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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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+ 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
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+ TV On The Radio - Return To Cookie Mountain
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+ 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
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+ 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
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+ American Princes - Less And Less
+ Sondre Lerche And The Faces Down Quartet - Duper Sessions
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Metal Cares

Picastro's debut album, Red Your Blues, was an intriguing variation on alternative singer/songwriter themes, presenting Liz Hysen's songs in a deliberately vague context of shifting, swirling soundtracks, tinged with blue melancholia. Drifting somewhere between Hysen the singer and Picastro the band, these were lost songs, murmurs and echoes, whose very imprecision seemed to make them all the more precious. The follow-up, Metal Cares, is largely more of the same. The sound is familiar from the debut, with a gradual build-up of fluid rhythms, dominated by acoustic guitar and cello but reinforced by tough percussion, mixed loud. But there's also more of an unevenness present, with the bare-wired twang of guitars and Hysen's voice more obviously exposed, standing out in relief from the musicís meandering ebb and flow.

In some ways the impression is similar to that left by Mark Lanegan's earlier solo work — a sort of lingering sense of unease and sadness, with the voice drifting between murmur and exhortation as the songs wrap themselves around the singer in winding, circular patterns. This raw abstraction is typified by songs such as "No Contest," "Sharks" and "Blonde Fires," in which Hysen merges with the group identity so that her voice is integral to the sound but doesn't appear to be leading it. "Teeth and No Eyes" and "Drama Man" are more starkly arranged, while "I Fall Asleep" finds Hysen adopting an eerie falsetto voice and drifting, noisily, into PJ Harvey territory. "Skinnies," a collaboration with Dwayne Sodahberk, combines plaintive singing with discordant electronica, and is the best example here of the band stretching beyond its boundaries, with perhaps the promise of future forays outside the comfort zone.

Metal Cares is largely a worthy follow up to Picastro's first album, but in its faithful execution of what has become a recognizable style it also demonstrates that there's only so much mileage in this approach, and that they'll need to offer more variation if they want to avoid sounding too formulaic in future.

by Tom Ridge

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