Starlit Sunken Ship
(Orange Twin)
The wind is blowing hard in your face and it makes you catch your breath. The power of the sea is sucking you into its depths. These are things to think about while listening to Athens, GA's Lovers, who make breezy music so intimate and overwrought in its beauty. Their vocalist, Carolyn Berk, is a total depressive wretch in the vein of early Conor Oberst, and sings in a scratchy yet unflinchingly emotional manner, like she's freezing and dripping wet. You will want to make her a cup of tea. Of course, love and tragedy are main themes, delivered eloquently by subdued guitars, banjo, violin, drums and subtle electronics blanketing all around like blinding bright lights. Berk sings, "All alone I raise my fist at night on my bike around your neighborhood and shout, 'make me pure, make my heart good.'" It's an emotional gut-punch, all right, but Lovers aren't too precious or quaint; they've got a gorgeous, undertow-like urgency that threatens to sweep you away. JULIANNE SHEPHERD

John B(uk)
Longtime drum 'n' bass producer John B is now MILKING HEAVILY AT IRONY'S TEAT. I still listen to my Sparks records and everything, but when you're producing new cuts that sound like the background music for One Crazy Summer or, even worse, Hardbodies, it's pretty much creep-out time. On "American Girls (Electric Boobies Mix)," John B dryly discusses his affinity for women from Miami, New York, and California (they make him "hornia") over Korg-y keyboard tracks that, predictably, have all the bored-ass detachment of a hot pink robot. A few tracks pony up with knife-heavy d 'n' b, but are sullied by stupid, Paula-Abdul-humping-Whodini keyboard lines and consumer-tastic rants of "Gucci, Prada, Versace." There are certain folks who can pull from the past and turn it into something tight--Gold Chains springs to mind--and of course this paper has built an empire on cryptic irony and pre-apocalyptic cynicism. BUT. There is a fine line to walk. Plus, the value system in the '80s was wack. Why is everyone so hell-bent on resurrecting it? JS

This Machine Kills/JR Ewing
Split Recording
(Dim Mak)
It's only four songs, but these bands can deliver a knuckle sandwich in six seconds or less. California's TMK subvert the normal hardcore/ scream testosterone-athon with a contemplative, thrashing track about male privilege: "Yeah we're another fuckin' boy band/Sayin damn right it's our fight/While women take back the night." "Booby Traps" calls for reparations against a more dance-y, industrial take on hardcore. Norweigan quintet JR Ewing's two entries are much more melodic, yet no less spastic or urgent, and their shrieks are total bloody murder. This is a tasty sampler of two excellent nontraditional, intelligent hardcore groups making the rounds. JS

****Saved by the Bell
Good Morning, Miss Bliss
Saved by the Bell: The New Class
Saved by the Bell: The College Years