GODSPEED YOU BLACK EMPEROR!
Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
(Kranky)
****

If you're gauging by music's current barometer, Godspeed presents one of the only places left to go: total beauty, with an unclassifiable, elusive lacing of pianos, guitars, poignant snippets of convenience-store loudspeakers, and children speaking in French. Their second full-length, this two-CD recording is the ultimate testament to mindfuck post-cultural blending and industrial beauty. Each symphonic movement seems to utter, "there is no culture; this is your culture," within a gorgeous swim through spheric rock, Pentecostal preaching, and crushing violin. As the title implies, Lift Your Skinny Fists is a musical examination of contemporary elements: humanity with technology; estrangement with perfection; deities with architecture. Amid a globe of conflicting messages, it's a devastating composition. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

IRDIE
Some Dusty
(Kindercore)
**

Part of me really wants to enjoy this album. Its melancholy pop is reminiscent of Saint Etienne, but that's not too much of a stretch, as Birdie's two members were once backing musicians for that band. Unlike Saint Etienne, Birdie keeps things safe and familiar. Some Dusty basically sounds like a Saint Etienne outtakes album where the disco beats have been replaced by Sean O'Hagen's string arrangements. It's melodic, but not catchy. Pop, but not bouncy. Sad, but not sincere. In other words, Birdie has managed to make great background music for an Our Man Flint-themed party. Suave, vacuous, ultimately entertaining without being engrossing--Some Dusty stands to be the James Coburn of indie pop. MURRAY CIZON

DON CABALLERO
American Don
(Touch and Go)
***

The first five songs of Don Caballero's latest, American Don, flow as one piece. It's math-rock at its square root, layered with guitar and syncopated bass that create geometrics of sonic intensity. Damon Che's explosive drumming centers and showboats the band's polyphonic experimentalism. Over the last few albums, Don Caballero has evolved from anxious noisecore into a new playfulness. They create instrumental music that is about constant mutation--rhythm teeters and morphs while time changes, growing jazzier and freer. It's engaging, but the sense of experimentation and spatial jamming starts to lose its minimalist punch as the CD progresses. The mood doesn't vary enough to thoroughly transport the listener and in the end, you're left with a whole lot of creativity without enough spark to make it ignite. NATE LIPPENS