Albums of the Week

August 25-August 31

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In this edition: The Heavy Guilt, The Blind Shake, The Bottle Rockets and Mister Heavenly.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
The Heavy Guilt: In The Blood (The Heavy Guilt)

Certain albums are dowsing rods that lead to humanity’s shared wells, those pools we all drink from, the stuff from which we’re made. Often these albums aren’t daring-do experiments full of trickery and obvious wow. In fact, these precious divining tools usually arrive in simple clothes bearing sturdy things filled with honesty and painstakingly earned wisdom. In The Blood (released July 16) is this sort of song cycle, a faith seeking emergence from days down in the black and loose dashes with directions on the dashboard and distractions on the mind. In all the fundamentals – songwriting that pops, playing that’s categorically tight and punchy, vocals infused with huge gobs of feeling – The Heavy Guilt presents the whole package on In The Blood. Only the group’s second record, this is a hugely positive harbinger of a great rock band in the making. The creative leap between their debut and this set is striking, the group’s individuality emerging, a blend of tenderness and quiet toughness that doesn’t cheat with shorthands or clichés in their efforts to stir emotions. Listen to In The Blood on headphones and the real sparkle of the arrangements and production comes through loud & clear – great thought and consideration obviously went into this album. Plus, the increased intimacy of ear-buds makes it harder to avoid the truths The Heavy Guilt is working at, territory not far removed from the prettier side of Pearl Jam, the meatier parts of The Jayhawks, Radiohead’s more accessible bits, and the tuneful introspection of contemporaries like Death Cab For Cutie. In more ways than one, this band and their sophomore offering are the real deal. (Dennis Cook)

The Heavy Guilt – In The Blood trailer from The Heavy Guilt on Vimeo.

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
The Blind Shake: Seriousness (Learning Curve Records)

Self-described as a “trio of detuned, garage-stomp, noisy punk rock music makers from Minneapois, MN,” The Blind Shake are truly the unruly children of The Ramones and Wire, The Ventures and fellow Minnesotans Hüsker Dü, and their latest salvo, Seriousness (released July 26), is the best damn thing they’ve laid down yet. The force of this album is cumulative, only felt in the marrow as one takes the turn onto Side B and aurally luges down the spiky trio of Suicide Myself, I’m Not An Animal and the title cut. Then it starts to hit you that these guys are lethal, men who’ve gnawed things down to the bone, leaving teeth marks and dangling bits of flesh behind. It’s dangerous to call anything “pure” but this is what rock is pretty much about at its backseat rumbling roots. It’s not to say The Blind Shake adhere to any formula or orthodoxy, they just get down to it in a way that makes one’s blood pump more vigorously than before they arrived. At a lean 28 minutes, Seriousness is no bullshit directness incarnate that’s likely to loosen any pogo-ing tendencies right to the surface. Gabba gabba hey indeed. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
The Bottle Rockets: Not So Loud: An Acoustic Evening with the Bottle Rockets (Bloodshot)

For nearly twenty years, the Bottle Rockets of St. Louis, Missouri have ridden on the wild side of the No Depression movement, delivering an electrifying crunch to their trademark Midwestern twang that owes as much to Crazy Horse and The Replacements as it does Woody Guthrie and John Hiatt and paved the way for acts like Dead Confederate and the Drive-By Truckers. But on their latest release, these Midwestern rabble rousers plug out and strip down for an acoustic live set from the second floor of a historic schoolhouse in the Soulard District of the Lou, where they run the gamut of their two decades in song. Highlights of this hometown hootenanny include brass tacks renditions of such Bottle Rockets favorites as Kerosene, 1000 Dollar Car and Smokin’ 100s Alone between funny anecdotes by frontman Brian Henneman on everything from dealing with Dolly Parton fans to pondering why Doug Sahm never received the tribute treatment before the Rockets’ own 2002 homage to the late, great Texas Tornado, Songs of Sahm, to which he followed with a stellar cover of the Sir Douglas Quintet’s deep nugget I Don’t Want to Go Home off 1970’s Together After Five. Not So Loud (released August 16) offers another side of the Bottle Rockets that serves as a fine complement of calm to the otherwise ragged glory of this perennially great American band. (Ron Hart )

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Mister Heavenly: Out of Love (Sub Pop)

On paper, the concept of “doom wop” sounds about as enticing as country rap (remember Cowboy Troy?). But in the hands of the spankin’ new supergroup Mister Heavenly – comprised of Nick Thorburn of Islands/Unicorns fame, Man Man frontman Honus Honus and Modest Mouse drummer Joe Plummer – they manage to weave solid gold from the unlikeliest of fusions. But the brilliant Out of Love (released August 16) is far more Moonglows than Melvins, as this ad hoc trio delve deep into the annals of the old Chance and Vee-Jay labels to craft an intriguing indie rock spin on Bronx street corner R&B from deep in the woods of rural Washington State. And from the sound of songs like Charlyne, Diddy Eyes and Your Girl, they’ve done some job bringing the Eisnenhower era into the digital age. (RH)