Mother McKenzie, Undulating Piss of Three Angels or the Difficulty of Chasing a Dragon Forever (Self-released)
Singer-songwriter Wyatt McKenzie often drops his Mother McKenzie moniker and leaves Vegas. He inevitably returns, name intact. His muse must be lashed to neon and dust, because his music sounds gritty and illuminated, especially “Love and Poverty or the Girl Who Pissed in Sinks.” Part peyote-tranced Bob Dylan, part glowering Bright Eyes, McKenzie—joined by bassist Brian Gathy and a puttering drum machine—conjures eerily gorgeous psyche-folk. I spun soul-gouged “Sunday Pornography or Feed Me Your Irish Curse” at sunrise, grateful for the splendor. ★★★★✩
A Crowd of Small Adventures, Blood EP (Self-released)
A great band will always sound great, but there’s something uniquely spellbinding in the performances local producer Eric Rickey (Most Thieves) extracts from singer-guitarist Jackson Wilcox. “Her Radiating Heart,” for instance, blossoms gradually, like an atomic detonation in slo-mo, the lyrics conveying love’s obliterative qualities. “Youngest Blood,” heated by Megan Wingerter’s stirring viola-playing, yields a mythic fantasia in which a girl owns a tower of coal/a throne entirely made of skulls. In sum, this is a marvelously recorded indie EP with cool art-rock moments. ★★★★✩
Almost Normal, In Technicolor EP (Self-released)
Admittedly, I don’t relish keyboard-heavy, buoyant pop-rock. But duo Almost Normal (singer Ashley Lampman, drummer/keyboardist Andrew Zakher) won me over with seven high-fructose tracks. In synth-bubbling “Chemistry,” Lampman expresses a neat metaphor—passion as a lab experiment gone haywire. “The Dream,” meanwhile, draws close to ambient-shoegaze territory. And acoustic guitar-strummed “Castles in the Sky” perhaps owes too much of its construction to coffeehouse open-mics. Still, Almost Normal’s new EP is abnormally enchanting. ★★★✩✩
Upcoming on Jarret’s radar …
March 25: A lost Johnny Cash album from the ’80s recorded by Nashville-pop producer Billy Sherrill? Sounds too good to be true, yet here it comes, among the year’s most eagerly awaited discs. “She Used to Love Me a Lot” is a lovely, pedal steel-kissed heartbreak-ballad.
April 1: British heavy-rock trio Band of Skulls bring out sophomore effort Himalayan, featuring fuzzed-out stomper “Asleep at the Wheel” and goth-kissed, highway-speeding anthem “Nightmares.”
April 8: Punk supergroup OFF! offers up a live-to-tape collection of 16 tracks called Wasted Years, recorded from the hip in the band’s rehearsal pad. Brace yourself for a blast of the purest, to-the-point rock ’n’ roll.