Smell of Steve, Inc

* DEC 1 One-half of Latyrx, Lyrics Born is one of those emcees that reinvents the way in which you expect lyrics to roll off the tongue. He's subtle, though--for instance, he'll enunciate a certain word more slowly or sharply than you're used to, and it ends up feeling like a soft head-swim through gelatin. Don't forget to pat Portland's own Lifesavas on the back, who've reportedly already sold 5000 copies of their new record! W/Chief Xcel, Quivah, DJ Jefizm (Ohm)

* DEC 1: Hella is the world's foremost instrumental mathcore duo, with a guitar so precise and aggressive, and a drummer whose endurance with the double bass pedal, they're heart-crushing. As mon petit ami put it, "He makes the drummer from Lightning Bolt look like a pussy." (Meow Meow)

* DEC 4: Dude, it's Slayer. They are a scary, satanic speed metal band. Their new records might not be as great as the older ones, but it's Slayer, for god's sake. (Roseland)

* DEC 6: Sampling/computer programming fanatic Scott Morgan, aka Loscil, based the sound of his newest record on the "concepts of thermodynamics, the physical science which investigates the conversion of heat into mechanical force or energy and vice versa." The result is actually, well, sort of warm, with quietly fluctuating tones that resemble hummingbirds and heartbeats. Joined by Locate, Project Perfect, and my favorite local electronic act, Strategy. (Blackbird)

* DEC 7: I have a hunch that M. Gira, who used to play in the Swans and now heads Angels of Light, probably smells like whiskey and cigarettes. With a gait and a stare like the most handsome cowboy of death, his deep, fractured voice sings in wonderfully dark verse: "I hate you all for what I've done/ I hate you for the texture and the color of your skin/ I hate your whispered breath upon my neck." (Berbati's)

* DEC 15: Every time I see Holy Sons live, I can't believe it's the same band as on their records. In a gig, they're raucous and loud, and all the subtleties I love about Emil Amos' music are violently stripped away. But I've heard their new CD, for which this is the release, and it's so heartfelt I could cry. If their amps are set above five, you should run in, buy the record, and rush home to listen to it, because it's incredible. (Blackbird)

* DEC 15: Warren G is one of the more underrated rappers of the late '90s, with snap-happy hooks, and a voice smooth as muthafuckin' glass. Best known for his true-crime duet with Nate Dogg, "Regulators"; a hilarious radio hit about Warren's unfortunate run-in with some gangbangers, that ends triumphantly with G, Nate, and a carload of girls getting biz-AY at the Eastside Motel. WSH (Roseland)

* DEC 22: Dilute's newest record, Grape Blueprints Pour Spinach Olive Grape, is a cache of lumpy guitar parts that light up like colorful polished stones. Their sound bubbles brightly, from spacious, improv-sounding drum parts, to intricate melodies that flower tightly into blasts of dissonance. (Blackbird)

* DEC 23: The awesome Portland ensemble Blak Scienz Tribe plays a ferociously mellow blend of jazz and hiphop, with a smooth-voiced, politically conscious emcee (sometimes two) and a rhythmic, sensual backdrop of piano, drums, upright bass, and the occasional sax. They're great musicians. Their lyrics are loose and sweet. And somehow, they make me feel really good. (Blackbird)