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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
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Tommy Keene
Crashing The Ether
Eleven Thirty

Tommy Keene has been making music for more than 30 years. He's toured with historically significant artists including The Ramones, Patti Smith and The Replacements, and he's currently on the road as Robert Pollard's guitarist. (The two of them are recording an album as the Keene Brothers later this year.) Still, you can't avoid the slight whiff of disappointment that hovers around his career, the sense that songcraft and instrumental skill never won him the success he deserved. Keene's best known solo recording is still 1984's Places That Are Gone, an EP that ranked #1 on the Pazz & Jop poll for that year, more than two decades ago.

Crashing the Ether, Keene's 10th solo album, has, therefore, a fitting sense of nostalgia, wistfulness and awareness of missed opportunity. Musically, it's a bit of a time capsule, filled with the kind of jangly guitar hooks that ruled the airwaves during the Reagan administration. Lyrically, too, there's a fair amount of looking backward. The first single off Crashing the Ether is called "Warren in the 1960s," and whether it's about Warren Beatty or some other long-forgotten acquaintance, it is clear that Warren in the 2000s is a pale substitute. Yet though there's nothing trendy or post-modern about Tommy Keene's latest, it is a very appealing album, with strong songs, dizzying harmonies and radiant guitar work. You get the sense that the record sounds exactly the way that Keene wanted it to, and if the songs aren't fashionably current, it makes no difference to him.

The disc starts explosively, with John Richardson's echoing drums kicking off "Black & White New York." Circling guitar lines percolate under the verse, but the pay-off comes in the soaring chorus, "Lights around the shore/ Black & white New York/ Thrilling me." It's undeniably exciting and also bittersweet, as it captures the nervous exhilaration of a young man taking the world by the tail — but from the perspective of his older self. "Warren in the 1960s" has the same kind of rueful reflectiveness, the same infectious R.E.M.-ish guitar tangle. Like all the album's cuts, it's polished and professional, but there's an engaging roughness in Keene's voice that keeps it real and immediate.

Of the slower songs, "Driving Down That Road in My Mind" is perhaps the strongest, evoking Paul Westerberg's damaged lyricism in its sweeping melodic lines. It's a classic power ballad, taking listeners from thoughtful melancholy to triumph and even euphoria when those sweet, viscous guitars erupt out of the chorus near the end. "Wishing," too, is quite good, earnest verses exploding into an obscenely catchy refrain.

This is the kind of album that would have sounded perfectly comfortable on the AAA radio of the early 1990s, in amongst cuts from Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend, Westerberg's 14 Songs and the Gin Blossoms' New Miserable Experience (ex-Gin Blossom Jesse Valenzuela sings backup on a couple of tracks). It's not the new new thing. Listening to it is not going to improve your cool factor. But it is well-made and emotionally honest, full of quality pop songs that will hang on past their playtime.

by Jennifer Kelly

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