CD Reviews


Natalie Merchant Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch)

Six years in the making, the new release by the ex-10,000 Maniacs singer/lyricist earns high marks for attempting to combine literary verse with spry folk arrangements. Problem is, Merchant’s been grooming herself into a schoolmarm for too long, leaving us unsurprised to find she’s adopted 26 poems, lullabies and nursery rhymes by (mostly) obscure 19th- and 20th-century British and American poets. (More famous bards whose writings she borrows include Robert Louis Stevenson and ee cummings.) Merchant thinks she’s infusing life into an art form that lies flat on the page, but her insistence on sticking to a tired acoustic-based format—like the one that propelled the Maniacs into the limelight 25 years ago—drains the enthusiasm out of this double-disc endeavor. Give her credit, though, for finding the needle of Nathalia Crane’s “The Janitor’s Boy” in library haystacks. ★★☆☆☆


The Sequence of Prime Virion (Self-released)

When not designing logos for top metal magazine websites ( by day, Kansas boy Brandon Duncan records music by night under the TSOP moniker, specializing in a doom-tinged brand of electronic-enhanced thrash that never removes its black boot from the listener’s throat. Virion is an epic, lyrically frightening concept album about how a single, tiny, infectious microbe (for example, a virion like HIV) can upend massive organisms and whole universes. In other words, this dark meditation on mortality offers deadly riffs and programmed beats that make Ministry’s Al Jourgensen sound like a wuss. Bask in the eco-apocalyptic horror of “Backlit” at your own risk. And whatever you do, don’t spin instrumental track “Icosahedron” after sunset. The crushing drum solo will ice your blood. Download at ★★★★★


Kaki King Junior (Rounder)

If there were any justice in this world, 30-year-old Kaki King would’ve starred in last year’s It Might Get Loud guitar documentary instead of Jack White (who’s a better songwriter than axe-man). It’s the film’s loss, because King is an inventive, imaginative, post-rock shredder on par, if not superior to, her heroes—Pete Townshend, Bob Mould, etc. With Junior, she joins her awesome technique with producer Malcolm Burn’s rich treatment, resulting in 11 remarkable tracks. Titles like “Spit It Back in My Mouth” and “Death Head” should indicate for you the wounded direction this album (King’s fifth) takes. Her cool voice, placed over searing six-string performances, aptly conveys the tender agony of total heartsickness. No wonder Dave Grohl worships this woman. She‘s a monster—on guitar and as a songwriter, too. ★★★★★

Suggested Next Read

Fresh Stripes


Fresh Stripes

Tim Bavington unveiled his newest collection of colorful, sound-inspired art during an in-studio open house April 10. Widely regarded as one of the—if not the—most successful artists in Las Vegas, Bavington (below) hosted the event inside his Mesquite Avenue work space where DJ John Doe (right) entertained the crowd. Bavington’s creations are displayed across the city, including inside the high-limit slot gaming lounge at Aria.



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