Albums of the Week

August 16-August 22

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In this edition: The Steepwater Band, The London Souls, The Men and Soft Metals.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
The Steepwater Band: Clava (Diamond Day Records)

The sixth studio effort from this decade-plus pure rock ‘n’ roll outfit comes on like a confident lover, rolling up and breathing on the back of your neck as they place kisses just where they’re needed, the right kind of trouble delivered with aplomb. An unrushed, controlled intensity infuses Clava (released August 16), the trio showing off their blues-based mettle at every turn and nailing down a sound that’s classic but never retro or derivative. Muddy Waters, Free, Buddy Guy, Link Wray and Cheap Trick chatter inside Clava’s grooves, which are frequently thick but also pop-smart at times and never less than compelling in a majorly visceral way. The production, by the band and newcomer Colin Sipos (Iron & Wine, Califone), hits a timeless pocket from the get-go, the sound of real musicians playing real good on rib-stickin’ material. It’s in the molasses the best bands reveal themselves, and the Steepwater Band excel at slow burns throughout this set, prowling ‘round your back door and howling in a low, sexy way, swinging with the angels dancin’ around their heads and leaving blood on the floorboards. Folks enamored of Mick Taylor-era Stones, early Hendrix and The Black Keys will eat up this up with impolite gusto. It’s a great pleasure to see a band fully realize their potential as they ride into their second decade together, and Clava presents these Chicago survivors at their earthy, appealing finest. (Dennis Cook)

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
The London Souls: The London Souls (Soul On 10 Records/Bluroc)

After building significant buzz on the festival circuit, this NYC-based trio with the misleading name finally delivers a studio debut they can be proud of. A mix of manic energy and loverman smooth, The London Souls (released July 12) sits at the intersection of trio ancestors Thin Lizzy, King’s X, Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Outfield (scoff if you must but the Souls possess some of the same hooky, radio primed songwriting). The vibe is funky but always rock-centric, sorta what Deep Purple Mk III whipped up with Coverdale/Hughes leading the charge. It’s easy to imagine people rutting wildly to blasters like She’s Mad and I Think I Like It, but Tash Neal (guitar, vocals), Kiyoshi Matsuyama (bass, vocals) and Christ Saint (drums, vocals) swing away from hard rock frequently and their harmonies are tight as a Fleet Foxes tribute band. More than anything else, this debut presents a fiercely fun young band that’s looks for the guy in the back of the room not getting off and blasts him into orbit. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
The Men: Leave Home (Sacred Bones)

The boys of Brooklyn’s The Men might harbor the audacity to name their third album after one of The Ramones’ finest efforts. But then again, they also named a record after my great-grandmother, Immaculada, so what? Beyond titling their latest Leave Home (released May 24) and an occasional utilization of the incidental three-chord structure designed by the late Johnny Ramone, this uncompromising four-piece is nothing like the legendary Queens punks, although the intensity by which they perform their songs is certainly palpable. Recorded at Python Patrol in 2010, this eight-track sonic pipe bomb is confrontational noise rock of the highest order – the sound of a quartet of young men hopped up on their favorite Touch & Go, Slitbreeze and SST recordings taking their angst to the hipster-riddled streets of their borough and lacerating the senses like so many shattered shards of used Yeasayer and Animal Collective CDs found at the local used music shop on Bedford Ave. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Soft Metals: Soft Metals (Captured Tracks)

Whether you consider it an artistic revival or a passing fad abdicated by trendsetting doofuses – like it or not – the eighties are back, boys and girls. And nobody is doing the Reagan Age better than Patricia Hall and Ian Hicks, the couple comprising Portland’s Soft Metals. The duo’s fascinating and enjoyable eponymous full-length debut on Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks imprint is darkwave at its finest, marrying the pair’s love for sex, science and synths with a collection of moody, kinetic electronic pop gems that evokes their appreciations for old Stanley Kubrick and David Lynch soundtracks as deftly as it does obscure European new wave and the early days of MTV. In fact, this shit is so eighties, if you sync it up with a VHS copy of One Crazy Summer at the exact moment, they coincide with one another! Not really, but you get the idea… (RH)