Candiria What Doesn't Kill You (Type A Records)
If it wasn't for bands like NYC's Candiria, filling the void left by the demise of Helmet and Quicksand, I'd have taken my own life a long time ago. Tragically, Candiria's last tour took the life of their van, equipment and, very nearly, the lives of all five members when a semi smashed into them at freeway speed. After two years of physical and mental recovery, Candira are back with their fourth—and best—record. Part prog metal, part hardcore and part classic thrash, this one's close to perfect.
The Album Leaf In a Safe Place (Sub Pop)
Recorded in Iceland with members of Sigur Rós and the Black Heart Procession's Pall Jenkins lending various hands, Jimmy LaValle's (a.k.a. The Album Leaf) latest glittering achievement puts a pop twist on his standard take on the ethereal and melancholic. But the new record sounds plenty isolated and just as whisper-cool as any of LaValle's previous (largely) solo efforts. More Brian Eno than Tristeza, LaValle's former piano-rock outfit, In a Safe Place is at once beautiful and disconcerting, much like what most of us imagine Iceland to be like. Brilliant.
Railroad Earth The Good Life (Sugar Hill)
The follow-up to New Jersey newgrass sensations Railroad Earth's acclaimed Bird in a House sounds infinitely more relaxed and less reliant on technical proficiency. By the same token, though, there are moments on The Good Life that sound a little too much like outtakes from lost Traveling Wilburys' sessions. Other than that bit of criticism, one is hard-pressed to find anything not to be overjoyed about on RRE's latest effort. Intensely danceable, infinitely original and thoroughly inspired, The Good Life does its title quite a bit of backwoods justice.