Dusty Sunshine Deer Paw, EP (self-released)
From the moment the a capella harmonies of “Intro,” the lead track on this six-song release, wash over you, you know this is exceptional folk music. “Jailbird” is a chain-ganged, cell-rattling, banjo-and-violin prison blues, in which Heidi Guinn imagines guards cracking, Aren’t you a pretty bird?/Welcome to your cage. “Devil’s Choir” is a gospel-tinged, pastoral plea for redemption uttered by a lost soul who’s been praying to my Jesus/hoping He comes again. If you dig Grammy winners the Civil Wars, Vegas sextet Sunshine is every bit as bright, gritty. ★★★★☆
Frankie Moreno Frankie Moreno (Bermuda Records)
The Stratosphere headliner’s new disc is a tourist-pleaser that any Strip entertainer would be proud of. But it takes an additional artistic step—he and his brothers wrote all the songs. Indeed, Moreno has mastered the art of popcraft, evidenced by opener “A Million Roads,” with its horn section-enhanced midtempo hooks and polished sheen. But it’s when he pushes things—as with sexy, rocked-up Mexi-bolero “Black Mascara”—that he earns his white-hot spotlight. Buy it after Moreno’s Strat show, 8 p.m. Wed-Sat. ★★★☆☆
Almost Normal I Shot the Moon EP (self-released)
Dang, where’d this six-track release come from? Vegas alt-rockers Almost Normal have been around for years, but their new EP sounds like a quartet high on the energy that comes from having just discovered how to write punchy, tuneful songs. Singer Ashley Lampman has the perfect power-pop voice, conveying adolescent angst without sounding like bad teen poetry. More than the last word on a bad ex-beau, synth-shaded standout “Hear Me Out” is a reminder that to give up is to die. ★★★☆☆
Upcoming albums on Jarret’s radar …
NOV. 19: British prog-rockers Porcupine Tree shed a double-live album and DVD called Octane Twisted, with most tracks recorded at a 2010 Riviera show in Chicago, and a few others captured at Royal Albert Hall. JAN. 8: L.A.’s prettiest, poutiest, mascara-wearing leather-boys Black Veil Brides unveil their third album, Wretched and Divine, produced by John Feldmann (Neon Trees). JAN. 22: California synthpop/indierock duo Foxygen, who played Neon Reverb in September, release sophomore disc We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic on the Jagjaguwar label. JAN. 29: Connecticut groove-metal marauders Hatebreed foment another studio album, The Divinity of Purpose, on Nuclear Blast.