The Kickstand Band, Puppy Love (Suburban Sprawl Music)
This Detroit trio deserves props for an adorably roaring debut. Each of the 10 songs licks the listener’s face with boy-girl harmonies, lovelorn lyrics and a ramshackle guitar attack. Puppy plays like a British Invasion translated through Weezer’s Blue Album-era garage. Highlights include Gary Lewis & the Playboys nod “Still Thinking of You Tonight” and Green Day-meets-Everly Brothers rocker “Purgatory.” The surf-punk vibe of “Let’s Get Bored” make this disc ideal for Best Coast and Yuck fans. ★★★☆☆
How to Destroy Angels, An Omen EP (Columbia)
Another agonizingly short yet still immensely satisfying disc by Nine Inch Nails front man Trent Reznor and Mrs. Reznor, singer Mariqueen Maandig. This is Angels’ second release and, like the first, it’s a synth-masked torch-song collection. Everything simmers and slow-burns, from moody glitch-tempo “Keep It Together” to seven-minute, acoustic-plucked, Tom Waits-worthy ballad “Ice Age” to the shattered disco-spasms of “On the Wing.” “The Loop Closes” drives it all home: The beginning is the end/Keeps coming round again. Reznor returns with what sounds like a second fresh start. ★★★☆☆
Soundgarden, King Animal (Universal Republic)
The beast is back. Talkin’ ’bout Chris Cornell and his Seattle chums who, in the ’90s, churned out heavy hits by the megaton—“Fell on Black Days,” “Rusty Cage,” etc. To this critic’s ears, it’s like the ’Gardeners never ceased tending 16 years ago. “Been Away Too Long” lunges courtesy of guitarist Kim Thayil’s breakneck riffs. “Non-State Actor” scenery-chews thanks to drummer Matt Cameron’s hammer-grooves. Over the top of all, Cornell’s paint-stripping pipes soar. Louder than love, indeed. ★★★☆☆
Upcoming albums on Jarret’s radar …
JAN. 29: Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile continues to release shabby-yet-sunny pop albums under his Ducktails moniker, this time the result being the properly recorded-in-real-studio effort, The Flower Lane. FEB. 19: Sun Kil Moon-er/Red House Painter and all-around badass Mark Kozelek unveils two new CDs simultaneously under his given name—studio cover-song assemblage Like Rats (in which the Misfits’ “Green Hell” sits comfortably beside Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe”) and a live set of time-spanning Kozelek originals, Live at Phoenix Public House Melbourne.