Seven Swans

(Sounds Familyre) ***

Georgia-born writer Flannery O'Connor had an unparalleled talent for constructing religious narratives without diminishing them to overt evangelism. In a similar vein, Detroit-born, Brooklyn-residing songwriter Sufjan Stevens has crafted a record of revelatory subject matter that seeks to open the listener up to religious discourse rather than conversion. His banjo-plucked melodies and lo-fi approach evoke a stark emotional landscape marked by intense spiritual unrest. Stevens evens nods his head to O'Connor's classic short "A Good Man Is Hard To Find," retelling the story from her antagonist's point of view. Played in succession with his regional salute Greetings from Michigan, the songs are coarse, less fluid, and of a rustic nature. His voice, however, still carries the same Nick Drake emotional attachment that made Michigan so powerful, and the chorus singing of Megan and Elin Smith is damn near angelic. BRIAN J. BARR


The Homosexuals' CD

(ReR Megacorp/Morphius Archives)


It can't be said any better than Chris Cutler's assertion in the liner notes: "Maximum information; minimum redundancy." The Homosexuals' music is unquestionably more engaging, approachable, and refreshing than any of their more revered contemporaries. Their viciousness is bound up with such vitality that the coldness of Gang of Four seems a ludicrous and unsuccessful posture, while their slightly ornamented, tumbling sounds turn the tautness of Wire into empty, unimaginative monotony. "Holy Grail" is meaningless these days, but this CD simultaneously justifies and invalidates the entire postpunk revival--five years ago it wouldn't have been possible to attempt such a reissue and yet those same five years haven't unearthed or produced anything remotely resembling The Homosexuals. ETHAN SWAN


Where All the Birds Yell



The dirgy disco beat continues coursing through new indie circuitry like a spit-slicked finger jamming on a cracked electric socket. Case in point: Breaker! Breaker!, a lo-fi art punk band pairing vocals that crackle with forceful dance commanders and riot girl cheers, adding tinny synths that appear to be a couple clicks away from shooting sparks and guitars that churn on a spin cycle of effects. The Brooklyn band's debut on Velocidrecords sounds like it was recorded in stark basement warmed only by the body heat drummed up in the songs--so what B!B! lack in a more complicated, textured sound they make up for with an organic, excitable energy that paints the trio to be heroes of the DIY dancefloor. And sometimes that's all you need to get the party started. JENNIFER MAERZ

**** Al B. Sure

*** Al Capone

** Al Queda

* Al Gore