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Diane Schnier

Before Cowboys


Cowboys effectively unseats Ben Folds as the heir to Elton John's legacy of gorgeous lyrical piano in a pop setting. Unsullied by even a hint of hipster irony, Schnier's tenderhearted, almost precocious vulnerability is a marvel. Ditto on the sophisticated arrangements. She's underground, but not for long. Catch her when she tours the area in February with gifted locals Kenny and Kirk Juhas of freebeerandchicken and .moe's Vinnie Amico and Al Schnier. Available by mail order only: or 207-797-6344.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni




Heaped with praise for its debut, this quartet (which includes expatriate Rochesterians Brann Dailor and Bill Kelliher) again blends thrash, Southern, and technical varieties of metal but brings it all together for real this time. Try finding another metal album from this or any recent year that holds your attention this well from beginning to end.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni




The fact that extreme metal indie label Relapse has released something so soothing bodes well for the label's future. Legacy is ambience at its most hypnotic and experimental/dark. Like Aphex Twin's Selected Ambient Works, this album rescues meditation and trance from the grip of New Age cliché.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni

Guided By Voices

Half Smiles of the Decomposed


For a band so averse to pomp and circumstance, they picked a hell of a way to say farewell. Finally, an album that adequately balances GBV's lo-fi, classic rock, and pop aspects. In this case, parting is indeed sweet sorrow.

--- Saby Reyes-Kulkarni


Delirium Cordia


It might be easy to dismiss Mike Patton's work as self-indulgent noise; true, Fantomas' Delirium Cordia will win frowns from your girlfriend and find your roommate perusing the apartments classifieds, but do a little research on Delirium's cover artist Max Aguilera-Hellweg (not for the faint of heart) and you'll understand that Patton is simply trying to show you that there's another world far below the sunny climes of popular music. And it's not very comforting. This one-track, 75-minute opus is as difficult as anything Patton has done; repeated spins, however, reward the listener with brooding choral arrangements, signature blasts of Fantomas metal, and an ambience that will curb you from investigating noises from the basement late at night.

--- Tim Goodwin

Eagles of Death Metal

Peace Love Death Metal

Ant Acid Audio

The soundtrack to girl-watching while cruisin' the mall parking lot in Pop's Camaro. Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme hooked up with an old-school buddy and whipped up this sunny, sexy, booty-moving rock candy in a couple days. Deeply rooted in the hooky guitarness of classic rock, EoDM could donate riffs to The Mooney Suzuki and still have enough left over to spank your nanny silly. The cover of the Stealers Wheel classic "Stuck in the Middle With You" is worth the price of admission alone, an operation that is so transcendent that you can hear --- listen carefully --- one of the Eagles at the end claiming to see unicorns.

--- Tim Goodwin

Fucking Am


Drag City

The Fucking Champs and Trans Am --- the former spitting out guitar licks, the latter playing with knobs and the ever-kinky "experimental" --- got together in 2001 and recorded an EP as The Trans Champs; here in 2004 we have the other side for Gold, an album steeped in that loveable kind of metal you either heard on 98 PXY back in '85 or on The Transformers the Movie soundtrack. Big and expensive guitar licks make out with electronic noises that sound as if they were made from an Atari joystick hooked up to a Delorian. Electro-rock at its best.

--- Tim Goodwin

The White Hots

White Hots With Relish Live at The Clarissa Room

Roll Records

The White Hots play music for lovers: lovers who want to dance first and maybe enhance the mood with a little Ripple. Their last album, recorded live at the Little Theatre Café, was subdued and a little laidback, this new platter bops with style and a little more oomph. Tunes by Willie Dixon and Benny Goodman complement the group's original compositions. The White Hots swing but never lose sight of the mellow. It's a first-rate disc by a class-act bunch of cats.

--- Frank De Blase

Ron Stackman

Music From Big Lawn

BonaFide Records

You can take the boy out of the reggae, but you can't take the reggae out of the boy. Ex-Bahama Mama, ex-Majestic Ron Stackman lets loose with 10 easygoing tracks that don't stray too far from the one-drop. Even when he comes out of left field to cover "Man Of Constant Sorrow," Stackman still waxes tropically casual. Though it's mostly Stackman in the studio, he's joined here and there by Rochester rock luminaries like Rudy Valentino (now a resident Jamaican) who helped mix the sessions.

--- Frank De Blase

Brian Lindsay

The Crossing

GFI Music

If he hadn't mentioned Sea Breeze on the first cut with the knowledge of a man that had actually been there, I'd swear Brian Lindsay was from Nashville. And I mean the kind of Nashville of folks like Jim Lauderdale and Lucinda Williams, not those nouveau rednecks that got Bush re-elected. Lindsay's The Crossing seems rooted in Americana but offers slick, almost classic rock riffs and harmonies before you think there's just one side to the man. These are really, really good songs. If Van Morrison were a cowboy... who knows. Just check out "Forever Yours (Marianne)."

--- Frank De Blase

5 Watt Bulb


Silverdish Records

I've got a feeling a lot of bands wish they sounded like 5 Watt Bulb. Maybe they think they already do. This band matches up sharp hooks, melody, and tight execution into pure pop joy. But what separates them from the rest of the pop cesspool is the magic of having a group that really gels on cool cuts like "The Rocket City Send Off" (currently stuck in my head) and "Career High School Agenda." 5 Watt Bulb rocks steady, plain and simple, and no one style overrides the pop.

--- Frank De Blase

Don Thomas

Sounds of Autumn

Bash Studio

Don Thomas and his guitar paint a pretty picture with an acoustic exploration that evokes both sadness and elation. And as indicated by his new album's title, the music plays with nature's progression --- the changing colors may be breathtaking but they also signify the end. It's a lot less terse than classical and a little too intricate to be called folk or anything other than what it is --- beautiful.

--- Frank De Blase

Bobby Watson & Horizon

Horizon Reassembled


If there has been a more delicious jazz tune than "Lemoncello" in the last 10 years I haven't heard it. The composition, which opens Bobby Watson's Horizon Reassembled album, begins with a catchy sax phrase. After stating it twice, a new, even catchier trumpet melody enters on top of it in the manner of a perfectly composed round. Then comes the sax/trumpet harmony of the B section, the icing on the cake! All of this leads up to a string of solos with Terell Stafford on trumpet and Edward Simon on piano bracketing Watson's turn on alto sax. All of the solos shine, but Watson's is notable because he dares to venture way out into screechland on this most melodic of recent jazz tunes. "Lemoncello" is in a class with Dave Brubeck's "Take Five," Lee Morgan's "The Sidewinder," and Ahmad Jamal's "Poinciana" --- it's great jazz, but as infectious as a pop tune. And it sets the pace for an extraordinary album.

            Early in his career Watson was musical director of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and you can hear that experience in every arrangement. Tunes like the title cut, "Horizon Reassembled," and "Eeeyyess" exude classic hard bop roots. But Watson can also tear your heart out with his haunting bent notes at the beginning of "Dark Days" and the entire track of "The Love We Had Yesterday," a gorgeous ballad. There are several talented writers in the group, including bassist Essiet Essiet, who manipulates time signatures in "Zangongo." Pianist Edward Simon contributes the wonderfully Latin tinged "Pere" with its strong unison lines. The CD is rounded out by a fresh, crisp take on Jimmy Heath's classic, "Gingerbread Boy" and Burt Bacharach's "The Look of Love" re-harmonized for a nicely ethereal reading.

--- Ron Netsky

Brian Ferry and Roxy Music

The Platinum Collection


Neither Brian Ferry nor Roxy Music carry as much cachet stateside as they do in their native UK. And for many reasons, that's a total shame. Initial exposure to this catalogue should extend way beyond hit singles to include, particularly, the band's earliest recordings: For Your Pleasure (1973) and, well, Roxy Music (1972).

But on the three-disc Platinum Collection, we're left to make do with the many singles both Roxy Music and Brian Ferry managed to score long after Ferry and Brian Eno parted ways. Of that early work, "Virginia Plain," "Pyjamarama," and "Do The Strand" all make an appearance on The Platinum Collection. The songs' adventurous arrangements stay true to the group's art-school beginnings. Yet, ultimately, all those quirky little sounds and electronics serve these memorable pop songs nicely.

Once you get beyond that first disc, the music begins to settle into the plangent melodies and borderline crooning that Roxy Music and Brian Ferry made its signature. While still taking the occasional left turn, the songs mostly settle way down.

Altogether, The Platinum Collection is something of an odd proposition. Typical Roxy Music fans have likely vetted these songs long ago. We're told the official Platinum release includes a booklet with pictures of the original singles' sleeves and notes, which might make this a worthwhile investment for completists. Yet when placed in the context of Roxy Music's exciting beginnings, The Platinum Collection feels, sadly, like only part of the story.

--- Chad Oliveiri

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