Sonic Youth—Rather Ripped
The usual brilliance abounds on this latest release from the most consistently great band of the last 25 years. By distilling their often meandering jams into surprisingly concise rock songs, the Sonics have again subverted expectations and reinvented their sound. Like a Sonic Youth reduction (saucy!) all of the best elements are still there, and within the song-based structure the vocals really stand out as the best of their career. Some of these tunes are so good we almost wish they would stretch out for longer, but then we find the rewind button and just start it all over again.
Charalambides—A Vintage Burden
The lovable duet of Tom and Christina Carter, better know as Charalambides, have left their native Houston and now live on opposite sides of the country, but you'd never know it by listening to A Vintage Burden. The chemistry perfected on their countless releases since the early '90s is on full display here with their most accessible record to date. "Dormant Love" may even be their first proper ballad and it's as hauntingly beautiful as anything they've ever done.
Tropicalia—A Brazilian Revolution in Sound
Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Os MutantesÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬?these giants of Brazilian music and founders of tropicalia are simply too brilliant and varied to reasonably encapsulate their music onto one disc, but Soul Jazz Records has done an admirable job of collecting a fair representation of this vibrant music scene. In the late '60s, tropicalistas mixed the Beatles sound experimentations with samba and bossa nova to create a new and subversive form of music that continues to influence musicians today. As an introduction to tropicalia, this is the perfect place to start as it opens the door to some of the most brilliant pop music of the last century (and if you're looking for the next step, just buy the first album from any of the aforementioned artists).