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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.
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+ 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
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Man Man
Six Demon Bag
Ace Fu

Two years ago, Man Man's Man in a Blue Turban With a Face was a shock to the system, its mad, headlong rush through gypsy violin waltzes and mad caberet laments, past percussion breaks that might be Liquid Liquid-y were they not barked out like dogs, and over vertiginous xylophone solos utterly different from everything else on offer. The band's excellent second album provides much of the same level of excitement, of difference, of inventiveness, yet it is studded with intervals of desolate sadness.

The band has been slightly reconfigured since its debut album, bringing on Chris Powell (ex of Need New Body) to replace the band's old drummer, and adding Lez Mizzle and Sergei Sogay to play multiple instruments. The change in percussionists is significant in a band that puts the trap set in front, both literally and figuratively; however, Powell seems entirely comfortable with Man Man's ramshackle, rhythm-driven sound. The Middle Eastern-flavored shuffle of "Banana Ghost," for instance, benefits from his staccato, light-handed touch, while "Black Mission Goggles" has the same frenetic energy as older songs like "Zebra."

The bigger change is in the recording quality, which is substantially cleaner than on the first record. Perhaps it's clearer recording that makes the dark side more apparent, for where Man in a Blue Turban's lyrics were buried, Six Demon Bag brings them to the front. For every "English Bwudd," with its raucous, riotous swagger, and Jack in the Beanstalk's "Fee fi fo fum" chorus, there is a mournful "Feathers" observing a dissatisfied loved one slipping away. For every gleefully absurd "Young Einstein on the Beach" or Superfly-falsetto'd "Push the Eagle's Stomach," there is a rueful "Skin Tension," lamenting "I know I'll never be the man that she thinks she really needs/ But it don't stop me from trying to be."

The best songs pit Man Man's maniacal party sound against the downbeat lyrics, building a tension between what you understand and what you feel. For example, "Van Helsing Boombox," has an old-fashioned jauntiness, a kind of music-hall feeling really, that's reinforced by alternating piano chords and wordless "la la" vocals. Yet this dapper exterior hides some of the darkest language on the CD. "When anything that's everything means nothing/ That's everything/ And nothing is the only thing/ That you ever seem to have," goes the chorus, about as nihilist a set of lines as pop music can contain. And that's the single. No wonder that, one track later with "Tunneling Through the Guy," Man Man are advising us all to "Crawl back in the cave... crawl back in the cave." It's a scary, sad world out there, so crank up the drums and let's party.

by Jennifer Kelly

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