on "Don't Let Me Go," no one can accuse these kids of operating strictly by the alt-country playbook. HANNAH LEVIN

Shake a Tail Feather

Finally, a cool, definitive "Best Of" the brothers Purify. Whooo!!! Now I can just get to WORK shakin' my bee-hind and quit spinning my "the more I play 'em, the more they hiss" styrene Purified 45s!!! Turns out, tho', they ain't really brothers (!), but they DO got the sweet, SOLID Southern duo R&B/soul holler... kinda like Sam & Dave... hell, they're even from Florida too! But DON'T hold that against 'em. You know, I'm sure if you've ever listened to "oldies" radio you've heard 'em--they hit with "I'm Your Puppet"--but this collection is PACKED with what you ain't heard and it's damn fine listening indeed. MIKE NIPPER

Knock Loud
(Get Hip)

When I got my hands on last year's all-star rock 'n' roll comp The Sympathetic Sounds of Detroit, it wasn't the tracks from the White Stripes or the Dirtbombs that sparked my fuse. It was the opening song, "Black Girl," a gritty explosion of street-punk soul from an unknown act called the Paybacks. The Paybacks' ace in the hole is Wendy Case, a chick blessed with a masculine, gravely voice that comes off like she gargles volcanic ash for breakfast. The band's debut record, Knock Loud, sounds like a hungrier, banged-up version of Cheap Trick, as the band (made up of Detroit rock vets from the Henchmen and Rocket 455) stab upbeat pop hooks through ebullient backing harmonies and dirty hard-rock riffs. When Case growls out the lyrics to "Just You Wait Till I Get Home," there's no doubt this is a woman who could kick your ass in two notes flat. JENNIFER MAERZ

I'll Be Sweeter Tomorrow

Man OH MAN!!! What a stunning collection of sides, each lovingly snatched from this long, LONG-standing vocal/soul group's time spent at the Bell label, '67-'69. But before I go any further, be warned, I can NOT help but sound like a gushing jackass for this 58 minutes of Northern sophistication slopped on toppa Northern sophistication. Okay... "Sweeter" gets me dead in the tweeter!!! It's got everything... falsettos, harmonies... some drama, strings, horns, AND a backbeat for gettin' that BACK BEATIN'!!! Yes, and that's the way I like it. Oh, for the record, "Sweeter" is a rather interesting point in the O'Jays' career, too, 'cause within a year or so AFTER they split from Bell, they got fucking HUGE via Philly's Gamble and Huff smoove '70s soul productions! MIKE NIPPER

The Modern Sinner Nervous Man (EP)
(Suicide Squeeze)


EPs suck. Why spend good money on three songs now when you can buy the band's full-length a little later? Although I never buy 'em, I have two new EPs to recommend anyway--'cause they're really fucking good. The first is The Modern Sinner Nervous Man from the Constantines, a band that slashes gruff/harried vocals through shifting instrumental melodies, blasting out of a hardcore womb and into something a little artier, more spacious, and, in places, almost soul-oriented. Just when "Blind Luck" begins to whet your appetite, though, the disc stops, dammit.

Mars Volta is one of two spinoffs from Omar and Cedric of At the Drive-In. Tremulant is all we get from these guys for now--but man, what a record. The EP is a mix of psychedelic dub-punk, as aggressive and intense as ATDI but echoing their shit all over the place, producing a hybrid sound that's really pretty in a jazzy, tripped-out, outer-space-rock kinda way. JENNIFER MAERZ