I begin this week's column with a question directed at every band that's ever made the drive down I-5: How old do you have to be before that "Dike Access Road" sign ceases to be funny? I've seen it at least 200 times, yet there I was a couple of weekends ago, sitting in the back seat of my parents' car (à la Home for the Holidays), giggling as the sign passed by on the way to Oregon, and again a week later as it passed by on the way back to Seattle. I am fully a retard, but in this case am I the only retard? Seattle folks wish to appear cool at all times, so I understand a certain reticence when it comes to letting your dork flag fly, but I'll tell you a story that's sure to make you feel superior, at my expense.

Nineteen years ago I was given a cockatiel that I immediately named Ranking Roger, because he looked like the toaster in the English Beat, who at the time sported a yellow stripe on the top of his head. Rog' was able to shout "FUCK YOU!" with great clarity, as well as "Hello, Baby," and, when he was down, he could whistle the first bar of "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot." Rog's longevity astounded all who knew him, until last week, when he "fell off the twig," as it were. That I owned a bird that ridiculous shows how big of a dork I am; so don't feel bad if "Dike Access Road" still makes you laugh. However, I digress. This week's column is supposed to be about all the great new albums by local bands.

First off, Blessed Light's Phil Ek-produced Love Lights the Way. Over the years, I've seen this band perform in every conceivable configuration, from full electric to full acoustic to solo electric to solo acoustic. It appears Blessed Light is now a four-piece, and the gentle, gliding tones on the album's '60s-tinged songs are effortlessly enjoyable and pretty enough to soundtrack cinematic daydreams. Levi Fuller's How Did I Get Here? also falls into the "pretty" category, being full of meandering, mostly instrumental acoustic tunes that convey as much reflection as any shouty emo band.

Once a one-trick surf band, Boss Martians have revitalized themselves as a bouncy pop band with roots in garage, '70s N.Y. punk, and, it would seem, Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True. Aptly paranoid ("Kill My Telephone," "I Wanna Be Your Addiction," "Opportunistic Girl"), The Set-Up--produced by Jack Endino--is guitar- and organ-driven retro fun.

Jennifer Maerz caught the Lights early on, but I've been in the dark despite the fact that the band's drummer, PJ, is my next-door neighbor. I finally got my hands on a copy of their Bop Tart release, Beautiful Bird, and pretty lady Maerz is absolutely right in her opinion that the Lights are standouts among the local music scene. If you want to hear something that sounds new and forward, check out this enigmatic band, NOW.

They broke up a long time ago, but because Spencer Moody (Murder City Devils) is a man who stands by his opinions and Mike Kunka (godheadSilo, enemymine) is my favorite bass player, ever, I want to be sure to mention Dead Low Tide's posthumous, eponymous album on Tiger Style Records. When they were up and running, I couldn't say enough about this blistering band and I'm glad to have this pile-driving memento to remember them by. Also, "Sideways Machine" ("I've got a friend with deep pockets/My friend reaches into their pockets and they pull out crazy") is a kick-ass, classic Moody rant.

If you have a soft spot for classic '70s pop rock then you gotta hear Amateur Boyfriend. On their self-titled release on the Buttermilk Records label you can hear bits of the Raspberries, Supertramp, ELO, J. Geils, the Nuge, and a hundred other classic-rock bands incorporated into one delightfully listenable record.

Despite the More's eye-rolling endorsement from KEXP Program Director Don Yates comparing the band to Coldplay's "alt-pop," the band's debut is more buzzy (as in buzz saw, not Ruth) than poppy and Jon Dombrowski's deadpan delivery is more sexy than shivery, not the least bit overwrought, as Yates would lead you to assume. In fact, the More's self-titled album is my favorite of the aforementioned bunch.