Hidden Cameras
Mississauga, Goddam
(Rough Trade UK)

Why the latest album of ecstatic orchestral pop by Canada's Hidden Cameras hasn't been released domestically yet makes no sense, but the fancy import vinyl has inner sleeves with original art made with paint, marker, tape, fabric, and googly eyes. It's hard to say if it's as mind-blowing as 2003's Smell of Our Own, as there is no one song to equal "Ban Marriage," (not only the single best tune to address the "gay marriage issue" but the only song that approached "Ignition (Remix)" for ear-worming catchiness last year.) Mississauga is surging, melodic, blissful "gay church music" with often deliciously filthy lyrics like "I believe in the good of life, as I kneel for a taste of man." As a devout fan of both sacred music and explicit celebrations of sexuality, it's no wonder I think bandleader Joel Gibb is a total genius for the way he combines the two, unironically. MIKE McGONIGAL

(Asthmatic Kitty)

Castanets' proper, non-CD-R debut, Cathedral, is a moody, morose sprawl of reverb and ragged ghost talk. Frontman Raymond Raposa (a native San Diegan) sings about God and the sunset over the I-10 West, songs of the end of love and "cold, dark, and strange and deathly roads." Tracks like "No Light to Be Found" and "Three Days Four Nights" bring up names like the Handsome Family and the Black Heart Procession, but Castanets' sound is wholly distinct. Raposa's voice is a craggy, wet moan of hicky backwoods juke-joint melancholy, while the instruments pretend to be things like creaking porch swings, motel lobby buzzer bells, bottles uncorking, slamming doors, friends laughing, lines snorted, condoms unwrapped, knives sharpening, Waffle House grits digesting, rotting faces, cooling radiators, cracking thunder, and droning cicadas. To call this beautiful grandeur "gothic country" is pretty limiting, but it works. ADAM GNADE

Zolar X
(Alternative Tentacles)

My novelty obsession of the year is Zolar X, a band that celebrates their first official release just 25 years after they broke up. The deal is that they were this very glammy, proto-punk band in L.A. in the early '70s who used to elaborately dress, talk, and act like shiny space aliens, all the time--even when they went to the corner store! So, you immediately have to love them. Unsurprisingly, Ace Frehley and Redd Kross were huge fans. The press release swears they are the missing link between the Stooges and Chrome, but their music is a lot more cartoonish and poppy. Besides, we all know that Simply Saucer were the missing link between the Stooges and Chrome (press dudes, c'mon!). If the idea of the Sweet and T. Rex backing Geddy Lee (in outer space) gives you a boner, you absolutely need this. MM

**** Hervé Villechaize
*** Warwick Davis
** Tony Cox
* Verne Troyer