New and Reissued Vinyl 

Indie Pop, Garage, and Punk

Side projects galore currently clutter up the bins -- most notably, Josh Homme has curated another musical orgy. I See You Hearin' Me/I Heart Disco (Ipecac) is the ninth and tenth installment of the Desert Sessions. Since 1998, Homme has taken time off from mainlining stoner rock with Queens of the Stone Age to cavort with a variety of big shots and celebrities. This go-round is his best yet, with PJ Harvey, Dean Ween, and Twiggy Ramirez playing major roles. It's that influence that makes Desert Sessions records so remarkable -- at times it's Polly's song, but other times it's totally Ween, and often it's pure Queens instead. Regardless, everything's great on this record.

The Slumber Party's Julie Benjamin has her own side project to brag about: the Fondas, where she shirks her drum kit to sing lead vocals alongside Steve Shaw (formerly in the Detroit Cobras) and Mark Niemenski (of the Volebeats). Coming Now! (Sympathy for the Record Industry) is a lo-fi jaunt through R&B rock and soul of the past -- covers of songs written by '60s luminaries such as Del Shannon and George Jones, Jr. The result is rough in all the right places and tight in a few, with a soul that's hard to beat: Benjamin's vocals could've sprung straight outta Akron in 1964. Like the garage explosion at that time, the Fondas use no glamorous production, no extensive gimmickry, no flashy guitar solos. Just pure fun.

Still, my guilty pleasure this week is power-pop-punkers Motion City Soundtrack. I Am the Movie (Epitaph) is teenage fun in that All-American Rejects kinda way. At first glance it could be tossed aside for sounding unabashedly emo-riffic in a most not-indie fashion -- slick production, snarky guitar riffs, and that keen little Casio keyboard to give it that "now" sound. ("Now" meaning 1987.) On second listen, though, I was hooked. Motion City Soundtrack tommy-guns through this great debut with an ounce of prog and a whole lotta pop, with lyrics referencing everyone from the Beastie Boys to LL Cool J to Schoolhouse Rock characters, not to mention hooks and riffs that'll stick in your head for days.

Finally, when you strip away image, popularity, or flashy production, a pure album appears on the horizon like the harvest moon. Growing's The Sky's Run into the Sea (Kranky) is a dense, soothing experience, with warmly distorted guitars looped around spacious drumming and crashing dynamics that rely on the same tension and grace mastered by Philip Glass, early '70s Pink Floyd, or Brian Eno.

Oh, and do yourself a favor: If you want to feel loved again, take time to track down Elliott Smith's 45 "Pretty (Ugly Before)." We won't tell you what label it's on; when you find it, you'll understand why.

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