This Week’s Best Albums: August 7, 2012

This Week's Best Albums: August 7, 2012

Each week, editor-in-chief Chris Force and music editor Scott Morrow choose ALARM’s favorite new releases for This Week’s Best Albums, an eclectic set of reviews presenting exceptional music.

Guano Padano: 2 (Ipecac)

"Gran Bazaar"

With the intercontinental mix of Italian trio Guano Padano, one could take the easy way out, calling it the bastard child of Ennio Morricone, Dick Dale, and Calexico. The truth is something more muddied, something broader yet less mashed-up.

Led by guitarist Alessandro Stefana, 2 steeps in the traditions of Italian-western cinema — specifically, the Italian sonic interpretation of Americana — and applies surf rock and 1950s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll to the music of America’s south and southwest. Bits of gypsy, jazz, and oriental styles also dot the landscape, as each song is a journey to a new land.

– Text by Scott Morrow. Read the full review here.

The Casket Lottery / Nathan Ellis: The Door / s/t (No Sleep)

"The Door" (The Casket Lottery) & "Balance Beam" (Nathan Ellis)

This week adds two more short releases to Nathan Ellis's long list of credits: The Casket Lottery, Coalesce, Able Baker Fox, Jackie Carol, and now solo singer-songwriter material.

Nathan Ellis: s/t EP

"The Door," from the reunited Casket Lottery's upcoming Real Fear, finds the expanded lineup bursting with new layers — piano/keyboard melodies, vocal harmonies, and guitars galore. Similarly, Ellis' solo debut is much more than a guy with a guitar; "Balance Beam" is a layered and multifaceted single, with overdubs entangling themselves while Ellis croons, wails, and shouts. Though each has a different flavor, both offer exciting glimpses of things to come.

- Text by Scott Morrow. Read the full review here.

Ape School: Junior Violence (Hometapes)

"Marijuana's on the Phone"

The second full-length album from Michael Johnson is as strangely juxtaposed as his moniker, Ape School. Peculiar placements permeate Junior Violence, and most tracks have everything but the kitchen sink, with synths, fuzz bass, and guitar tracks seemingly interrupting more synths, fuzz bass, and guitar tracks.

Pop purists may be frustrated by the sheer volume of instrumentation and the few off-key vocal moments. For fans of spacey, experimental pop rock, however, Junior Violence is an interesting experiment with moments of excellence.

- Text by Vince Hayner. Read the full review here.

Los Straitjackets: Jet Set (Yep Roc)

"Space Mosquito"

Buoyed by the return of guitarist Danny Amis from a battle with cancer, instrumental surf-rock quartet Los Straitjackets is back, luchador masks in hand (er...on face). Generally speaking, Jet Set remains in the camp of pure and simple, "by the books" surf rock. But there's a sneaky assortment from the get-go, with "Crime Scene" launching into a classic car-chase-, detective-novel-esque noir theme. There are speed-picking Dick Dale moments ("New Siberia"), jangly pop tunes ("Aerostar"), Latin-funk flavor ("Walking Down 3rd Street"), and slow, beautiful ballads ("Low Tide").

- Text by Scott Morrow. Read the full review here.

Honorable Mentions:

Antibalas: s/t (Daptone)

Dust Bolt: Violent Demolition (Napalm)

Nu Sensae: Sundowning (Suicide Squeeze)

Opossom: Electric Hawaii (Fire)

Ormonde: Machine (Hometapes)

The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band: Between the Ditches (SideOneDummy)