The Spirit Girls Forever Free (The End is Here Records)
If angry porcelain dolls made art rock, this is what it would sound like, though such a narrow label does this disc little justice. Lush with archetypal symbolism (ships, nests, bears, Ophelia), the chanted words yank your dream head from its murky depths. Don't listen to The Spirit Girls while operating heavy machinery--not unless you're using it to construct a life-sized dollhouse for your ghostly interior self, the one who's right at home with these pale, ethereal rock moppets. Be prepared to drift through long beds of soundscape with cellos, excessive panning and mostly tasteful vintage effects. Though not inaccessible, this album won't work for you if you're looking for something opaque, solid and tangible—in a word, easy.
Fantasia Fantasia (J-Records)
I only caught a couple episodes of "American Idol." Lucky for me, Fantasia was on both of ’em. The lady's got soul; raspy, on-point and Motown-ready. Sadly, the producers and writers that manufacture our stars haven't figured out what to do with her yet. The rare club bangers on this disc almost do her justice, but it's hard to listen to how they've restrained her. They've hammered some of the kinks out of her voice, the very quirks that make her interesting. Hope next time she's given the weight she can handle.
Mr. Gnome Mr. Gnome (Self-released)
Perhaps you, dear heavy music fan, missed the Mr. Gnome show at Burt's two weeks ago. Administer 10 spankings. Maybe more. This drum-guitar duo out of Cleveland released a five-song, self-titled EP better than much of the work that comes across my desk. Abundant, sexy Mr. Gnome does not miss a bass player—or any other players for that matter. There are drastic peaks and valleys, but above it all, there's guitarist/singer Nicole Barille's brilliant raw voice. Find this disc on Mr. Gnome's site at the end of the month or risk further assigned self-punishment.