Release date: June 10 (out now)
What the label says:“Just as Grandaddy won’t accept conventional wisdom about electronic panaceas, their music answers only to itself – they ecstasize like Neil Young, and soar and twinkle like Electric Light Orchestra.”
What this reviewer says: Grandaddy has earned this reviewer’s first-ever perfect rating with their stupendous follow up to 2000’s “Sophtware Slump.” Grandaddy explores their usual themes of broken-down machinery and traveling while setting it to their best melodies yet. Jason Lytle has the best voice in rock.
Similar artists: Flaming Lips, Spoon
Sample lyrics: “He’s so drunk he’s passed out in a Datsun/ That’s parked out in the hot sun/ In the saddest vacant lot in all the world” – “Saddest Vacant Lot in All the World”
Best song: “El Caminos in the West”
Worst song: None
Release date: June 17 (out now)
What the label says: “Their music … is an alloy of hill-country melodies, contemporary studio techniques and literary-minded lyrics that frequently trace the experience of loss.”
What this reviewer says: If the concept of mixing “hill-country melodies” with electronic drumbeats and an expensive-sounding studio recording excites you, then this is for you. It in no way excited me. It sounds like the background of a car commercial.
Similar artists: Gillian Welch, O Brother Where Art Thou
Sample lyrics: “Through love’s labor, her labor/ Sons and daughters were blessed and given favor/ She smiled and we were safe/ She cried, the courts gave way” -“Too Soon”
Best song: “The Ballad of Young Alban and Amandy”
Worst song: “Rain Come Down”
Taste the Secret
Release date: June 17 (out now)
What the label says: “Sixteen playful and inventive hip-hop tracks intertwined with the humorous tale of the band’s origins working at the obscure Meat Shake fast food chain.”
What this reviewer says: Ugly Duckling is still fighting the good fight for hip-hop, calling out other crews for falling into the pratfalls of selling out, using swearing as a crutch, acting like tough guys, and dumbing it down. Ugly Duckling sounds like it is straight out of the days of 1991, when hip-hoppers still had a sense of humor. The concept of the boys working at the Meat Shake (where even the shakes contain meat) is funny the first time through but grows tiresome with each listen.
Similar artists: early Pharcyde, A Tribe Called Quest
Sample lyrics: “Potty mouth’s got me hot like a coffee pot/ You’re more predictable than a Rocky plot/ Save the four letter words, keep the gunshots/ It’s all talk you’re as fruity as a kumquat” – “Potty Mouth”
Best song: “Mr. Tough Guy”
Worst song: “Energy Drink”
The Swords Project
Entertainment is Over if You Want It
Release date: July 8
What the label says: “Here then is The Swords Project, a category-defying band that, like its hometown mascot, samples its surroundings, processes them, and turns them into a beautiful exhale.”
What this reviewer says: Portland’s most pretentious band continues its effort to be cooler than you. Songs without melodies and lots of ambient keyboard and noise solos will elevate your hipness factor at least two points at your next NPR listening party. Boring.
Similar artists: Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Mogwai
Sample lyrics: “Exploding models and red figurines/ Gang planks, a catwalk into a sea of pills” – “City Life”
Best song: “Immigracion”
Worst song: “MD11”