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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
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+ Camille - Le Fil
+ Wolf Eyes - Human Animal
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+ 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
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+ 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
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+ 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
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Rat Cat Hogan
We're Bicoastal

As unexpected and irrepressible as any of the Shrimper label's late-'90s recordings, Rat Cat Hogan's songs are like photo albums about people you probably haven't heard of (save for Chris Walla). (Shrimper is an ideal reference point because it covers a variety of mutable, loosely drawn releases — like the Boston two-piece Secret Stars, who sang about their friends mostly, but eventually broke up.)

Rat Cat Hogan are a two-piece — multi-instrumentalist Herbert Bergel and drummer Robbie Skrocki — with a number of outlets: they record film scores, help a label and play in other bands. But thankfully there is no indication they'll be cutting out any time soon.

We're Bicoastal, the duo's first album in about three years, refers to a dual NYC/ Northwest affiliation, easily parsed with references to Midtown Manhattan and Ivar's take-out fish and chips. Note also the city dog and the rolling-hills dog included in the album art.

This record not so secretly wants to be your favorite CD, knocking around in the car until at least every one of your friends asks for his own copy. With Skrocki's drums sounding like a gallop and then retreating to resemble some sixth-grader's gleeful approximation of thunder for the afternoon play, it's a certainty.

I've often read about the band's live show and Bergel in particular, the gist being that such alternately sanguine and thoughtful story-songs destroy from the stage (in a good way). And I can see why. Singing about the girl who brings him birthday cake in bed, Bergel is chastened and wonders how she chose him in the first place ("God knows I've grown moody and hard to be around"). Whether hollowed out by effects or noticeably straining for that high note, Bergel's vocals enrobe the song, unassuming and congruent to the moment. (Unbunny's Snow Tires has the same effect, singing about what came before, what was hanging over you and what made you happy.)

Like the duo's Vitamins & Calcium = Health & Happiness (2002), We're Bicoastal combines slowish numbers ("Business Trip to Portland") and elliptical rockers ("Doctor Explosion"). The latter song just has to be a take-out from one of Peter Bagge's Hate comics: "Emilio said, 'Come on, chaval. Let's go check out some punk rock.'"/ He took me first to a dim bar and ordered us some cheap green wine./ He pounded his fist on the table ("Yes," I said. "I quite agree").

What this all feels like to me is smart indie pop, like the departed Vehicle Flips before their For You I Pine album; like all-out Beat Happening and labels that surround themselves not just with their friends, but their talented friends. The coolest thing about Rat Cat Hogan is that listening to this record will make you root around for more like it. And the Seattle/ Bellingham scene — do people still say that? I don't know — has some great bands that don't enjoy as much press as Ben Gibbard or any of his also-great side projects — for example, the Revolutionary Hydra or Slo Mo Rabbit Kick. Think intelligent without the superciliousness with which some critics are maligning McSweeney's of late.

We're Bicoastal is either an excellent starting point or a notable addition (if you've already got Vitamins & Calcium ), with such wonderful choruses as "He took the blame for the rubber snake" flanked by Built to Spill guitar chords and, at times, actual punk-rock drumming. Remember how odd Rogue Wave sounded, pop from all angles, reminding you of your favorite songs? We're Bicoastal is a lot like that, except with New York blackouts, gentleman's coats and a cat named Juan Carlos. Oh, yeah, and Emilio.

by Jennifer Przybylski

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