Jónsi Go (XL Recordings)
The few times Icelandic post-rock masters Sigur Rós played Las Vegas have been revelatory. Epic to the point of absurdity, the band conjures all the menace and divine grace of a Herman Melville novel minus the tedious reading. With his band on “indefinite hiatus,” frontman Jón “Jónsi” Þór Birgisson—he of bowed guitar infamy—strikes out with his solo debut. Go confirms the man’s prowess. Sure, there are comparisons to be drawn with the Rós, but ultimately this album extends the band’s strangely compelling artistry by allowing Jónsi to nurture his technique and instincts. To say that Go goes in a more electronic direction doesn’t do his accomplishment justice. “Go Do” truly snaps, crackles and pops with unique layers of sound, while “Tornado,” with its soft bed of piano chords and eerie synth surges, is unlike anything you’ve heard. Jónsi‘s latest is gorgeously vast yet hauntingly intimate.
Kirby Krackle E for Everyone (Self-released)
A tremendously gifted artist who owes a great debt to Roky Erickson is pop culture-crazed Seattle-based singer/songwriter Kyle Stevens. His Kirby Krackle project (with lyricist Jim Demonakos) sheathes the acoustic, folk-based stance of its 2009 self-titled debut and draws the Weezer-fan-worthy 11-song E for Everyone, a CD ideal for the long car trip to the San Diego Comic-Con. The title is apt, since the subject matter includes something for every shut-in—a power-pop tribute to steel-clawed Wolverine (“On an On”), a rocked-up job query from an evil sidekick (“Henchman”: “I hope you’ve got a healthcare plan/If you don’t I understand/I’ve got a question for you/Does your hideout have a covered lot?”), and the hilarious yet heartfelt ode-ballad to ’80s paraphernalia (“Dusty Cartridges and Long Boxes”). Stevens’ hooks here are massive, crafted to head-sticking perfection. Sing along while banging your head (lovingly) against your Voltron lunchbox.
Roky Erickson True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti)
Soft-hearted critics praise substandard work by artists who once innovated. Hence, solemn reviews continue to celebrate, say, each successive Neil Diamond album and posthumous Johnny Cash release, when the fact remains—these efforts are flawed, at best. Case in point, Roky Erickson’s comeback CD, his first new record in 15 years and after a lifetime of drugs and mental illness. Despite indie-rock superstar Will Sheff and his band Okkervil River’s efforts to back up the former Thirteenth Floor Elevators frontman and Austin cult legend, Cast Out All Evil sounds destined for cutout bins. The problem lies in the unimaginative expression of the religious lyrics and the restrained musical approach: acoustic guitars, piano and synth-string touches. Skip it for Erickson’s edgier ’80s pop-rock classics, I Think of Demons and The Evil One.