American Hardcore – Dir. Paul Rachman

american-hardcore.jpgIn the event that you ever spent time sitting in your suburban bedroom all jacked up on adolescent angst, trying to convince yourself that you actually liked the nihlistic raving of the American hardcore bands of the early 80’s, this film is for you. The film is a gritty kind homage to regional flavors and characters that littered this short lived but prolific period of musical history.

Filled primarily with what must have been incredibly rare clips of early Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Minor Threat, Bad Brains and contemporary interviews with all these personalilites 20 years later, “American Hardcore” is the video accompaniment of the classic punk non-fiction classic “This band Could be Your Life.” I’m not sure I still have the stomach for much of this stuff anymore, but it sure is cool to revisit the dirty, brutal zeitgeist from the comfort of my cozy living room couch.

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Band of Horses – Cease to Begin (Sub Pop)

band-of.jpgIf this is still a small largely unheard indie record in six months then something has gone horribly wrong. Looking more like ZZ Top meeting up at a Sturgis Harley rally, singer Ben Bridwell has crafted one of the most beautiful rock records in a decade. Think Radiohead “The Bends” with its all the ambition and none of the alienation.

His bushy beard, and heavily inked arms make you think scary headbanger, not dreamy indie guy, but alas this is a G rated rock record for hipsters, and maybe even their kids. These songs glide smoothly on a bed of effortlessness, clouds drifting over a melodic sea, all the while Bridwell’s vocals alternating between the ethereal on “No One’s Gonna Love You” to the sublime on “Detlef Schrempf.”

Like their name, this band paints the picture of open spaces, big skies, and fond memories. Like the Frames, this is band who could easily seduce a Coldplay type audience, but until then this is a wondeeful secret.

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Iron and Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog (Sub Pop)

iron.jpgThe logical next step for Sam Beam (aka Iron and Wine) was to create a band around his intimate Drakean crooning. On the “Shepherd’s Dog” he has fulfilled the promise alluded to on the a few of his latest EP’s where he actually almost seems to be “rocking.” From the very first tune “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” he spins a kind of Americana groove, filled with strings, guitars and drums somewhere between The Band and his sometimes partners Calexico. All of this is accompanied by his silky vocals, but infused with a sense of wonderful sense of urgency that makes these songs such a sensible evolution of his unique brand of alt-folk.

It would be hard to think of a song more satisfying than “Lovesong of the Buzzard” an earnest organ driving romp through the open fields of your life or the kind of hypnotic tone set on “Wolves.” Ultimately this record represents a step perhaps towards the big warm sound of Wilco, but still drenched in something smaller and personal

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