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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Thao, Eels, and Joe Budden lead the week in new releases

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Pick of the week
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, We The Common
Thao Nguyen is a female and a singer-songwriter, but she’s not the stereotypical female singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar and love songs in tow. With her band, The Get Down Stay Down, Nguyen crafts clamoring, rocked-out romps. “City” is flush with weird time signatures and heavy-handed drumming, while “Kindness Be Conceived” is a little more delicate, but still finds room for substantial quirk as Nguyen layers her vocals on top of those of a chirpy-voiced Joanna Newsom.

Do not break the seal
Jim James, Regions Of Light And Sound Of God
While going solo is certainly a musical act of bravery to be commended, it doesn’t always work out. Jim James has gone out on his own several times, but Regions Of Light And Sound Of God is the first under his own name, and it’s pretty hit or miss. While tracks like “State Of The Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” are well-formed, the rest of the record flits from genre to genre, touching on ’50s rock, classic folk, and bland soul. It’s an underwhelming record to say the least, and shouldn’t please anyone but the most ardent My Morning Jacket fans.

What else? 
Coheed And Cambria, The Aftermath: Descension
The second part of a conceptual double album, The Aftermath: Descension delves further into the progressive rock band’s love of comics and its Amory Wars storyline, which is set in Heaven’s Fence, a group of 78 planets held together by a spiderweb of energy beams.

Eels, Wonderful, Glorious
While Eels’ last material—a concept-album trilogy about wanting, loss, redemption, and beards—found singer Mark Oliver Everett pondering the meaning of life, Wonderful, Glorious finds him pretty much okay with how everything’s going.


Frightened Rabbit, Pedestrian Verse
Scottish band Frightened Rabbit practically has a doctorate in misery rock, having released three booze-fuelled and lovelorn albums since 2006. Pedestrian Verse isn’t all that different from previous material, but it’s excellent all the same.

Grouper, The Man Who Died In His Boat
Recorded back in 2008, The Man Who Died In His Boat is Grouper at its hazy bleakest. The record is being released in tandem with a reissue of that same year’s excellent Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill.


Hayden, Us Alone
Toronto’s Hayden has spent almost 20 years making spare, delicate indie rock, but Us Alone is only his seventh record, and his first for Arts & Crafts.

Joe Budden, No Love Lost
Despite the fact that he sports one of the weirdest and most alienating beards in rap, Joe Budden can still draw a crowd of stars to his albums. No Love Lost features guest verses from Lil Wayne, Lloyd Banks, Juicy J, Royce Da 5’9”, Twista, Wiz Khalifa, and French Montana.


Josh Groban, All That Echoes
While Josh Groban might be fond of flexing his comedic chops on shows like The Office and Glee, he sticks pretty close to his comfort zone when it comes to music. All That Echoes features a myriad of classical-tinged pop ditties, including “I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever).”

Matt Pond, The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand Out
The Lives Inside The Lines In Your Hand Out finds singer-songwriter Matt Pond once again dealing his particular strain of emotive pop to his eager fandom, though this time he’s without his bandmates from Matt Pond PA.


Richard Thompson, Electric
Electric, Thompson’s 21st solo record, finds the onetime Fairport Convention member once again flaunting his exceptional guitar work and oddly acerbic lyrics. Electric was produced by another guitar hero, country icon Buddy Miller.

Ron Sexsmith, Forever Endeavour
Hyped as the Canadian folkster’s most intimate and personal album to date, Forever Endeavour is the artistic product of a cancer scare Sexsmith had after doctors found a lump in his throat in 2011.


The Bronx, The Bronx (IV)
After a brief dalliance with Mariachi music, L.A.-based band The Bronx is back in punk form with its fourth self-titled record.

Tim McGraw, Two Lanes Of Freedom
The follow-up to 2012’s Emotional Traffic, Two Lanes Of Freedom finds country mega-star Tim McGraw delving even deeper into car metaphors and dumb puns. The record’s first single, “Truck Yeah,” glorifies crew cabs, muddin’, and getting cranked and doing a hillbilly shout.


Unknown Mortal Orchestra, //
// is psychedelic lo-fi act Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s first record for its new label, Jagjaguwar, and its first stab at being absolutely impossible to find on the Internet.