CD Reviews

The Episodes, Rhine Gold, Leavin’


Taproot The Episodes (Victory)

I’d always wrongly dismissed this band as one of many aggro-grunge groups with one-word, two-syllable names—Chevelle, Disturbed, Godsmack—and concussive songs that all sound the same. But when I learned Taproot had a new concept album on the Victory label, I took the bait. To my surprise, the disc is quite good. While The Episodes is hardly, well, episodic in its so-called narrative (sorry I can’t figure out the story, guys), lead single “No Surrender” is melodic, hardcore-edged and barely suited for mouth-breathing UFC fans. “Lost Boy” possesses a fractured prog-metal beauty that wouldn’t be out of place on a Tool album, while “The Everlasting,” the lyrics of which initially suggest a murder ballad, blossoms with a bright, chest-thumping chorus. If there is a thread connecting these 10 songs, it’s the odd Stephen Hawking-like spoken word (singer Stephen Richards uses a synthesizer to process his voice) that quickly materializes, then disappears. Still, give this a shot. ★★★☆☆


Choir of Young Believers Rhine Gold (Ghostly Int’l)

Danish cinematic post-rock isn’t exactly what I was hankering for as I waited for a new Sigur Rós disc to magically arrive, but Rhine Gold is certainly a musical jackpot. Orchestral without being stuffy, commanding without being bombastic, Copenhagen singer/songwriter and bandleader Jannis Noya Makrigiannis unearths a whole new strata of compelling sonic textures. Album opener “The Third Time” immediately sets the baroque tone with a tricky drum pattern and an eerie piano-and-plucked-string motif. The 10-minute Krautrock epic “Paralyzed,” meanwhile, rides a crescendoing wave of shimmering chimes, guitar feedback and bongo beats before settling into the loveliest acoustic-folk outro. Put simply, Gold is lushly, gorgeously imagined, every song arranged in ways that leave the listener stunned, unsettled. I’m told Believers are practically the Arcade Fire of their home country, and there’s no reason U.S. fans of bands such as Fleet Foxes won’t also dig this group’s churchy splendor. Don’t play Gold in your car, though; save it for late-night iPod listening. ★★★★☆


Dude City Leavin’ (Devil’s Tower)

Boulder City roots-rocker Jack Johnson, whose music falls somewhere between the Stooges and Steve Earle, has a sentimental streak a mile wide. It’s what separates his mature yet alcohol-ravaged songwriting from the chaff of his peers here in Vegas. No other lovesick brawler in town can pen a John Prine-worthy line like the one he delivers in “The Cat Song”: Sometimes I look at my face/wishing it were yours/and we were at your place/with the blinds pulled down/and the air turned up/just wastin’ away. (Only an artist knows how to milk ambiguity from a term such as “wastin’.”) Backed by the same band that has supported Ryan Pardey’s Halloween Town onstage lately, Johnson and his Dude City compañeros share a ragged, on-the-money chemistry, from the thumping caveman hard-on of “Technology” to the truckin’ kiss-off of the title track. Bonus: Mad Caps guitarist Ted Rader delivers stinging solos throughout. Literary, tough and alive, Leavin’ doesn’t let up. Buy it at ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

The Shins


The Shins

By Cindi Moon Reed

The weather was so unseasonably cold, windy and rainy that I found myself hoping that the poolside concert, which I’d been looking forward to for months, would just go ahead and cancel already. But the worst of it subsided, and the Albuquerque, N.M., rockers played at 10:06 p.m., right on schedule. Sure the guitarist was wearing a fur-lined parka and the drummer had his hoodie pulled over his head, but the second I heard the first strains of opening song “Kissing the Lipless,” I transcended the cold.