The Sidekicks, Runners in the Nerved World (Epitaph)
“Hell Is Warm,” the first track on the latest album from Cleveland’s the Sidekicks, sets the tone for Runners in the Nerved World, right from its opening swells of synth strings, bubbling guitars and Beach Boys-like vocal harmonies. Despite being signed to iconic hardcore label Epitaph, the Sidekicks trade in its raw, punkier origins for a driven, jangle-pop sound, almost like a sunnier Built to Spill. The young quartet doesn’t lose any of its energy, however, and songs such as “Blissfield, MI” offer a propulsive wall of sound that’s pure ear candy. ★★★★✩
Grand Lake Islands, Song From Far (Good Mountain Records)
Recent Portland, Oregon, transplant Erik Emanuelson is the mastermind behind this 10-track album of dreamy, sometimes dreary, oftentimes haunting modern folk songs that are as influenced by Radiohead as anything coming out of Nashville. Emanuelson, a former New York English teacher, writes songs rich with multisensory storytelling, but his words tend to get buried by his Dylan-esque warble. No matter; the songs are so pleasant—from the breezy, jangly “Monterey” to the mellow, lulling “Silver Moon”—that repeated listens to decipher the lyrics are welcomed. ★★★✩✩
The Get Ahead, Volcano (Self-released)
Defying the typically melancholy, indie folk that comes out of Portland, Oregon, The Get Ahead offers a refreshing blend of blues, rock, funk, soul and R&B on its debut full-length, Volcano. The five-piece band impresses as much on rave-ups such as “Too Hot” and “Dollars to Doughnuts” as it does on such slow-burn grooves as “Moonstricken” and “Face Up.” The dual vocals of Juliet Howard and Nathan Earle are played up to particularly good effect on “Little Devil,” its funky breakdown highlighting the power of Steve Johnson’s dirty sax. ★★★★✩
Upcoming album’s on Pj’s radar…
Feb. 3: Bob Dylan releases his 36th studio album, Shadows in the Night, featuring his takes on classic ballads.
Feb. 10: Pennsylvania guitar band the Districts unleashes its latest long-player, A Flourish and a Spoil.
Feb. 24: Gang of Four drops What Happens Next, its first album since 2011’s return-to-action, Content.