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+ Donato Wharton - Body Isolations
+ Svalastog - Woodwork
+ Tim Hecker - Harmony In Ultraviolet
+ Rosy Parlane - Jessamine
+ Jarvis Cocker - The Jarvis Cocker Record
+ Múm - Peel Session
+ Deloris - Ten Lives
+ Minimum Chips - Lady Grey
+ Badly Drawn Boy - Born In The U.K.
+ The Hold Steady - Boys And Girls Together
+ The Blood Brothers - Young Machetes
+ The Places - Songs For Creeps
+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
+ Christina Carter - Electrice
+ The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
+ Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
+ Various Artists - Musics In The Margin
+ Rafael Toral - Space
+ Bob Dylan - Modern Times
+ Excepter - Alternation
+ Chris Thile - How To Grow A Woman From The Ground
+ Brad Mehldau - Live in Japan
+ M Ward - Post-War
+ Various Artists - Touch 25
+ The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
+ The White Birch - Come Up For Air
+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
+ Giuseppe Ielasi - Giuseppe Ielasi
+ Cex - Actual Fucking
+ Sufjan Stevens - The Avalanche
+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
+ Carla Bozulich - Evangelista
+ Barbara Morgenstern - The Grass Is Always Greener
+ Robin Guthrie - Continental
+ Peaches - Impeach My Bush
+ Oakley Hall - Second Guessing
+ Klee - Honeysuckle
+ The Court & Spark - Hearts
+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
+ Awesome Color - Awesome Color
+ Jenny Wilson - Love And Youth
+ Asobi Seksu - Citrus
+ Marsen Jules - Les Fleurs
+ The Moore Brothers - Murdered By The Moore Brothers
+ Regina Spektor - Begin To Hope
+ The 1900s - Plume Delivery EP
+ Alejandro Escovedo - The Boxing Mirror
+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
+ Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
+ Loscil - Plume
+ Boris - Pink
+ Deadboy And The Elephantmen - We Are Night Sky
+ Glissandro 70 - Glissandro 70
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #2)
+ Calexico - Garden Ruin (Review #1)
+ The Flaming Lips - At War With The Mystics
+ The Glass Family - Sleep Inside This Wheel
+ Various Artists - Songs For Sixty Five Roses
+ The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
+ Motorpsycho - Black Hole/Blank Canvas
+ The Red Krayola - Introduction
+ Metal Hearts - Socialize
+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
+ Supersilent - 7
+ Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time
+ Dudley Perkins - Expressions
+ Growing - Color Wheel
+ Red Carpet - The Noise Of Red Carpet
+ The Essex Green - Cannibal Sea
+ Espers - II
+ Wilderness - Vessel States

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Emperial Live Ceremony
Candlelight Records

One of heavy metal's best tricks is the two-mirrors-facing-each-other number it does with the smart/stupid dialectic. Priding itself on technically sophisticated riffing and drum speeds whose mastery requires years of study and practice, metal nonetheless wants to be thought of as the baddest kid on the block, too mean to be reasoned with, too sadistic to worry about how its victims feel. It's hard to seem brutal when you're actually brainy, but Norwegian black metal band Emperor pulls it off seamlessly by borrowing one of punk rock's oldest and best tricks: willful mangling of basic grammatical rules. How can you not be scared by a song called "I Am the Black Wizards"? To confuse singulars and plurals is to invite chaos in. Of course, chaos is exactly the property that Emperor's quasi-symphonic, tempo-shifting brand of metal needs to push it over the top, and its song titles, combined with the singer's unabashed arena-rock between-song patter, are the key element in making Emperial Live Ceremony not just a good live album but a completely essential document. More Stravinsky than Sabbath, its guitars run through blinding patterns of 128th notes in exclusively minor scales while the singer alternates between Satan-lives-in-my-throat screams and falsetto-baritone singing. Keyboards that evoke swirling fog and bone-white moons swell and subside throughout, while the drums are frankly stunning in their tireless virtuosity. Songs like "Curse You All Men" or the above-mentioned "I Am the Black Wizards" sketch dystopian Tolkienesque worlds where evil magicians in dark mountain cabins sit by low crackling fires as they hatch plots to destroy the world; "I want you to really bang your heads for this one!" hollers the vocalist before the song begins its neck-breaking sprint toward the the mouth of Hell. Playing for keeps, Emperor jam together so tightly that you'd think there was something at stake besides rocking the London Astoria one night in 1999. Awesome.

by John Darnielle

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