Slug Guts
Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat
Sacred Bones

While Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat seems at first to be heading to the same Birthday Party as its predecessor, it becomes quickly apparent with each subsequent track that these scrappy Aussies have expanded their vernacular. Songs like “Old Black Sweats” and “Suckin’ Down” kick at the corpses of Jeffery Lee Pierce and Lux Interior to dislodge fragments of bluesy shit and the pus of rock’s underbelly, while the band also takes on PiL’s “Order of Death,” turning its chorus into a seething mantra. But more than any influence, Playin’ bristles with the synaptic electricity that comes from tapping into a vortex of intangibles, and its exacting tones and arrangements strike every nerve. SS

Guided By Voices
The Bears for Lunch
GBV Inc.

That Robert Pollard chose to reunite Guided By Voices’ “classic” line-up was a godsend for fans who had never witnessed them in the flesh. That he decided it was time to record in that configuration was even more welcomed. Don’t get me wrong, the myraid solo albums and side projects Pollard has helmed since the dissolution of GBV usually stack up against any other record in a given year, but the prospect of another Bee Thousand is enough to make one giddy in anticipation. Pollard and company fullfilled the promise of recording at the same clip as in those halcyon days, releasing three albums in 2012. While Class Clown Spots a UFO and Let’s Go Eat the Factory felt like excercises used to get comfortable again, it was The Bears For Lunch that delivered the kind of idiosyncratic cut-and-paste pop anthems of the past. Throw in a handful of the best songs Tobin Sprout has even contributed to a GBV collection, and it might just be the proper follow-up to Under the Bushes, Under the Stars. KJE

Ty Segall Band
In the Red

Ty Segall has made his name as a one-man band in the studio, but with this album, one of three he made in 2012, he brought in his live collaborators, gently roughing up his gang of rocking toughs verbally like an abusive conductor to a slap-happy orchestra. On their crunchy version of “Diddy Wah Diddy,” Segall whips his buddies into stop-starting the ’60s pearl of a jam in a way that would make Captain Beefheart proud. Segall has liberated himself from any one-man binding there might have been to expell the resonant energy flowing out of him. Slaughterhouse feels like a much needed second wind to a Friday night, the kind of jumpstart to a bevy of new endeavors. MPO

Fiona Apple
The Idler Wheel...

Fiona Apple occupies a rare place in today’s music. For most artists taking a seven-year break would be unheard of. The fact that she’s only released four albums in 16 years is equally mind-boggling. But Apple retains the type of loyalty that some of her former contemporaries, say Paula Cole, lack. The Idler Wheel... shows that the faith is well-placed. Working with her drummer Charley Drayton as co-producer, the album is a lean affair of only piano, drums and other manners of percussion. But it sounds fuller and more robust than that description would suggest, with Apple bending and pushing her voice to unexpected places. Lyrically, she’s still trafficking in topics that are both intimate and expansive, a challenging journey through her mind. DSH

Timmy’s Organism
Raw Sewage Roq
In the Red

Paraphrasing what I wrote earlier in the year, imagine a humanoid species on a distant Earth-like planet discovering The Stooges and Captain Beefheart. If you’re having trouble conjuring such a sound, listen to Raw Sewage Roq, arguably the finest, most direct, and, yes, accessible distillation yet of Timmy Vulgar’s damaged interstellar rama-lama. For all it’ss sci-fi trappings, this record probably has as much to do with making art, drinking booze, and getting by in the nearly alien city that is here-and-now Detroit as it does any kind of high-concept futurism. NK

Cody ChesnuTT
Landing on a Hundred
Vibration Vineyard

If you’ve gone a decade without a follow-up to your debut album, it’s fair to assume that it’s a wrap. So, Cody ChesnuTT’s return to the spotlight with Landing on a Hundred is a surprise of the best kind. Gone are the Guided By Voices–like song fragments and lo-fi approach of his double-album debut, The Headphone Masterpiece. Instead, Landing is a robust, full-tilt, high-definition soul explosion. Mixing the swagger of a revival tent with plainspoken lyrics, ChessnuTT makes his throwback tendencies sound modern and vital. Here’s hoping it won’t be another decade before his next record. But if it is, it seems like ChessnuTT will be okay. DSH

Kill for Love
Italians Do It Better

While being evocatively languid, the cover of Neil Young’s “Into the Black” that leads off the Chromatics’ latest, Kill for Love, only gives brief glimpses of what to expect—most noticeably Ruth Radelet’s bewitching vocal turns—on the rest of the album. Instead of plaintive guitar twangs, Kill for Love, as epitomized on its title track, is marked by six-string twitches and minor-keyed synths that play up the romantic melancholy that seemingly pervades every inch of every note. While the record could have been trimmed by a few tracks of filler, at its most brilliant peaks (“Kill for Love,” “Lady”), it sounds like a worthy successor to New Order’s Low-Life. SS

Moon Duo
Sacred Bones

One might think that Ripley Johnson’s blood courses with lysergic acid as everything the Wooden Shjips frontman and one-half of Moon Duo does is laced in heady atmospherics. However, Circles, the third Moon Duo full-length, shows that the band is just as capable of catchy melodies as reverberating trails. Sure, songs like the title track and “Rolling Out” are immediately reminiscent of Spacemen 3’s Recurring in both Johnson’s guitar tone and vocal intonation, but there is also an unmistakable pop lilt. As such, one can become as much entranced by the hooks as the psychedelic effects. SS

Crystal Castles

Having not been a huge fan of Crystal Castles’ brand of nihilistic rave-wave on previous albums, I wasn’t expecting much from (III), aside from the occasional electro-induced headache. What Crystal Castles delivered, however, was quite the opposite. (III) allots us a glimpse at the vulnerable side of the duo, especially the oft-ruthless and hyperactive Alice Glass (cue the unexpectedly understated denouement “Child I Will Hurt You”). Sure, there are still a few late-night dance tunes (“Telepath”, “Violent Youth”), but unlike other offerings, there’s more to (III) than surface pleasure; there is a resigned sadness to the state of humanity, which is more relevant than ever. With so much “live in the moment” bullshit saturating the music market at the moment, Crystal Castles have, at the very least, provided a worthy alternative. JF

Divine Fits
A Thing Called Divine Fits

Morrissey got it all wrong when he sang that “we hate it when our friends become successful,” because I couldn’t be more happy for my buddy Sam Brown, drummer for the Divine Fits. The synergy between Brown, Britt Daniel (Spoon) and Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs) is obvious on the band’s debut. Songs like “Flaggin a Ride” and “Would That Not Be Nice,” on which Daniel sings, are a Spoon-esque mix of sharp hooks and cracking beats, but it’s an electro-pop aesthetic that dominates the record. The synth tones of “The Salton Sea” share more in common with Kraftwerk or OMD than Daniel’s other band, while the fidgety keys of “For Your Heart” bring New Order to mind. On both, Boeckner sings like he is at the end of his rope, his voice filled with just the right amounts of desperation and determination, while Daniel sings from a similar place on a superb cover of “Shivers” by The Boys Next Door. In short, this is an album that’s brilliant on every level. SS