(Fortune Records)

****Herman Jolly sparkles. Whether he's performing with his band Sunset Valley, or singing solo, or just having a conversation with you, it's hard not to be affected by his glimmering energy. And that's exactly why Thanasphere, an album filled with simple tunes and sneaky rhymes, radiates with palpable heat even when Jolly is singing about the snow in his hometown of Bozeman, Montana. Nearly every song has to do with nature and lazy tasks performed backwards, like erecting a chainlink fence around nothing: "Working on an Empire Gate/To keep my empire safe/Working on an empire, too/To give the gate something to do" ("Empire Gate"). "Windless" tells us about a guitar slinger's act, but the twist is that he'll never arrive to the show. "Needles and Pines," a road song about driving along a Pacific highway to visit a girl on Valentine's Day, passively reveals the besotted driver's apprehension near the end of the song ("Needles and pines/I wonder if she minds/But the pain is awful strong/From the needles and pins I've been on") and suddenly the mood is reversed. Unlike Jolly's last album, Mad Cowboy Disease, there's no country twang on Thanasphere--it's a rock album resonating with the sizzling languidness of Sunset Valley's debut, The New Speed. If you're a fan, you know the sparkle well. If not, check it on record, or better yet, catch one of his rare live appearances and you'll be mesmerized. His wife (former Swoon 23 singer Megan Pickerel) is a lucky, lucky woman. KATHLEEN WILSON


Classics Selection


***For those unfamiliar with the planetary dub produced by Portland's Systemwide clan, this scrambled compilation offers a practical introduction. It consists essentially of two EPs released in 1999--the collective's masterpiece, Systemwide Meets Muslimgauze at the City of the Dead, and the dazzling Sound Secretion Dub--and an assortment of "exclusive bonus tracks" and 12-inches released around 2000. In a way, the collection details the collective's point of arrival, or, better yet, its transformation from relative anonymity to relative success on the global dub market--with Systemwide Meets Muslimgauze representing the most intense point of that transition. Though most of the mixes are dub based, they incorporate or collapse into a variety of other musical forms. For example, the Systemwide Meets Muslimgauze sections of the CD are disturbed, worried, and tripped up by techno/industrial noise and at times driven by Eastern-sounding rhythms; the Systemwide material blends airy dub with heavy rock; and Sound Secretion's music, which closes the CD, has an early-'80s hiphop sound that recalls electro funk producers like Arthur Baker, Mantronix, and Man Parrish. (Though Sound Secretion has worked successfully with DJ Spooky, a far more interesting collaboration might be between him and Andrea Parker, whose mixes are as spectacular and densely structured as Sound Secretion's.) Systemwide is defiantly in the (dub) house. CHARLES MUDEDE


Bullet Holes in City Walls

(Pop Militia Records)

***After finally checking out the HollowPoints live recently, I was impressed with both how young the band seems and how well they load up on the fuel of punk activism to burn through catchy anthems that hit the pop hooks right on target. I've said it before, but their song "P.O.W." gets stuck on repeat in my head for days (not that I've been trying hard to get rid of it). On Bullet Holes in City Walls, the band shows off a knack for lifting the listener up in the quick-moving tide of their sing-along chorus-anthems that arm you for both mental combat and the good times while listing off the ways the government's fucked us and calling for a revolution. The HollowPoints have been compared to Social Distortion and the Clash, and they're musical peers to modern-day punks like the Distillers, easily holding their own to sound distinctive enough from their influences. They're definitely worth checking out live, as well as on this well-produced new disc that verbally and instrumentally delivers exactly what the title promises. JENNIFER MAERZ


Not the Way


***Cass McCombs is a bit of a legend around the Northwest. A musician from California who toured the West Coast incessantly, last summer he fell in love with a girl from Portland, romantically whisked her away to NYC, and started playing with Will Oldham in Palace. Now, his debut for Baltimore's Monitor Records, Not the Way, shows exactly what a whirlwind, vagabond lifestyle can do for a songwriter. Sounding like it was recorded in a hallway, a bathroom, or 1968, Cass' cloudy, dreamy psych-folk gets vaguely Lou/Nick/Syd on our ass, but mostly in sentiment rather than practice. Surely he sings of bleary-eyed tragedies in his trembling, somewhat gritty vibrato, over a loud, chilly tambourine, acoustic guitar, and swank player piano. There's also a fair amount of drugginess; but, in welcome contrast to the endless rails and rails of coke that fuel the youth of today, Cass' music is heavy-lidded with the perfume of opium flowers about which he sings. Recorded perfectly for his early-morning, foggy sound, Not the Way is totally stunning. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

**** The Gong Show *** The Dating Game ** The Newlywed Game * Operation Entertainment

Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer: Jan 13-Feb 14 at Bagley Wright Theatre
Part theater, part revival, and all power, this one-woman show will have your head nodding and hands clapping!