This Week’s Releases

Mark Pickerel, Tess (out now, Candy Cross, For music called “tumbleweed noir,” there’s a sense that Mark Pickerel’s dark Americana relies as heavily on mystique as on musicality. Pickerel, of course, has history: His work with Nirvana, Screaming Trees, and Truly put him on the map. Nowadays, his solo career notwithstanding, collaborations with the likes of Neko Case and Brandi Carlile maintain his relevance. For someone so attuned to the zeitgeist, Tess, Pickerel’s third album with his band His Praying Hands, seems like it’s trying too hard. Finely played though it may be, Craig Flory’s sax solo on “Your Avenue” seems a little grabby of the ’80s nostalgia Justin Verner so acutely tapped into on Bon Iver, Bon Iver. (Actually, I can’t help but hear Hall & Oates’ “Maneater.”) Adding to the irony: Though Pickerel has a intuitive sense of how to collaborate and plays with some great musicians here (Jeff Fielder, Maggie Bjorklund, Jim and Johnny Sangster, Zoe Muth), their efforts are often obscured. For instance, except for her small parts in “I Study Horses” and “The Throes of Love,” Muth’s tender twang is lost to layers of reverb. “Burn the Shrine,” Tess’ best track, brings the talents of Pickerel’s crew into better balance, toning down lead vocals that make way for Barb Hunter’s haunting cello and Johnny Sangster’s sharp, steely guitar. Only eight tracks long, the album might have more moments like these to share if only Pickerel had stepped back to let his band do more of the work. (Fri., Oct. 4, Easy Street)

Hobosexual, Hobosexual II (10/4, self-released, These guys are storytellers. That was clear on Hobosexual’s 2010 self-titled debut, and is even more so on Hobosexual II. For their sophomore effort, the local duo of Jeff Silva and Ben Harwood took the storytelling thing to the next level, mixing their love of  ’70s-influenced riffs and ’80s glam rock to create a complex story about a post-apocalyptic world. The year is 2071, the protagonist is Kara, and the mission is to save the radiation- and poison-infested earth from the grasp of the “Sex Destroyers” street gang. The scene is set instantly by the aggressive opening notes of “Switchblade Suburbia,” a sonic assault that makes the following track, the rolling, bluesy “The Black Camaro Death,” an even bigger surprise. The album’s high point is “A Motherfuckin’ Song,” a chant-heavy banger that’s part Sabbath and part My Chemical Romance (the catchy call-and-response thing, not the annoying emo-goth thing). It’s this variety of straightforward rock ’n’ roll and arena-ready anthems that makes Hobosexual II so compelling. The duo has found a perfect mix of nostalgia and novelty on this release, and the result is an homage to the greats that showcases just how hungry we all are for another wave of epic, rowdy rock—with a punk disposition, of course. (Fri., Oct. 4, Neumos)

Don Muro, It’s Time (10/8, Light in the Attic, It’s easy to forget in 2013, when dance music is more popular than ever and anyone with a MacBook and a copy of Ableton can be called a “producer,” that there was a time when making electronic music was difficult. In the 1970s, synthesizers were expensive; recording tools were primitive compared to today’s infinite-track DAWs; and the audience for electronic music, though certainly not invisible, was much smaller. This is the context in which composer, music educator, and synthesizer wizard Don Muro amassed the equipment and recording know-how to make It’s Time, a largely forgotten work that has been remastered and will be reissued collaboratively by Flannelgraph Records and Landlocked Music. Released in 1977, the same year as celebrated electronic records like Kraftwerk’s Trans-Europe Express and Giorgio Moroder’s From Here to Eternity, it’s the labor of a studio geek enthralled with the infinite-seeming possibilities of the synthesizer and the recording studio. Which is to say that It’s Time is squarely a product of the ’70s. Though some tracks are synth-based—the multi-suite epic “Current Events” and the dancey “Squash” are the best examples—the album is a stylistically diverse studio experiment. There’s Steely Dan–esque synth-funk, smooth-jazz ballads, and a lot of stuff that sounds like standard ’70s AOR with electronic flourishes. The genre-hopping is permissible because the end results are thoughtfully composed and pristinely recorded. The next time you play something by Daft Punk (which gives props to Moroder on its new album) or attend a themed EDM bass-drop fest, remember that it was near-obscure pioneers like Muro who presaged the popularity and convenience of modern electronic music.

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