By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
With the weather so frightfully cold—at least when it's not oddly warm—now might be time to inject a bit of summer cheer into the dreary season. Summer is also a peak time for CD new releases, and here are a few that somehow got lost beneath the pile.
Out of the ashes of the Boston cult act The Stairs comes Hallelujah the Hills, a fluctuating line-up featuring cello, trumpet, melodica and plenty of guitars. The band's debut, Collective Psychosis Begone, slipped under the radar in June but is well worth discovering this holiday season. Dreamy and psychedelic one minute, intricate and intense the next, the dozen tracks actually live up to titles like "Raise the Flag of Your Sibling's Favorite Daydream" and "It's All Been Downhill Since the Talkies Started to Sing." Members play off one another like a new version of the Band, updated of course with the appropriately modern choice of mind-altering substances.
Hang Me, Oh Hang Me is the sophomore effort from Saskatoon's The Deep Dark Woods, and a better example of authentic roots is not likely to be found on either side of the border. Influenced by (who else) The Byrds, Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan, front man Ryan T. Boldt (great name) lays down a bona fide drawl while Lucas Goetz provides the yearning steel guitar. Tracks like "Five-Hundred Meters," "Rumble in the Sky" and the traditional "Journey Home" succeed in being both inspired by the past and completely modern in scope.
Led by ex-Gogol Bordello member Ori Kaplan, Balkan Beat Box is a band of New Yorkers, Israelis, Africans and Bulgarians who bring together folk, electronica and all manner of mayhem. Nu Med is the collective's second effort, and it somehow went unnoticed when first released in May. Rarely if ever have Gypsy and Middle Eastern influences been so energetically interwoven with traditional western styles. Check out "Habibi Min Zaman" and "Quand Est-Ce Qu'on Arrive" for a multicultural synthesis that is beyond unique. Nu Med does an excellent job of capturing the quasi-circus spirit of BBB's untamed live performances.
Since summer in Texas goes well into autumn, included is the October release Wake/Lift from American art metal band Rosetta. The atmospheric drone of Mike Armine and crew goes well beyond the common "space metal" descriptor often tagged to Rosetta. "Red in Tooth and Claw" and "Temet Nosce" (12 and 14 minutes respectively) are just a couple of examples of neurosis put to music. Armine's wailing shrieks are obscured by the din of guitars like he's digging out of being buried alive. If this is what music from space sounds like, future astronauts better pack a good supply of earplugs.