Traditional music nerds claim that “real” fans have been there from day one, before the world paid attention. Yawn. So passé. Those of us who freely dismiss such bullshit “realness” parameters know better—usually because we know what we like and we’ve accepted ourselves. Now that the founder/frontwoman of Florida punk band Against Me!, Laura Jane Grace, is comfortably herself with Transgender Dysphoria Blues, I am officially a fan. At 29 minutes, this is a gutsy queercore epic. “True Trans Soul Rebel” and “FUCKMYLIFE666” both feel very Hedwig and the Angry Inch, while I could not get enough of “Unconditional Love.” The additions of bassist Inge Johansson (Refused) and drummer Atom Willard (Rocket From The Crypt) to the lineup amp up the pop-punk ante. (M. Brianna Stallings)
You can take a listen to Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings' new release (Give The People What They Want) and come to the conclusion that it's a derivative array of Motown-inspired ditties. But it's actually a whole lot more. You see, Sharon Jones doesn't only command the track; she commands your attention. From the opening chorus of “Retreat!”—where she warns a male counterpart to back the fuck off—to (my personal favorite) “You'll Be Lonely.” Each track is either a feel-good party in itself or a soulful iteration of love that simply won't “slow down.” Basically it's a great album by one of the leading front-runners of an R&B/soul revival movement that's been a long time coming. (Mark Lopez)
Newcastle on Tyne can be a dreary place, especially in the middle of winter when the north of England is shrouded in darkness daily, anytime after 4pm in the afternoon and until 8am the next morning. Even then it’s often foggy. That geographic disability hasn’t thwarted the rock made by Newcastle natives Maxïmo Park, but it’s really influenced their sound. On their fifth release, the quintet, led by frontman Paul Smith and guitarist Duncan Lloyd, pulls the stops out for 11 cohesive and listenable self-produced tracks that provide a quintessential rock and roll experience, that of elusive longing. From the creeping uncertainty implicit on “Leave This Island” to the restrained urgency of “Brain Cells,” Smith’s voice recalls many a Britpop predecessor, but the surrounding instrumentation is precise and restrained in a way that effectively shows how good spare darkness can be. (August March)
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