The Helio Sequence Love and Distance (Sub Pop)
Rock duos are nearly a dime a dozen these days, but none—and I do mean none—are as compelling as Beaverton, Ore.'s Helio Sequence. Three years after releasing their Beatles-meet-My Bloody Valentine masterpiece, Young Effectuals (Cavity Search), guitarist/smooth-as-silk vocalist Brandon Summers and Benjamin "I Play Live with Modest Mouse, Too" Weikel have evolved a more blues-drenched aesthetic that's also dipped in psychedelica and bristling grooves. Love and Distance is an all-occasion indie rock record: not too sad, not too happy and, most importantly, not too melodramatic or Stooge-rivative. Easy like a Sunday morning yet deeper than the deepest ocean.
Jennifer Marks Jennifer Marks (Bardic)
Jennifer Marks has a remarkable voice, but one that might be confused with those of Aimee Mann and Sheryl Crow. Her self-titled debut contains a dozen energetic tunes, all of which are pretty standard singer-songwriter fare minus most of the angst of her more politically driven female peers. The key to Marks' sound is her gift for brilliant, easy flowing arrangements and honey dipped voice. "Live," the album's first single, may be the only instantly identifiable one on the album, but repeat listenings reveal far more depth and potential. As debuts go, this one's about as strong as they come.
The Polyphonic Spree Together We're Heavy (Hollywood)
Since folding Tripping Daisy, Dallas rockboy Tim DeLaughter has been busy turning his delusions of grandeur into reality. Hence his latest project: The Polyphonic Spree, a 23-piece rockestra whose members dress Koresh-style in flowing robes and bounce all over the stage like a Jim Jones cult just before the Kool-Aid is served. Live, the spectacle is indeed grand—something you can't watch without smiling. The problem, as you might have guessed, is that none of this translates very well to tape. If you're at all into trippy era Beach Boys and Sgt. Peppers' ... you'll love the Spree!