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+ Camera Obscura - Let's Get Out of This Country
+ Coachwhips - Double Death
+ Various Artists - Tibetan And Bhutanese Instrumental And Folk Music, Volume 2
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+ Leafcutter John - The Forest And The Sea
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+ Function - The Secret Miracle Fountain
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+ 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
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Gris Gris
For The Season

It could be argued that what makes today's best artists today's best is their keen ability (and open-minded willingness) to mesh disparate genres in order to achieve something entirely unique, powerful and theirs alone. Take Beck and Radiohead, for example — they've spent their careers dabbling in a wide, sometimes crazed, variety of sounds that span the history of rock 'n' roll, and clearly they came out on top because of it.

Oakland-based Gris Gris' songs shift so often, from jazz to blues to psychedelic to punk to plain weird, you wonder how they come away without sounding like a sloppy disjointed mishmash. Yet they hold together — somehow. Defying the confines of a single genre, they have instead managed to invent their own.

Sounding ahead of their time, a bit like a modern-day Velvet Underground, Gris Gris' second album, For The Season, feels like an all-night drug trip: there are moments that feel like blood rushing to the head, moments of chaos and confusion, instances of epiphany, and, of course, a fuzzy, dawn-lit comedown. Packed with burning, psychedelic guitar, feedback and distortion, glowing, middle-of-the-desert soundscapes, tribal, distant percussion, and hazy, epic builds that go nowhere in reality and everywhere in your mind, the album is an all-over-the-place success.

For the Season begins with a damaged jazz horn section that whines and cries on "Ecks Em Eye," welcoming the listener to the rebellion to come. In the back, whispery vocals seem to be expressing dismay. The Spanish-flavored "Cuerpos Haran Amor Extrano" features a down-and-out mood, sluggish tambourine shakes and traveling, vibrating guitar riff that feels well-suited to a creepy David Lynch flick.

The stomping, infectious "Down With Jesus" clicks and ticks with speed and grace, while guitar riffs slur and bend together rockabilly-style before ascending into fuzzed-out chaos. "The Non-Stop Tape" begins like a distant religious hymn before melting down into squealing mad experimental elements that sound like a record, or perhaps an unstoppable tape, being played backwards. "Medications #4" is an early '60s-style love ballad that waltzes and bounces delicately about before a loud, screeching guitar shows up to break it up. A simple acoustic folk strum and softhearted singing make the jangly "Mademoiselle of the Morning" similarly tame compared to the loud, heavy experimentation elsewhere on the album: "These lips you should know/ Will never go cold," Gris Gris founder and songwriter Greg Ashley sings gently.

As time passes and music progresses, winding its way into new territory time after time, it seems artists have more and more to work with. Only the talented — no, make that multitalented — know how to make it work for them.

by Jenny Tatone

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