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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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Notorious Lightning And Other Works

When Dan Bejar, AKA Destroyer, went on tour last year in support of Your Blues, his sixth album, the resulting shows were a shock to the system for anyone familiar with the CD's swooping, theatrical, synth-soaked songs. The recording was mostly a solo affair, but Bejar is no stranger to collaboration, being a sometime member of the New Pornographers and a frontman for his own ever-shifting combo. So instead of taking racks of keyboards on the road, Bejar brought along Vancouver's Frog Eyes — manic, eccentric, ecstatic — as both his opening act and his backing band.

The result, depending on your angle of attack, was either a refreshingly raucous take on the overly precious material of Your Blues, or a whole lot of racket drowning out Bejar's complex arrangements and coy turns of phrase. (Being a huge fan of Destroyer but not really of Your Blues, I thought the new songs came off pretty well; it was the old favorites from Streethawk and This Night that got half-butchered. But that's another story.) At one point during Destroyer's New York show, Frog Eyes singer/guitarist Carey Mercer — seemingly not the first person you would hold up as an example of social well-adjustment (eyes bulging, brow sweating) — moved across the stage to whisper to the famously reticent Bejar (eyes downcast, brow covered by curly brown mop). After a short conference, having gotten a polite reminder, Bejar sheepishly returned to the mic, offering the audience his only comment of the night: "Thank you all for coming outů"

With that kind of teamwork on display, it's little surprise that this gang convened in the studio for a weekend last July and knocked out a six-song EP of the Your Blues reworkings, called Notorious Lightning and Other Works. The rough-and-ready tracks do capture the vibe of the shows, but the disc is similarly likely to split the audience down the middle. That's a perilous move for a band with only a cult following, and Notorious Lightning is only sporadically satisfying, but in a strange way it has to be taken as a long-term positive sign for Bejar's art: The guy has already proved he has songwriting talent to burn ("The Sublimation Hour" + "Holly Going Lightly" + the New Porns' "Testament to Youth in Verse" = proof), so his changes of direction and occasional flops only serve as signals to the faithful that the quest is still on, and the best could be yet to come. (Like, say, on the New Pornographers album later this year... cross yer fingers.)

Ah, but here we are with THIS album. Things get off on a bad foot when the title track spends most of its 10 minutes on a vamping digression with none of the atmosphere that gave This Night's aimlessness a purpose. As the disc plays on, the songs are transformed, sure; but, perversely, I wish Bejar had gone even farther with them. Why make a record with Carey Mercer if you're going to mix his keening vocals and damaged guitar so low? Why keep nearly the same synth solo in "Notorious Lightning"? On the bright side, the uptempo version of "An Actor's Revenge" has more than enough snap and bite to surpass the original, and "The Music Lovers" is still halfway to great by the end of its opening line ("Feeling fine, but it must be the wine/ 'cause it's April 27th and my baby's still dyin' on me"). But ultimately Notorious Lightning just feels like a sketchpad — an eyeblink for Bejar's musical attention span. As for whether he'll ever match the towering T.Rex/Bowie blast of Streethawk or the moodier This Night, I'll take Bejar's word for it as he sings on "Your Blues":

"Lord knows, I've been trying."

by Dave Renard

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