Albums of the Week

May 27-June 2

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In this edition: The Golden Dogs, The Donkeys, Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds and Cave In

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
The Golden Dogs: Coat Of Arms (Dine Alone Records)

Where many modern rock bands hide their light in obfuscation and sonic trickery, choosing vagaries instead of bold, clear statements, Toronto’s The Golden Dogs are a present day equivalent to Village Green-era Kinks or Badfinger circa No Dice, i.e. super quality pop-rock with pointy teeth, a profound ear for melody and an adventurous spirit that whips and shakes the seemingly-familiar into killer new form. Coat Of Arms (released April 26) is a bounteous blast from start-to-finish, definitely a kindred spirit to Dr. Dog and Drink Up Buttercup, though neither of those bands has a comely voiced, 60s girl group/garage rock queen like the Dogs’ Jessica Grassia – check out the handclap fueled rush of As Long As You Like and try not to fall in love. Fellow singer Dave Azzolini matches her for range and unrestrained passion, and the mixture of alternating male-female leads is refreshing and consistently impressive that both tackle such a variety of settings with such aplomb. Another cool differentiating element to Coat Of Arms is a prickly-appealing lyrical bent that compares admirably to Buckingham-Nicks at their 70s Fleetwood Mac peak. There’s ample darkness and dismay amongst the jangling strings, fleshy harmonies and tight as hell rhythms. As concise as each track is there’s a lot going on in the crevices and at the edges – some bright, fleeting piano chords or a conversational bass lick for a few bars, even a swell nod to fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen on one tune (Travel Time) – with each small touch adding up to extremely full listening throughout. On Coat Of Arms, The Golden Dogs proffer rich textural pleasures and toe-tapping songwriting delivered with focus and evident heart. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
The Donkeys: Born With Stripes (Dead Oceans)

There’s such a wonderful buzz to Born With Stripes (released April 26), which induces an under-the-surface tingle akin to primo hash inhaled through a crisp apple or perhaps a perfect, unexpected kiss; things that spread warmth through body & brain, leaving one alert & present but oh-so-copacetic. Three albums in and this San Diego quartet has utterly nailed a vibe they’ve been cultivating the past five years, a smooth but taut sound that touches on past California greats like The Mother Hips and Rain Parade and further out towards the stoned Stephen Malkmus end of Pavement and the Michael Nesmith part of The Monkees (before you scoff at this last comparison listen here & here). But The Donkeys move things forward so it’s clear this ain’t nostalgia; this is just modern rock with thick, strong roots. One of Born With Stripes’ great strengths is the sequencing. Few albums in 2011 possess such a strong sense of continuity and unforced flow, a crimson slipstream dotted with coastal ragas and raised pulses, guitars humming and chiming as sprightly keys sigh and skip. The band comes off as relaxed and assured here, a winning confidence and frisky exploratory sense permeating every cut, particularly Valerie, which reaches the robust, magisterial heights of early solo David Crosby. A touch twangy, a touched tripped-out and a whole lotta alright, Born With Stripes represents this already fine band truly hitting their stride. (Dennis Cook)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Kid Congo & The Pink Monkey Birds: Gorilla Rose (In The Red)

Having been a key member of such seminal acts as The Gun Club, The Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds during their crucial Good Son/Tender Prey-era (not to mention stints in The Fall and Angels of Light), guitarist Kid Congo Powers has been at the vanguard of post-modern rock for as long as the genre has been in existence. For Gorilla Rose (released May 17), Congo’s second album with his new band The Pink Monkey Birds, he delivers a scorching homage to the Los Angeles punk luminary whose name serves as the title of this LP while simultaneously joyriding through his own personal history growing up in the city’s legendary DIY scene. Opening track Bo Bo Boogalo revisits the Chicano rock the guitar player was raised on as a youth. Bubble Trouble recalls the Krautrock mysticism of the Neu! records Gorilla turned Congo onto as a teen, while Our Other World finds the Kid delivering a talking blues account of his days working at the old West Coast record store chain Peaches and the time when Rick James and his bodyguards came into the shop and smashed all the copies of Parliament’s Rick-dissing LP Gloryhallastoopid. Meanwhile, Flypaper finds Congo telling the harrowing tale of when The Gun Club was recording The Las Vegas Story and had to share the studio space with Stevie Nicks. And propelling this memory vessel is the magic of producer Jason Ward, who helps to bring the Pink Monkey Birds’ combination of surf punk swagger and electric R&B howl to an optimum sense of urgency that far exceeds the promise of the group’s 2009 debut Dracula Boots. Gorilla Rose is a fantastical testament to one of California punk’s most unsung heroes from the heart of one of its most prolific mavericks. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Cave In: White Silence (Hydrahead)

For over 15 years, Cave In from Methuen, Massachusetts, have established themselves as one of the most adventurous and innovative acts in the world of metalcore. And on White Silence (released May 24), the quartet’s first full-length endeavor since 2005’s Perfect Pitch Black, they utilize all those years of growth, experimentation and cohesion to deliver not only their strongest album since 2000’s Jupiter but arguably the one that could go down as their best effort yet. From the throat-scorching opening title cut – a sonic assault as visceral as anything they have delivered since Beyond Hypothermia – on through to the gorgeous Beatles-cum-Pink Floyd melodicism of closing track Reanimation, White Silence is a sonic document of four old friends reuniting at their favorite local haunt to reminisce on the adventures during their time apart and the importance of making the moments they have together in the present count at every turn. If there is one metal/hardcore album you need to hear in 2011 it’s the stellar sounds of Silence. (RH)