The Lake EP
(Secretly Canadian)

Stretched perilously between the sound of smoky Nina Simone-ian cabaret and mid-'70s glam conceptualism, Secretly Canadian's reissue of Antony and the Johnsons' self-titled debut was one of this year's most upending surprises. The band's functional arrangements of piano, strings, and guitar hearken back to the Berlin-era schmaltz of Lou Reed's finest solo moments, but the real theater here is Antony himself--the androgynous performance artist/frontman's trilling vibrato and twisting articulation swirls and swells, painting mournful, masochistic portraits of love and loss unlike anything I've ever heard. A stopgap supplement as they prepare their next record, The Lake tempers the drama a bit for mostly reserved balladeering. It also charts the footnotes of the band's reference points, from the title track's lift of Edgar Allen Poe's poem of the same name, to the cover photo of Warhol Superstar Candy Darling. Most astonishingly, Antony calls in a favor from Lou fucking Reed--who took Antony's remarkable pipes on tour last year, and who, in an unprecedented move, guests on the EP's "Fistful of Love." ZAC PENNINGTON

(Load Records)

The fact is, Burmese is a live band, and really need to be experienced from three feet away to get the point--the point being that the world is a supremely fucked up and evil place and that music should always hurt. Honestly, their records have never spent a whole lot of time in rotation for me, because of the live thing but also because they usually don't sound real good. Listening to Men I can say one thing for sure: This one sounds, like, five zillion times better than any of the other stuff I've heard by them. The band has two drummers now and those drums are perfectly panned into each ear, creating a psychedelic effect. And the basses and vocals come right down the middle, so as a result, the record sounds like Fly Like an Eagle-era Steve Miller Band--which means awesome. MIKE McGUIRK

You Are the Quarry-Platinum Edition

Morrissey has been famously abusive of the "reissue, repackage, repackage" market--bleeding dry singles and half-though b-sides over countless uneven compilations, and relying on sucker obsessives like me who'll reluctantly buy just about anything with his name on it. But Moz, dude, come on--this is a new low. Less than a year after the celebrated release of You Are the Quarry, he's released a deluxe edition, complete with DVD and all of the record's B-sides (except the one that comes out in January--way to stick it to us). As far as the extra songs go, there's some heavy pandering to Moz's inexplicable Vato fanbase, a few memorable cuts, and, for the most part, not much to write home about. The Platinum Edition does little to add to the masterful Quarry, outside of proving that record's deft editing choices. ZP

**** egg nog
*** sticky buns
** peanut brittle
* candy cane