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Panda Bear - Panda Bear Meets the Grim ReaperPanda Bear – Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper

Psychedelic? Freak folk?  Experimental pop?  I’ve never been totally sure how to classify Panda Bear (or Animal Collective, for that matter), but whatever the term for it Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper is a definitive example.  The album is all layered vocals, synth swirls and samples, and gittery percussion.  Lead single “Mr Noah” is definitely the standout track, but the album as a whole is stronger than its predecessor Tomboy and almost certainly the best work from an Animal Collective member since Merriweather Post Pavilion.

California X - Nights in the DarkCalifornia X – Nights in the Dark

Rock and roll is not dead, and California X is making sure of it.  The Amherst, Massachusetts trio is fuzzed out northeast garage rock that fits in very well with their forebears’ Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh, and Buffalo Tom.  Nights in the Dark is loud, heavy, and propulsive, while maintaining a melodicism that anchors the music in the pop canon.  The band doesn’t just let it rip, though.  Just as you settle into their 90’s sound, they throw you a curve ball with the acoustic “Ayla’s Song” or the piano of “Garlic Road” before returning to what they do best.

Dan Mangan + Blacksmith - Club MedsDan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds

Dan Mangan is a Canadian singer/songwriter of the folk rock school, and Blacksmith is the new name for what has essentially been his backing band for some time.  On Club Meds they make lyrics based, folk informed rock that is fully orchestrated (e.g. multiple guitars, synth washes, and occasional strings or horns over steady back beats) but still showcases Mangan’s mellow tenor vocals (Mangan sounds like a cross between Justin Vernon and Eddie Vedder).  This is an album perfect for after everyone has left the party and your left with a daunting clean up project.

An author and editor at MiG, Craig lives in Minnesota with his wife and son and is an attorney in his real life. Once upon a time Craig played the trumpet and spent four years in the Hawkeye Marching Band and pep band. These days Craig finds himself most often listening to experimental rock, hip hop, and post punk, but you can see everything he's listening to at: Craig is not ashamed to admit the first concert he ever attended was New Kids on the Block.
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